Action timeline

April 23, 1990 – The Center initiated the return of the Mexican gray wolf into portions of its historic range in the Southwest by suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Defense.

January 12, 1998 – The Service published a final rule declaring the Mexican gray wolf a nonessential, experimental population, allowing for the take of wolves in the wild.

November 1998 – In the same year that wolves were first reintroduced into the wild, the Center developed the Wolf Safe Haven Plan to help guide recovery efforts and ensure that wolves were fully protected.

January 1, 1999 – After livestock-industry groups sued the Service in 1998, demanding the removal of all wolves in the wild, the Center soon intervened on the side of the government and the industry suit was dismissed the following year.

October 2000 – Poacher James M. Rogers was convicted of illegally shooting a wolf after a reward paid by the Center, other conservation organizations, and the federal government led to a tip in the case.

April 2000 – Advocacy by the Center helped spur a federal rule approving the re-release of wolves that had been captured from the wild into New Mexico.

March 29, 2004 – On the sixth anniversary of the first release of Mexican wolves into the wild, the Center filed a petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service to reform the reintroduction program by implementing recommendations issued by a 2001 independent scientific panel.

January 2005 – The Center participated in a successful coalition lawsuit overturning a Service wolf reclassification rule that downlisted wolves to threatened, divided gray wolves into distinct population segments, and precipitated a recovery-planning process that would have established Mexican gray wolves outside their historic range instead of where they evolved.

January 2005 – A federal judge dismissed a second case by the livestock industry, in which the Center served as an intervenor-defendant. The livestock industry was again seeking removal of all wolves from the wild.

December 14, 2006 – The Center sued the Service for refusing to implement the recommendations of a scientific panel convened to assess the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program two years earlier.

August 7, 2007 – Following the Center's 2006 lawsuit, the Service initiated a process to change the rules for management of the wolf reintroduction program. A draft Environmental Impact Statement was expected to be issued in spring 2008.

May 1, 2008 – The Center and allies sued the Service for its decision to put wolf reintroduction in the hands of agencies that have allowed wolf killings to rise, as well as for approving SOP 13.

May 16, 2008 – After the government-appointed wolf-management team refused to end SOP 13, a policy requiring all wolves with a certain depredation record to be “removed" — despite the request of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and the recommendations of numerous scientists — the Center wrote a letter to the team requesting a cessation of government wolf removals.

September 23, 2008 – Eastern Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, key Mexican gray wolf habitat, proposed a new policy requiring livestock owners to dispose of their own animals' carcasses when those animals died from causes unrelated to wolves. This measure would help prevent endangered wolves from becoming habituated to preying on livestock rather than their natural prey. The Center requested that the policy be applied not just in the Apache National Forest portion of the Blue Wolf Range Recovery Area, but also on all lands governed by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest's Revised Forest Plan.

December 3, 2008 – The Center petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to update the Mexican gray wolf's ancient recovery plan, published in 1982 and never revised.

December 22, 2008 – The Center and 16 other organizations asked the Service to replace the photograph of the Mexican gray wolf program's “poster wolf” — prominently displayed on the agency's Web site and at its Washington, D.C. headquarters — because the wolf was trapped and inadvertently killed in 2005.

February 6, 2009 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced there were only two breeding pairs of Mexican gray wolves in the wild at the end of 2008 — a decline from just three breeding pairs at the end of 2007. The low number resulted from federal trapping and shooting of 19 wolves in 2007, including reproductively successful pairs.

March 10, 2009 – The Center and allies submitted comments on a Fish and Wildlife Service draft “conservation assessment” analyzing the current Mexican gray wolf management program. We called for development of a new Mexican wolf recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan, as well as for a temporary cessation of removals of Mexican wolves from the wild.

March 25, 2009 – In passing the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, Congress approved a demonstration project involving federal compensation for livestock losses to wolves, as well as federal funding for nonlethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock losses to wolves.

August 11, 2009 – The Center petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to formally separate the Mexican gray wolf from other U.S. wolf populations and list it under the Endangered Species Act as either an endangered subspecies or a “distinct population segment.” On the same day, ending a Center lawsuit, a court ordered USDA Wildlife Services to release records detailing where Mexican wolves killed livestock prior to the agency shooting and trapping them.

November 13, 2009 – In response to Center litigation, the Fish and Wildlife Service reclaimed its decision-making authority over wolf management from a multiagency group hostile to wolf recovery, as well as scrapping the wolf-killing rule SOP 13.

November 20, 2009 – The Center filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Service to compel a response to our August 2009 petition to list the Mexican wolf separately from other gray wolves.

January 27, 2010 – The Center filed suit against the Service for its failure to respond to our August 2009 petition.

May 5, 2010 – A “conservation assessment” for the Mexican gray wolf, released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pointed to the urgency in reforming the Mexican wolf reintroduction project and developing an up-to-date Mexican wolf recovery plan that includes recovery criteria, to guide establishment of additional wolf populations.

June 30, 2010 – A Center settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service required the agency to respond by July 31, 2010 to our August 2009 petition asking for recognition of the Mexican gray wolf as an endangered species separate from gray wolves in the rest of the country.

July 20, 2010 – The Center petitioned the Obama administration for a national recovery plan to establish wolf populations in suitable habitat in the Pacific Northwest, California, Great Basin, southern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains and New England.

August 3, 2010 – In response to our petition and lawsuit, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the Mexican gray wolf might qualify for listing as an endangered species separate from other wolves.

September 30, 2010 – The Center condemned four newly introduced bills that would strip Endangered Species Act protections from wolves around the country before full recovery.

October 4, 2010 – The Center submitted comments on the Service's August finding.

October 8, 2010 – The Fish and Wildlife Service for the second time delayed releasing the eight-wolf Engineer Springs pack — badly needed to bolster dwindling Mexican wolf numbers and genetic diversity in the Southwest — into the Arizona wild.

October 27, 2010 – The Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service over its delay in deciding whether the Mexican wolf deserved special protections.

November 12, 2010 – The Center and Defenders of Wildlife — represented by the Western Environmental Law Center — intervened in a lawsuit seeking the trapping and shooting of endangered Mexican gray wolves, the third since reintroduction began in 1998.

December 21, 2010 – With no response to our July 20 petition, we filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a national recovery plan for gray wolves.

February 1, 2011 – Livestock growers and two counties — plaintiffs in a lawsuit that asked the federal government to remove Mexican gray wolves from the wild in New Mexico — filed a motion seeking voluntary dismissal of their suit without prejudice (meaning that they could refile a similar suit later).

February 2, 2011 – A new census by federal and state agencies revealed that 50 Mexican gray wolves, including two breeding pairs, were counted in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona at the end of 2010. The 50 wolves were eight more than the 42 wolves found at the end of 2009, representing the first increase in numbers in four years.

June 9, 2011 – New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez's state game commission voted unanimously to stop cooperating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in reintroducing the endangered Mexican gray wolf.

July 12, 2011 – The Center reached a landmark agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service compelling the agency to move forward in the protection process for 757 species, including on improved protections for the Mexican gray wolf.

August 17, 2011 – The Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the New Mexico State Game Commission and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish over the commission's vote to resume recreational trapping in the Gila National Forest, the home of endangered Mexican gray wolves.

January 2012 – A new federal report showed that Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest continued to struggle to survive in the wild in part because too few wolves had been released from captivity.

February 2012 – A new census showed an increase in wild Mexican wolf pup births for the second year in a row, bringing the count of wild wolves up from 50 to 58 individuals, with breeding pairs increasing from two to six.

March 29, 2012 – On the 14th anniversary of the first reintroduction of endangered Mexican gray wolves to the wild in the Southwest, 30 conservation organizations, scientists, and animal-protection and sportsmen groups (including the Center) urged Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to release Mexican wolves from the captive-breeding program into the wild in 2012, since no release had occurred since 2008. The letter also asks Salazar to allow the release of captive-bred wolves to New Mexico, which was currently prohibited.

August 8, 2012 – A kill order was issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service to its sister agency, U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services, to shoot the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack of Mexican gray wolves due to the seven-member pack preying on four head of cattle over several months. Center action resulted in her captured instead of killing.

November 20, 2012 – The Center called on the Fish and Wildlife Service to dramatically increase the number of wolves in the wild in order to stave off genetic inbreeding, deemed by scientists to be limiting the size and health of some wolf litters.

November 28, 2012 – The Center filed suit challenging the Service's failure to respond to our 2004 petition calling for implementation of sweeping reforms in the management of the Mexican gray wolf population, which had by then grown by only three animals, leaving just 58 wolves in the wild.

December 9, 2012 – The Center sued the Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency's rejection of a 2009 scientific petition from the Center that sought classification of the Mexican gray wolf as an endangered subspecies or population of gray wolves. 

December 26, 2012 – After Mexico released nine Mexican gray wolves near the U.S. border in the Sierra Madre — and since wolves from the northern Rocky Mountains could make their way south at any time — the Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Service over its decision to grant itself a “recovery permit” to live-capture endangered wolves that may enter New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico or the Rocky Mountains.

February 2013 – A four-year stalemate in federal efforts to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest took another step backward last week when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recaptured a male wolf only three weeks after his release into the wild.

February 6, 2013 – A census conducted by federal, state and tribal agencies showed that pup births boosted the number of  Mexican gray wolves in the wild for the third year in a row, up from 58 wolves in 2011 to to 75 wolves, including 38 in New Mexico and 37 in Arizona. However, the number of breeding pairs decreased from six in the last count to just three.

March 28, 2013 – The Center filed a lawsuit challenging a permit issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service to allow federal and state agencies to capture wolves that enter Arizona and New Mexico from either the north or the south and keep them in captivity indefinitely.

October 21, 2013 – With the 2013 federal government shutdown over and funds flowing once again, the Arizona Game and Fish Department announced it would resume efforts that week to capture and permanently incarcerate two Mexican gray wolves.

November 20, 2013 – Local activists from the Center and allies will rally in Sacramento to voice their opposition to a Service proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states. The proposal to delist wolves would strike a serious blow to wolf recovery across the country, including in California and other West Coast states where wolves are just beginning to make a comeback.

November 20, 2013 – Hundreds of people from all walks of life testified at a hearing being held in Albuquerque by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take public testimony on management of wolves. The agency had proposed to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across much of the lower 48 states, but to retain protections for Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.

November 22, 2013 – Numerous wolf supporters showed up in force in Sacramento at a hearing — one of only five scheduled nationwide — held by the Obama administration to take public comments on its proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states.

December 17, 2013 – The Center submitted comments on the Fish and Wildlife Service's "Proposed Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population" — a response to a Center rulemaking petition, which nearly a decade
ago had requested revisions to the 1998 rule for the Mexican gray wolf under the Administrative Procedure Act (see our March 2004 entry above).

September 10, 2014 – A coalition of conservation groups, including the Center, put the Fish and Wildlife Service on notice that they intend to bring a lawsuit to hold the agency accountable for failing to produce and implement a valid recovery plan for the imperiled Mexican gray wolf.

February 2016 – A census by federal and state biologists announced that the number of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico had dropped to 97 in 2015 from 110 in 2014.

April 26, 2016 – A coalition of wolf-conservation groups, environmental organizations and a retired federal wolf biologist announced a court settlement requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare its long-delayed recovery plan for Mexican gray wolves by November 2017.

January 25, 2017 –  President Trump announced that his administration would begin pursuing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a project that would perpetuate human suffering, harm border communities and halt the cross-border movement of jaguars, ocelots, wolves and other wildlife.

February 16, 2017 – Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation that would give the states of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as ranchers — all proven hostile to Mexican wolf recovery — the right to dictate the terms of the species' recovery, undermining the scientific standards of the Endangered Species Act.

February 17, 2017 – The Fish and Wildlife Service reported that the number of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico had increased by 16 animals, up to 113 wolves from 97 in the previous count.

Photo © Robin Silver