TUCSON, Ariz.—The number of endangered Mexican gray wolves surviving in the southwestern United States increased in 2011 to 58 wolves and six breeding pairs up from 50 wolves and two breeding pairs the year before, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.
But Defenders of Wildlife is urging Arizona state and federal wildlife officials to release new wolves into the wild to strengthen the population — cautioning that despite the increase, the small population is still at risk and needs a deeper gene pool.
“While the increase comes as good news for these highly endangered animals, the small population of 58 lobos is still extremely vulnerable,” said Eva Sargent, Defenders’ Southwest program director. “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.”
Wolves are smart, adaptable animals, but they can’t make it alone. — Eva Sargent, Southwest program director
The boost signals, however, that a new emphasis on partnerships between the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and ranchers is helping livestock and lobos better coexist. Techniques such as portable fencing, watchdogs, funding for cowboys and compensation for livestock lost to wolves are working to keep more wolves on the ground.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must build on this momentum, moving forward with several releases that were planned for 2011, but never happened,” Sargent added. “There are wolves eligible for release in Arizona and New Mexico right now, and they are desperately needed. Some of these wolves have been specially conditioned to avoid preying on cattle and deserve a chance at life in the wild.”