New ‘Protection’ for Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves Makes it Legal to Hunt Them

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced this week that the Mexican wolf would officially be listed as its own individual subspecies under the Endangered Species Act, separate from the gray wolf listing. In addition, USFWS announced that it would expand the range of this iconic subspecies.

It looks like protection for the Mexican wolf, but on closer scrutiny it’s more complicated than that. As Eva Sargent of Defenders of Wildlife stated, “The rule is a classic ‘one step forward, one or two steps back.’”

What does Sargent mean by this?

Protections for the Mexican Gray Wolf

According to the USFWS announcement:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized the revised rule under which Mexican wolves are managed in Arizona and New Mexico. The revised rule expands the area where wolves are allowed to occupy and increases the Service’s ability to further the conservation of one of the nation’s rarest mammals while being responsive to the needs of local communities.

Additionally, the Service has issued a final rule listing the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) as an endangered subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. The Mexican wolf had previously been protected under the listing for
the gray wolf (Canis lupus). Under this listing revision, the experimental population will be associated with the Mexican wolf subspecies listing rather than with the gray wolf species.

“This revision of the experimental population rule provides Mexican wolves the space they need to establish a larger and more genetically diverse population – a population that can meaningfully contribute to the subspecies’ recovery,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director.

Still Legal to Hunt and Kill Mexican Wolves

That all sounds great, but there’s more to the USFWS announcement, which Tuggle is choosing not to focus on.

At the same time that the USFWS is putting these protections in place and expanding the range of the Mexican wolf, the Service will have the authority to issue permits to hunters and government agents to hunt and kill members of the few remaining Mexican wolves in order to protect deer and elk for recreational hunters.

Eve Sargent of Defenders of Wildlife was adamant: “Allowing Mexican gray wolves to disperse over a broader area is a positive, but that positive is negated by an unfounded population cap and increased authorized killing — neither of which is based in the science that says what’s best for lobos [a term commonly used for Mexican gray wolves].”

The “unfounded population cap” refers to the 300-325 Mexican wolves which the Service has decreed will constitute a number that indicates the subspecies is completely recovered and eligible for removal from the Endangered Species Act. Reuters reports that conservationists have previously set a target number at 750 individuals.

Yet another issue with the USFWS statement is that while it expands the range of the Mexican wolf, it does so in potentially harmful ways.

“The Mexican gray wolf recovery program has been hamstrung from the start, and this new management rule doesn’t go nearly far enough to fix the problem,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Capping the population and keeping them out of the Grand Canyon and northern New Mexico will keep the lobo on the brink of extinction.”

Why Is the Mexican Gray Wolf So Important?

The Mexican wolf is the smallest subspecies of the gray wolf. Once entirely wiped out by hunters and trappers in the wild in the U.S., a captive breeding and reintroduction program has helped the Mexican wolf gradually return to the Southwest.

Even so, it is one of the most endangered mammals in North America. At last count a year ago, only 83 Mexican wolves survived in the Southwest, including a mere five breeding pairs; there are believed to be around 100 now. Scientists have shown that inbreeding caused by a lack of wolf releases to the wild, coupled with too many killings and removals of wolves, is causing smaller litter sizes and lower pup-survival rates in the wild population.

Take Action!

If you believe we should do all we can to safeguard this fragile species, please sign our petition to Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, asking her to make protecting the Mexican gray wolf a priority.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Rudica R.
Rudica R2 years ago

more aerial killings by Federal Employees so hunters have more to kill.:
We’ve just learned that federal gunmen have aerially shot 19 wolves in remote Northern Idaho at the request of the state.
The killings took place on U.S. national forest land in order to artificially boost elk numbers to benefit sport hunters and outfitters.
This is a travesty pure and simple. From the Defenders of the Wildlife.
Can you imagine these animals sheltering and being driving out into the open and
being killed. Soon the pups will be born , those pregnant females now dead. If
the pups are born their moms may now be dead and what fate will come to the pups.
Inhumae! sick, disgusting! Tax dollars being wasted!

Michael Branaman
Michael Branaman2 years ago

DNR appeals court decision to move wolves to endangered species list via @petoskeynews Never-ending.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B3 years ago

Petition signed - just can't believe how stupid these people are!

Past Member
Past Member 3 years ago

USFWS, you're nothing more than a bunch of damn, lying hypocrites!!
Protection should mean NO HUNTING OR TRAPPING,
not the other way around!!


Melania Padilla
Melania P3 years ago

So sick of this! Signed of course

Manuela C.
Manuela C3 years ago

WTF? What kind of protection is that???

Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.3 years ago


Magdalena J.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thank you!

William Eaves
William Eaves3 years ago

Hardly protection, hunting should not be allowed full stop.