By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — Wildlife managers in the United States say their counterparts in Mexico have released two pairs of endangered Mexican gray wolves south of the US border as part of an ongoing reintroduction attempt.
The wolves came from the Ladder Ranch in southern New Mexico and were posted in two areas in the state of Chihuahua, officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department announced this on Tuesday.
Mexico’s wolf population now numbers about 45, with 14 litters born since 2014, officials said.
“Thanks to international cooperation, recovery efforts are continuing in Mexico and contradict some critics’ claim that recovery cannot take place in that country,” Jim deVos, Mexican wolf coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said in a statement.
The US reintroduction program has been operating in New Mexico and Arizona for more than two decades. The most recent census in early 2021 showed at least 186 wolves in the wild in the two states, a 14% increase from the previous year and a doubling in population in the past five years.
The results of a new survey of the American population are expected soon.
Agencies in the United States and Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas have been working to restore the species for years.
The Mexican gray wolf is the rarest gray wolf subspecies in North America and was listed as endangered in the US in 1976.
The wolf was once common in parts of the southwestern US and in the Sierra Madre Occidental and eastern regions of Mexico, but was nearly eliminated from the wild by the 1970s as a result of extensive predator control initiatives.
Officials said the Mexican commission, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife managers, are in final negotiations for a letter of intent to strengthen the program. It includes efforts aimed at conflicts with livestock where the predators are reintroduced.
Ranchers in Arizona and New Mexico have been critical of reintroduction efforts as the wolves are known to kill livestock, but environmentalists have pushed for the release of more captive wolves into the wild.
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