Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area Information
Current Status of the Mexican Wolf
Mexican wolves are listed as an endangered subspecies and are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Mexican wolves occurring in Arizona and New Mexico
south of Interstate-40 to the international border with Mexico are designated as an experimental population. An experimental population designation provides
increased management flexibility (to address wolf management and conflict situations, such as livestock depredations and nuisance behavior) for wolf populations
that are reintroduced into a designated experimental population area (in this case, the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area, or MWEPA).
The Mexican wolf once occurred in the mountainous regions of the Southwest from Central Mexico throughout portions of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Aggressive predator control programs all but exterminated the Mexican wolf from the wild by the 1970s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) began
recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf when it was listed as endangered in 1976, and a captive management program was established in 1977 with the capture
of the last remaining Mexican wolves in the wild. A Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan was approved in 1982 with the "prime objective" of ensuring the immediate
survival of the Mexican wolf, by establishing a captive breeding program, and re-establishing a viable, self-sustaining wild population of at least 100
In 1998, Mexican wolves were reintroduced into the wild in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (Blue Range), consisting of the Apache National Forest in central
Arizona and the Gila National Forest in central New Mexico. Between 1998 and 2014, through releases of captive Mexican wolves and naturally occurring population
growth, the Mexican wolf population grew to over 100 wolves in the Blue Range, and the adjacent Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The Service recognized that the
regulations in the 1998 Rule limited our ability to achieve necessary population growth, distribution, and recruitment that would contribute to the persistence
of, and improve the genetic variation within, the experimental population.
In 2015, the Service revised the 1998 Experimental Population Rule that provides regulatory flexibility for management actions within the MWEPA that further
the conservation of the Mexican wolf while being responsive to the needs of local communities in cases of problem wolf behavior. The revisions are intended
to increase the total number of wolves in the experimental population, provide additional areas for the initial release of Mexican wolves from captivity,
improve the genetic variation within the experimental population, and accommodate natural dispersal behavior throughout an expanded MWEPA.
2015 Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA)
Mexican Wolves in the Wild ~
- In central Arizona, most Mexican wolves may be found in areas of suitable habitat in portions of the Apache National Forest and in portions of the
Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Recently, a few Mexican wolves have been documented in the western portion of the Sitgreaves National Forest, and the
northern portion of the Tonto National Forest.
- In central New Mexico, most Mexican wolves may be found in areas of suitable wolf habitat in the Gila National Forest. Recently, a few Mexican wolves
have been documented in the Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest, and the Malpais National Monument area.
- Suitable habitat for Mexican wolves includes areas of evergreen pine-oak woodlands, and mixed conifer forests that are inhabited by elk, mule deer,
and white-tailed deer.
Mexican Wolf Management ~ On the Ground ~ What to Expect in Your Area
The MWEPA extends from Interstate 40 in Arizona and New Mexico south to the international border with Mexico. The MWEPA has been divided into three
Wolf Management Zones.
Wolf Management Zone 1 ~ Includes all of the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests; the Payson, Pleasant Valley and Tonto Basin Ranger
Districts of the Tonto National Forest; and the Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest. Zone 1 is where wolves may naturally disperse
into and occupy, and where Mexican wolves may be initially released from the captive population or translocated.
- At the present time, most Mexican wolves occupy suitable habitat in Zone 1 and the FAIR.
- The Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Staff is working with the Forest Service, local communities and others, to identify several new wolf release/translocation
sites (areas where temporary wolf enclosures would be placed) in Zone 1. Once these sites have been approved, the Service expects to need to release or
tranlsocate several packs of genetically diverse wolves (adult pair of wolves with several pups) to increase the genetic diversity of the wild population.
Prior to wolf releases or translocations, the Service will inform the public of specific release information.
- In Arizona, the Service is applying a Phased Approach to Wolf Management in parts of Zone 1. See 2015 Final Rule on USFWS Mexican Wolf website for additional details.
Wolf Management Zone 2 ~ Is an area into which Mexican wolves will be allowed to naturally disperse and occupy, and where Mexican wolves may be translocated.
- The Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Staff is working with the Forest Service, local communities and others to identify several new wolf translocation sites in Zone 2. Once these translocation sites have been approved, the Service may use these sites to translocate genetically diverse wolves to increase the genetic diversity of the wild population. Prior to wolf translocations, the Service will inform the public of specific translocation information.
- In Arizona, the Service is applying a Phased Approach to Wolf Management in parts of Zone 2. See 2015 Final Rule on USFWS Mexican Wolf website for additional details.
Wolf Management Zone 3 ~ Is an area within the MWEPA where neither initial releases nor translocations will occur, but Mexican wolves will be allowed to disperse into and occupy.
- Zone 3 is an area of less suitable habitat where Mexican wolves may be more actively managed to reduce human conflict.