What is the current status of wolves in the Southwest?

  • As of the end of 2021, only about 196 Mexican wolves are living in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico. Approximately 40 or so Mexican wolves are living in the wild in Mexico. They are consider one of the most endangered land mammals in North America and the most endangered subspecies of wolf in the world.
  • The Mexican gray wolf (a unique, smaller subspecies of the Northern gray wolf) was first listed as an endangered species in 1976, after decades of human eradication programs extirpated them from their native habitat in the southwestern United States and Mexico.  Only five wolves were left in the wild; some of those individuals along with a few other wolves already in captivity became the seven founders for a captive breeding program to save the species from extinction.  In 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began the reintroduction program for the Mexican wolf in the Southwest.

Are wolves dangerous?

  • You are more likely to be killed by a meteorite than a wild wolf. By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate between 10 to 20 people are killed and 4.7 million attacked each year by domestic dogs.
  • Like most wildlife, wolves have an innate fear of humans and tend to keep their distance. Mexican wolves selected for reintroduction are managed with minimal exposure to humans in an environment that maintains natural wolf behaviors.
  • Attacks by wolves on humans are extremely rare in North America. However, many wild animals, including deer, squirrels, bears and wolves, are potentially dangerous; people should treat all wild animals with respect. The majority of wolf attacks that have occurred resulted from situations involving rabid wolves; wolves habituated to humans (such as being fed by humans at campgrounds or near settlements); or wolves trying to escape while being attacked. There are no documented accounts of Mexican wolves ever attacking humans.

Are wolves destroying the livestock industry?

  • No. Wolves are responsible for less than 1% of livestock losses. The National Agricultural Statistics Service doesn’t even list wolves as a separate predator-loss category, grouping wolves instead under "Other Predators," a category that is only responsible for less than one percent of all losses in New Mexico (0.65%) and Arizona (0.22%).  Most livestock losses are due to disease, accidents, and bad weather.

Are ranchers compensated?

  • Yes. Defenders of Wildlife, through the Bailey Family Wildlife Foundation Compensation Trust, has paid over $100,000 to local ranchers in the Southwest to compensate them for the vast majority of wolf-related livestock losses in the region. In 2010, Defenders of Wildlife announced that they are transitioning the Bailey Compensation program to the Mexican wolf/Livestock Coexistence Council program in order to work with ranchers to minimize losses and coexist with wolves before the need for compensation occurs.
  • Compensation for livestock losses due to wolves will be continue to be available through The Mexican Wolf/Livestock Coexistence Council, a compensation program which will be operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the states of Arizona and New Mexico under regional stakeholder guidance.  Defenders of Wildlife will make contributions to this fund.

Are wolves having an impact on hunting?

  • No. While it is true that wolves prefer regions with high abundances of elk and deer, there is no evidence that wolves deplete game animals over extended periods of time or across large regions. Otherwise, this carnivore and its prey could hardly have achieved long-term coexistence. Wolves prefer to feed on animals like elk and deer and will naturally go after the old, young, weak and sick animals first—not the large, healthy animals that hunters prefer.
  • According to the 5 year review of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program released in December 2005 (page ARPCC-8): “To date, no detectable changes to big game populations as a result of wolf reintroduction have occurred in AZ or NM. No changes in the number of permits issued for big game hunts have been made as a result of wolf presence, either.”
  • As of 2010, deer and elk hunting opportunities have not been adjusted in Arizona or New Mexico or on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation due to significant wolf impacts because no such impacts have been documented by game management personnel (Senn, Mike and T. Johnson. Memo. November 18, 2010. Commission Briefing on the Department’s Involvement in Mexican Wolf Reintroduction in Arizona and New Mexico and Related Mexican Wolf Recovery and Conservation Issues. Arizona Game and Fish Department.)  

Has the regional economy of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in AZ and NM been negatively impacted by the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf?

  • No. According to the Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project 5-year Review: Socioeconomic Component (Unsworth, R., L. Genova, K., Wallace, and A. Harp.  2005. Report prepared for the Division of Economics, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), economic impacts due to the Mexican wolf reintroduction were not realized.  Wolves are attributed to less than one percent of all livestock deaths and the economic impact to ranchers has been offset by compensation programs and both private and federal money available to fund deterrence projects.  In addition, because there was no reduction in hunter participation, no regional economic impact was observed.  

Can wolves help regional economies?

  • Yes. The economic impact of wolf restoration to Yellowstone National Park, for example, generates an additional $35 million per year in revenue for the region surrounding the park, and because those dollars turn over in the local communities, the wolves have created an overall impact of $70 million per year to the local economy (Duffield et al. 2006; Stark 2006). The existence value (or non-consumptive value) the public holds for wolves and the ecosystem service benefits of wolves to restore ecosystem health can also indirectly benefit economic output of the region.

How do wolves benefit the environment?

  • Wolves keep forests healthy. Wolves can cause prey animals like elk and deer to be more alert, move more often, and be wary of locations where they may be vulnerable to predation.  In turn, the reduced pressure of herbivore feeding on vegetation in locations with wolves, allows the vegetation to recover – providing habitat to many other species, like song birds, beaver, fish and amphibians in shaded streams.
  • Wolves keep elk and deer herds healthy by preying on the weak and sick.
  • Wolves have a top-down affect. By reducing coyote numbers, wolves can indirectly benefit raptors, foxes, and weasels as more rodents are available to them as food. Pronghorn antelope have also shown increased survival of fawns and population growth in places where wolves have reduced coyote predation.
  • Wolves feed other species. Research in the Northern Rockies has shown that no other predator feeds as many other species as wolves do, as the remaining carcasses often feed many other scavengers (such as foxes, ravens, eagles, jays, bears, and insects).  

Do people in Arizona and New Mexico want wolves?

  • Yes. A 2005 poll by Northern Arizona University found that four out of five Arizona residents support letting critically endangered wolves roam over a wider area of the Southwest. Eighty-six percent of those polled said wolves bring a natural balance to the Southwest landscape.  In fact, every poll to date in Arizona and New Mexico has shown that the majority, even in the affected counties, support wolf recovery.  A 2008 Mexican gray wolf recovery program survey found that 77% of Arizona voters either strongly support or support the reintroduction of Mexican wolves in Arizona.  Furthermore, 67% of Arizona voters surveyed support giving wolves more protection under the Endangered Species Act and 62% support allowing wolves to migrate to suitable habitat outside the current reintroduction area (Research & Polling, Inc. 2008.  Wolf Recovery Survey – Arizona.)
  • Numerous polls taken throughout the United States consistently demonstrate that more people support wolf recovery than oppose it.  A 2002 quantitative summary of human attitudes towards wolves found that 61 percent of the general population samples had positive attitudes towards wolves.

Why did wolves disappear?

  • State and federal bounties (no longer in effect), loss of habitat, poaching, car kills, disease, starvation and parasites have all contributed to their decline. Today, thanks largely to protection provided by the 1973 Endangered Species Act, wolf populations in the wild have returned in areas of the Northern Rockies, upper Midwest, and the Southwest.

What is the difference between "threatened" and "endangered" status of wolves?

  • Endangered means that the species is in danger of extinction.  Threatened means that the species is in danger of becoming endangered within the foreseeable future. Under "endangered" status, those wolves confirmed to have killed livestock are required to be relocated to a different area. For wolves, under the "threatened" status, government control trappers can legally euthanize wolves if those animals are confirmed to have killed livestock.
  • The Mexican gray wolf had virtually disappeared in the southwestern United States. It was listed as endangered on the federal endangered species list in 1976.

Why do you want to put wolves in the Grand Canyon?

  • We don’t actually want to put wolves down in the Grand Canyon, but we do want to help them return to their historic home throughout the Grand Canyon Ecoregion.

Where is the Grand Canyon Ecoregion?

  • The Grand Canyon Ecoregion (GCE) extends north from the edge of the Mogollon rim, where it borders the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, all the way to the high plateaus of southern Utah.

Would wolves live everywhere throughout the Ecoregion?

Who is involved with the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project?

  • Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project (GCWRP) is a non-profit organization that partners with a number of other conservation organizations, zoos, universities, and individuals from throughout the southwest, who have come together to support wolf recovery in the Grand Canyon Ecoregion (GCE), because science tells us it is the LAST BEST PLACE FOR WOLVES IN ARIZONA.

How can I learn more about wolves in this region?

Do you have educational materials available for teachers?

What can I do to help bring wolves back to the Grand Canyon Ecoregion?

  • Check out our Take Action page and/or our Action Alerts page often and write letters, sign up to receive wolf updates at the bottom of any page, and/or Donate to the project.