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For Immediate Release, August 3, 2010

Contact:  Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Mexican Gray Wolf May Qualify for Endangered Species Protection Separate From Other Gray Wolves
Recognition Would Boost Wolf Recovery

SILVER CITY, N.M.—  In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today determined that the Mexican gray wolf may qualify for listing as an endangered species separate from other wolves. A separate listing for Mexican wolves would require replacement of the subspecies’ outdated 1982 recovery plan.

“This decision breathes life into a Mexican wolf recovery effort that has flatlined in recent years,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

Only 42 wolves, including just two breeding pairs, could be found in the wild at last count in January 2010, representing a 19-percent decline from the previous year and the fifth straight year of stagnant or decreasing numbers. The Center’s 2009 petition cites multiple scientific assessments that the Mexican wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf and also describes the peril Mexican wolves face from persecution, habitat loss and genetic inbreeding.

“The Mexican wolf is on a trajectory to extinction,” said Robinson. “We’re confident that further action on our petition will prod development of a new recovery plan and ultimately lead to stronger measures to protect this unique, highly imperiled animal and reintroduce it elsewhere in the Southwest.”

A 2006 study found that other areas in the Southwest could support wolf populations, including the Grand Canyon, southern Rocky Mountains and Sierra Madre in Mexico.

Mexican gray wolves are smaller than other gray wolves and inhabit very different ecosystems. In 1976, the Fish and Wildlife Service first listed the Mexican wolf as endangered separate from other subspecies of the gray wolf, but in 1978 the agency consolidated the various wolf subspecies listings into a single listing for gray wolves throughout the conterminous United States, regardless of subspecies.

The 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan prescribed continued captive breeding and reintroduction of two viable populations in the wild. But in omitting criteria for recovery and delisting, the plan let the Service delay the establishment of a viable reintroduced population in the Gila and Apache national forests of New Mexico and Arizona, respectively. It also delayed planning for additional populations. If Mexican wolves are listed separately, the Service will be legally required, rather than merely allowed, to update the recovery plan.

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