Background and Recovery

Then and Now

Thousands of Mexican gray wolves used to roam the lands in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Unfortunately, the animals were wiped out in the U.S. and only a few remained in Mexico. At that point, efforts began to breed the lobos in captivity to try to bring their numbers back. In 1998, 11 Mexican wolves were released back into the wild in Arizona.

By the end of 2012, there were 75 lobos counted in the Blue Range Wolf Reintroduction Area, which spans southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. This is the highest the number has been since the reintroduction, but with only three pairs of wolves breeding, it is still perilously low.

Key Recovery Milestones

When the 11 wolves were released into the wild in 1998, the goal of the reintroduction program was to restore at least 100 wolves by 2006. Until recently, aggressive removals of wolves suspected of preying on livestock and illegal killings repeatedly knocked the population down.

But there’s reason for hope. Over the past few years,more ranchers have become interested in our Wolf Coexistence Partnerships, and both the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FES) have focused more on working with ranchers to minimize conflicts than on removing lobos from the wild. And it’s starting to pay off, with the population holding steady or growing since 2009.

In 2011, FWS convened a new recovery team of expert scientists and stakeholders, including Defenders’ Southwest Director, Eva Sargent, who are charged with drawing up a new recovery plan for endangered lobos. The plan will provide a detailed roadmap to move the Mexican gray wolf from today’s fragile population of 75 to full recovery and delisting.

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Press Release
"While the increase comes as good news for these highly endangered animals, the small population of 58 lobos is still extremely vulnerable. Wolves are smart, adaptable animals, but they can’t make it alone. New releases of wolves in Arizona and New Mexico are urgently needed to ensure a healthy population." - Eva Sargent, southwest director, Defenders of Wildlife
Where We Work
Our Southwest team works to protect rare and threatened species like Mexican wolves, jaguars and ocelots.
Grizzly Bear, © Ray Rafiti
Conservation Issue
We work to create and share strategies to encourage peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife.
Fact Sheet
Mexican gray wolves once numbered in the thousands and roamed the wilds of the southwest. But today, after a century of persecution, only a few remain in the wild.
Where We Work
Our Southwest team works to protect rare and threatened species like Mexican wolves, jaguars and ocelots.
In the Magazine
When it comes to endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest every one counts—and so do partnerships.