Mexican wolves have had little success reclaiming their historic range in the Southwest. Captive breeding and rearing by the Fish and Wildlife Service has helped grow the population, but it remains unclear whether Mexican wolves will ever achieve the success of wolves in the northern Rockies. Photo courtesy of Wild Canid Survival and Research Center.
Mexican gray wolves and their cousins in the northern Rockies are biologically linked, but geography, economics and politics has created a wide chasm between how the two populations have fared in the wild.
In the Southwest, Mexican wolves have struggled to gain a foothold in the 7,000-square-mile recovery zone where wolves were first reintroduced 12 years ago. Meanwhile, gray wolves in Montana and Idaho are abundant enough that FWS lifted Endangered Species Act protection for the animals last year, after only 15 years of sustained recovery efforts.
The disparity between the two populations has created some vexing questions for the regulators and biologists charged with restoring wolves to their native habitats across the West. And while some of the answers are elusive, the evidence suggests the Mexican wolf’s fate may be tied to a unique set of factors – including efforts to reintroduce it into the heart of one of the nation’s most established ranching cultures, where cattle outnumber both wolves and humans.
Land Letter reporter April Reese takes an in-depth look at the factors affecting Mexican wolves in the second installment of a three-part series on the embattled FWS recovery program.