Endangered Mexican Wolves Released Into Chihuahua Wilderness

Four endangered Mexican gray wolves that grew up in the U.S. have been released into the Mexican wild.

Both pairs of wolves were raised at the Ladder Ranch in New Mexico and released in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The pairs were named "Manada del Arroyo" and "Manada del Gavilan," or "Creek Pack" and "Hawk Pack".

Mexican wolves are a subspecies of gray wolves once abundant in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, with their range stretching from the Sierra Madre mountains in Arizona to central Mexico. However, their numbers plummeted in the 19th and 20th centuries as a result of hunting.

In 2010, a Mexican government report said the wolves were "probably extinct in the wild." However, the last decade has seen the species rebound.

Since the 1980s, the U.S. has worked with Mexico to reintroduce the species. Mexico has welcomed 19 releases of Mexican wolves in the country since 2011 amid 40 years of joint conservation work between Mexico and the U.S. Mexico's National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) works with the FWS, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD)and New Mexico's Game and Fish Department (NMGFD) protecting Mexican wolves.

Mexican wolves are considered an endangered species in the U.S. A 2020 census showed there were a minimum of 186 in the wild in the U.S., 72 in Arizona and 114 in New Mexico. That figure was up 14 percent from the 2019 total. The FWS said the Mexican wolf population in the U.S. has almost doubled in five years.

Mexican wolves continue to face numerous threats including illegal hunting and poaching. A Mexican wolf known as Anubis was shot and killed in Arizona in January.

The release of the four wolves in Chihuahua means there are now 45 Mexican wolves in Mexico.

"With these releases, CONANP reiterates its commitment to continue efforts to establish this subspecies that bears the name of our country," CONAP said in a statement. "Therefore, these releases represent an important advance in the recovery efforts of the Mexican gray wolf."

Jim deVos, Mexican wolf coordinator for the AZGFD said in a statement: "AZGFD's contention has always been that Mexico is an important component of Mexican wolf recovery.

"These efforts show that through international cooperation, recovery efforts are moving forward in Mexico and contradict the contention of some critics that recovery can't occur in that country."

Stock image of Mexican wolf
Stock image of a Mexican wolf. The animals were almost extinct in the wild at the start of the 21st century but recent conservation efforts in both Mexico and the U.S. have seen their numbers rebound. Rachelle007/Getty Images