The Mexican wolf population in the United States surpassed 200 individuals in 2022, federal officials announced – a stunning recovery for a species that nearly went extinct, with just seven known wolves in existence in the late 1970s.
A total of 241 Mexican wolves were documented in Arizona and New Mexico in 2022, according to a Tuesday news release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
“This milestone has been 25 years in the making,” said Brady McGee, US Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, in the release. “To go from zero wild Mexican wolves at the start to 241 today is truly remarkable. In 2022, we recorded more packs, more breeding pairs, and a growing occupied range, proving we are on the path to recovery. These achievements are a testament to partner-driven conservation in the west.”
The Mexican wolf population has doubled since 2017 and increased by 23% from 2021, according to the release. A total of 136 wolves were documented in New Mexico and 105 in Arizona.
The Mexican wolf is the rarest subspecies of gray wolf found in North America, the release said. The species had become extinct in the wild by the late 1970s, largely due to killing by humans and habitat loss.
In 1977, the US Fish and Wildlife Service embarked on a plan to conserve the species, launching a captive breeding program with the seven remaining known Mexican wolves in collaboration with the Mexican government. The service released the first captive-born Mexican wolves back into the wild in 1998.
There are a total of 31 Mexican wolf breeding pairs currently documented by the service. In 2022, those pairs produced 121 pups, 81 of which survived to the time of the count, for a survival rate of 67%, the release said.
A total of 109 of the wolves are outfitted with radio tracking collars that will help researchers understand their movement and behavior.
“The road to recovery for any endangered species is neither straight or easy, and this has proven to be the case for the Mexican wolf,” said Jim deVos with Arizona’s Game and Fish Department in the release. “With the stunning growth that occurred in 2022, recovery has accelerated at an amazing rate…While the road to recovery still has ground to be covered, in 2022, the recovery program covered a lot of ground.”