Mexican gray wolves on the comeback trail

Richard Mark Glover

Alpine - Mexican gray wolves are making a comeback in the southwest.

Officials at the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City last week presented the first litter of the species to be born through artificial insemination in the country. In July CONANP (Mexico National Committee of Protected Natural Areas) announced the first known litter of wild-born Mexican gray wolves at a managed wildlife area (SSP) in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, south of Arizona.

In the United States, the Mexican gray wolf (Canis Lupus Baileyi), also known as El Lobo, was designated as an endangered species in 1976. In Texas the last recorded sighting of a Mexican Gray was in 1957 at Castelon, a small trading post on the Rio Grande and now part of the Big Bend National Park.

In accordance with the Endangered Species Act, a plan to save the species from extinction was drawn by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1977. Five survivors of the Mexican gray wolf, the smallest, rarest and southern most occurring of the Gray Wolf species of North America, were trapped in Mexico in 1978 and brought to the US where they were managed and bred in captivity.

In 1998, eleven Mexican gray wolves were released to the wild in the Apache and Gila National Forests of New Mexico and Arizona. Today, according to the US Fish and Wildlife, there are approximately 284 Mexican gray wolves living in the wild at approximately 52 SSA locations throughout Mexico and the US. The closest of these to Texas is in Socorro, New Mexico, approximately 190 miles north of El Paso, where ten of the animals are known to live.

At one time the Mexican gray wolf was common along the US-Mexican border but years of predator extermination practices instigated by livestock operators and the sale of wolf pelts to fur traders by trappers brought the animal nearly to extinction. The Mexican gray wolf remains the most endangered subspecies of wolf in the world.

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