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Conservation Groups Hope to Save the Mexican Gray Wolf Population

First Posted: May 17, 2014 09:41 AM EDT
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Prior to the enactment of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, there were only seven Mexican gray wolves roaming the Earth, but due to conservation efforts and protection laws, there now are 83 of the wolves in the Southwest and Mexico.

Gray wolves can be found in other areas of the United States, such as the Northern Rocky Mountains, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Michigan, Idaho, Montana, and Washington, but the Mexican gray wolf subspecies is the one that has faced extinction for a long time. They were once numbered in the thousands, but years of trapping, poisoning, and hunting has drastically diminished their population.

As a result, conservation groups across the U.S. have worked for years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to save the Mexican gray wolf. The first step was to ensure their safety by housing them in zoos and other guarded habitats to protect them from other wild animals and hunters. In 1998, the Fish and Wildlife Service released 11 Mexican gray wolves into the wild in Arizona, which has helped slowly increase their numbers.

The next effort to release more into the wild will be relatively soon. The Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) is home to 14 Mexican gray wolves. In 2003, they teamed up with the U.S. FWS and established a recovery plan for the subspecies. The recovery plan has increased their population to 400 across the world, but there are only 83 in the wild today. The WCC plans to release a six-year-old wolf into the wild relatively soon.

"This gorgeous New Yorker will be a wild Mexican gray wolf," said Maggie Howell, director of the WCC in South Salem, NY. "He'll face challenges, but we're hopeful that he and his mate will soon have a litter of wild-born pups. All of these wolves are an important piece of Mother Nature's puzzle."

Additionally, just last month, the U.S. FWS and the Arizona Game and Fish Department released four Mexican gray wolves into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of Arizona. They timed the release so the female wolves can give birth to their pups in the wild, which will help them become acclimated to the proper environment.

The endangered Mexican gray wolves' numbers should improve in the coming years, but much work still has to be done.

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