TUCSON— Today, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released the official annual count of endangered Mexican gray wolves tracked in the species’ recovery area in Arizona and New Mexico. Officials are celebrating this year, because for the first time since recovery efforts began in 1998, the population has surpassed 100 individuals. However, conservationists say that while the increase from 83 wolves at the end of 2013 to this year’s 109 wolves is good, numbers alone won’t save this imperiled wolf, especially with the serious limitations and flaws in the Service’s newly released Mexican gray wolf management rule.
The following is a statement from Eva Sargent, Director of Southwest Programs, Defenders of Wildlife:
“109 wolves is certainly a milestone for a wolf that was once extinct in the wild, and we are encouraged by the progress these iconic animals have made. But there is still a lot of work to be done – even with 109 wolves, there are still serious hurdles standing in the way of Mexican gray wolf recovery.
“A 100-wolf goal was set arbitrarily when reintroduction efforts began, with no real science based recovery plan to support it. Now with the new management rule setting an arbitrary cap on the population that is unjustified by recovery science, it’s like a bad case of déjà vu.
“While lobos definitely need to increase in numbers, what they need even more is greater genetic diversity. This can only happen if more wolves are released, if they are allowed to access suitable habitat and if additional core populations are established. In addition to not being based on a recovery plan and allowing more wolves to be killed, the new rule also bars lobos from these necessary additional areas of suitable habitat.
“These imperiled wolves have made it this far; now the only way they are really going to be saved is if the Service develops and implements a recovery plan that is guided by science, not politics, and makes long-term lobo recovery, not arbitrary numbers, its goal.”