Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Released in Arizona

This month, a 4-year-old Mexican gray wolf known as M1133 is getting a taste of the wild after being  released into Arizona’s Apache National Forest in the hope that he will join the Bluestem wolf pack, whose alpha male was illegally killed last year.

M1133′s release marks the first time a Mexican gray wolf has been released since 2008. The species once roamed vast portions of the Southwest and Mexico, but were eradicated by the 1900s in the U.S. over conflicts with humans and livestock, while populations dwindled in Mexico.

In the 1980s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, which recommended a captive breeding program and supported a goal of maintaining at least 100 wolves in their historic range.

Fish and Wildlife officials hope that M1133 will pair up with the Bluestem pack’s alpha female, who has still not chosen a new mate. However, some are still concerned that even if he does, it still will not boost their small population.

As of now, the number of Mexican gray wolves in the wild is estimated to be less than 60 in New Mexico and Arizona with just six breeding pairs, and recovery efforts have been an uphill battle. In 2011 eight wolves were killed, while four more were killed last year – three of whom were illegally shot. Most recently, an alpha female from the Fox Mountain pack was slated to be shot for allegedly preying on livestock, but after public outcry she was captured last October and sent to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Arizona.

Officials are also dragging their feet over releasing additional wolves. There are currently an estimated 300 wolves who are part of the species survival program who are being housed at facilities in the U.S. and Mexico.

Conservation groups have been continuously fighting to get more protection for these wolves and to have more released. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue this winter over the USFWS’ move to grant itself a “recovery permit” to live-capture endangered wolves that may enter New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico or the Rocky Mountains without a public comment period, environmental review or demonstrating how this would aid recovery.

“Taking wolves out of perfectly good habitat makes no sense. We need to recover wolves to the Sierra Madre and Sky Islands, as well as the mountains of northern New Mexico,” said Michael Robinson, the Center’s wolf specialist, who noted that wolves don’t recognize political boundaries.

According to the Center, captured wolves will be placed into the captive-breeding program, returned to where they came from, or relocated into the Mexican wolf recovery area. However, the permit would protect anyone who killed a wolf and according to Robinson, live-capture can be dangerous for these animals.

“There have been 18 instances in which wolves have been accidentally killed as a consequence of capture, as well as instances where they’ve lost legs that have had to be amputated because of trap injuries,” he told the Cibola Beacon, adding that capture can also disrupt breeding pairs and leave pups without parents.

The Center has two other active lawsuits against the USFWS, one to compel it to reform the reintroduction program and the other is to get the Mexican gray wolf protection as a distinct subspecies of the gray wolf.

“The Mexican wolf is a unique animal that’s adapted to the arid Southwest and to Mexico. And it’s on the brink of extinction. We could lose the Mexican wolf, and we’re fighting to ensure that we don’t,”
 said Robinson.

The USFWS has until late February to respond to the Center’s notice.


Related Stories:

It’s Been Four Years Since the Last Mexican Gray Wolf was Released

Tell the FWS to Release More Mexican Gray Wolves Before it’s Too Late

Feds to Shoot Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf


Photo credit: Don Burkett


Rosemary Lowe

Please, if you haven't already, sign the Care 2 petition on Public Lands Ranching Destroying the West (or it may say Destroying WildLife) We need people to spread the word. The war is between The Livestock Industry (many of whom also hunt and trap), and the dwindling wildlife populations. All Public Lands Ranching needs to go--now. Unless this happens, there will be little chance for wolves in New Mexico, Arizona, or other western states.

Nimue Pendragon

Some jerk will kill him.

Rosemary Lowe

....."but were eradicated by the 1900s in the U.S. over conflicts with humans and livestock, while populations dwindled in Mexico."

This statement above is the problem for wolves here in New Mexico and everywhere else: No wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, bobcats, wolverines or other native wildlife are safe because the destructive Livestock Industry is prejudiced against them, and has been since the 1900's. Driving along open wild lands, it is not unusual to see dead coyotes hanging on rancher's fences--its done all the time. They did the same with the wolves. That is why they are, for most practical purposes, extinct in The Southwest.
These wolves, are officially designated "experimental, non-essential" when they are released on the land. They can be shot, trapped, poisoned if a rancher "declares" they are bothering his livestock. "Alleged kills" by coyotes or a re-introduced wolf are seldom proven. The Fish and Wildlife Service most often takes the word of the rancher, who by the way, is grazing non-native cattle and sheep on Public Lands, at taxpayer expense. An agency, called "Wildlife Services" (formerly Animal Damage Control) has federal wildlife killers out there at the behest of The Livestock Industry, to kill the native "predators."
Increasing numbers of caring people are angry about the Livestock Industry continuing to graze exotic, domesticated animals on Public Lands, which are the last refuge for native wild animals. It is a war out there. And, t

Jean Mccarthy
Jean Mccarthy6 years ago

I fully agree with Gail H. I too voted for more released but also fear that the beauty of these animals will be destroyed. I truly hope M1133 survives and becomes a sire with the Alpha Female but in light of the inhumane actions of the Wildlife Service all over the country, I can only hope and pray for their future and not become extinct. Wolves are mere puppy dogs and we there long before money-grabbing men took over their lands.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Carolanne Powell
Carolanne Powell6 years ago

Good Luck M1133. Hope he survives & integrates within the pack. Wolves need all the help we can give to survive in our cruel world today.

Gail Heinz
Gail Heinz6 years ago

I fight for the survival of our wolves on a daily basis by trying to stop all hunting of them. I am all for replenishing these Wolves, and yet I wonder if they will just be destined for the same fate. Our Wolves are a perfect symbol of America, beauty, strength, family, unity,and freedom, like the American Eagle, they represent all that we stand for. They have been in such grave danger because of those blood thirsty, selfish people who think they are here for their sickening sport. In Alaska, and other states, they aerial hunt the Wolves, which is torturing them before they are slaughtered.The killing must stop, or replenishing is futile

Doug G.
Doug G6 years ago

Given the narrow mindedness and sheer selfishness of people, I fear for the future of wolves. It is telling how man is treating this species and I doubt humanity will ever learn to live at peace with itself or any other species. It is a pure tragidity.

Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley6 years ago

I hope it stays safe.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner6 years ago

US Fish and Wildlife Service..the agency dedicated to destroying our Fish and Wildlife.