Federal wildlife official remove population cap for endangered Mexican gray wolves

KNAU News Talk - Arizona Public Radio (Original) Posted May 13, 2022 by Ryan Heinsius

Federal wildlife officials will remove a cap on the population of Mexican gray wolves allowed in the Southwest. It’s part of a 4-year-old legal settlement that forced the federal government to revise how it manages the endangered animals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had previously set a maximum population of wild Mexican wolves at 325, but the agency’s decision published Friday removes that limit.

It follows a 2018 court order that Fish and Wildlife rewrite parts of its Mexican wolf recovery plan. It also temporarily restricts some justifications for killing the animals.

The Mexican wolf population in Arizona and New Mexico has long suffered from a lack of genetic diversity. As part of the decision, officials will focus on cross-fostering captive-born wolf pups into wild packs with a goal of ensuring 22 pups survive to breeding age.

Conservationists have consistently called for more adult wolves to be released and say cross-fostering alone won’t bolster the genetic health of the animals and very few of the wolves are known to have reproduced.

At last count earlier this year, nearly 200 wild Mexican gray wolves were roaming the Southwest. It was a 5 percent increase from the previous year and the sixth in a row that saw growth in the population.