Yes, you read that correctly, and it is newsworthy. The increase of eight endangered Mexican wolves is significant because the total population was previously estimated at about fifty in Arizona and New Mexico. Eight more is a 16% increase and any increase is good news for conservationists.
According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the overall management plan calls for a total population of 100 in the wild eventually. Before the reintroduction, the last known wild Mexican wolf in Arizona was killed in 1970. Prior to that there were occasional sightings, mostly near the Mexican border. They had lived mainly in mountainous forests between 4,000 and 5,000 feet. Settlers nearly wiped them out by the early 1900s though.
In 1998, eleven Mexican wolves were released by officials into wild habitat in Eastern Arizona. By 2002, the first wild-born litter to a wild wolf mother in many years was documented. Today more than 90 percent of the Mexican wolves in their natural habitat were born in the wild. So one could say the reintroduction program has been a success.
Still, a number of ranchers would disagree, even though 58 Mexican wolves spread out amongst very large stretches of land are hardly a threat. No free-ranging Mexican wolf has ever injured a person though, so any claims of imminent danger are likely to be nothing more than exaggeration to scare people into opposing the wolf presence. The Mexican wolf is the smallest of wolves, generally about the size of a German Shepard. Not only have there been no human attacks by free-ranging Mexican wolves, their mortality is typically associated with living near humans.
For example, in 2010 three members of the very small Mexican wolf population were illegally shot to death by poachers. Poaching has been their leading cause of death since 1998. What seems to be lost on those opposed to the wolves, sometimes even violently, is that they also have to contend with natural threats. One of the breeding females recently was killed by lightning, and fires damaged an area the wolves usually make their dens.
Arizona and New Mexico have a combined human population of about 8.5 million. Why can’t 100 wolves that are no threat to them, be allowed to live peacefully in two very large states with vast stretches of uninhabited land?
Image Credit: Clark, Jim (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) Public Domain Wiki Commons