Missing from the landscape for more than 30 years, the howl of the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), can once again be heard in the
mountains of the southwestern United States. The Mexican wolf, like many species protected by the Endangered Species Act, is getting a second chance
to play its role in nature through an ambitious recovery program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).
The Mexican gray wolf is the smallest, southern-most occurring, rarest, and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America.
The Mexican wolf once roamed throughout vast portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. But, as human settlement intensified across the
Southwest in the early 1900s, wolves increasingly came into conflict with livestock operations and other human activities. By the mid-1900s, Mexican
wolves had been effectively eliminated from the United States, and populations in Mexico were severely reduced. Following the passage of the
Endangered Species Act in 1973, Mexican wolves were listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species in 1976, thereby prompting
recovery efforts to save the species from extinction.
The United States and Mexico agreed to establish a bi-national captive breeding program with several wolves trapped in Mexico between 1977 and 1980.
The purpose of the breeding program was to save the species from absolute extinction and to provide animals for future reintroduction to the wild.
Meanwhile, the Service established a recovery team in 1979 to assist the agency in mapping out a recovery strategy for the Mexican wolf. The Service
approved the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan in 1982. The plan recommended maintenance of the captive breeding program and re-establishment of a
viable self-sustaining population of at least 100 wolves in the wild within the Mexican wolf's historic range. Due to the perilous status of the
Mexican wolf at the time, and uncertainty if captive-reared wolves could successfully be returned to the wild, the recovery plan stated that delisting
may never be possible. The plan, therefore, did not provide a definitive recovery goal (criteria to down-list or de-list the Mexican wolf from the
list of threatened and endangered species) for the Mexican wolf, but instead provided an interim objective to focus and stimulate reintroduction and
As the Mexican wolf captive program grew and demonstrated increasing success through the 1980s, attention turned to identification of appropriate
areas for reintroduction of the Mexican wolf to its historic habitat. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was finalized in 1996, in which the
Apache and Gila national forests in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, respectively, were identified as appropriate areas for reintroduction.
In March 1997, the Secretary of the Interior signed a Record of Decision approving the preferred alternative of the EIS to release captive-reared
Mexican wolves into a portion of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. With substantial opportunities for public input, the Service subsequently
published the Final Rule, Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Gray Wolf in Arizona and New Mexico, on January
12, 1998. The non-essential experimental population designation for Mexican wolves allows for greater management flexibility to address conflict
situations, such as livestock depredations or nuisance behavior, than if wolves had retained the fully endangered designation. The Final Rule
provides regulations for how the reintroduced population will be managed by responsible agencies, and further, spells out public rights with
respect to human safety and protection of property from Mexican wolves on private, tribal, and public lands.
A copy of the Final Rule can be down-loaded from our website.
On March 29, 1998, captive-reared Mexican wolves were released to the wild for the first time in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. Here, 11
vanguards of the rarest and most unique subspecies of gray wolf in the United States began an historic journey - the journey of recovery.
The Southwest Region of the Service invites you to join us on the historic journey of Mexican wolf recovery. Our Mexican Wolf Recovery Program
website provides detailed information on all aspects of the program - from monthly updates on the current status of wolves in the wild, to an
overview of the captive breeding program and pre-release facilities, to important documents, policies, and regulations that guide the
reintroduction and recovery program, and to education and outreach materials for children and adults. Whether you follow the program from our
local area or from across the country or another nation, your involvement and support is important to the program. Please contact us with any
questions, ideas, or concerns you have about Mexican wolf recovery.
The Service would like to recognize and thank our Federal, State, and Tribal partners, as well as every member of the public who contributes time,
energy, and information to the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.