Mexican wolf population continues to grow

There are now more documented Mexican wolves roaming in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona than there have been in previous years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that the canine population grew for the eighth consecutive year and there are now at least 257 Mexican wolves in the wild. This represents the […]

Mexican wolf population continues to grow

There are now more documented Mexican wolves roaming in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona than there have been in previous years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that the canine population grew for the eighth consecutive year and there are now at least 257 Mexican wolves in the wild. This represents the longest continuous streak of population growth since recovery efforts began. The previous count found 242 wild wolves. 

New Mexico has more documented wolves than Arizona does, with 144 of the wolves that were counted in the 2023 population survey being found in New Mexico. Those 144 wolves make up 36 packs, including 15 breeding pairs. The population surveys are done in the winter.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says at least 138 pups were born in 2023 and 86 of those survived through the end of the year. That survival rate is greater than the average rate where half of the pups die within the first year. In 2023, 62 percent of them survived.

About 44 percent of the wolves are collared, allowing the wildlife managers to track them.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also touted the success of the somewhat controversial cross-fostering efforts in which captive-bred pups are placed in wild wolf dens. Some wildlife advocates oppose that practice in part due to the high mortality rates of the captive-born pups. But, the federal agency says, a minimum of 15 of the pups that were cross fostered have survived to breeding age and at least 10 of those have successfully produced litters in the wild. Those 10 have had more than 20 litters of puppies and several of their offspring are now breeding and raising pups of their own.

Jim deVos, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Mexican Wolf coordinator, said in a press release that 99 captive-born pups that have been chosen for their genetic value have been placed in wild dens since 2016.

“It’s encouraging to see success across the board with our recovery efforts,” Brady McGee, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, said in a press release. “Having fostered Mexican wolves survive, disperse, pair up, breed, and start packs of their own tells us that fostering is working. These genetically diverse wolves, which came from captivity as pups and were placed into wild dens, play a vital role in boosting the genetic diversity of the wild population.”

There are 350 captive Mexican wolves at more than 60 facilities throughout the United States and Mexico.

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