Rising Mexican Gray Wolf Population Threatens Southwest Cattle Ranches

Mexican Gray Wolves Increase 032020
A Mexican gray wolf at the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico. ( U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service )

After nearly reaching the point of extinction, the Mexican gray wolf population in the U.S. has rebounded, up nearly 25% in 2019. 

A new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows the number of Mexican gray wolves, the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America, rose to 163 in the U.S. in 2019, an increase from 131 from the year before. 

“The count shows we have more wolves, more breeding pairs and more pups born in the wild than ever before,” said Amy Lueders, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque, N.M., in a release.

The wolves are populating the Southwest, with 87 in New Mexico and 76 in Arizona. Northern Mexico also has a small population of this species that was reintroduced as an endangered species in the American Southwest more than two decades ago. 

“The numbers highlight the wolf’s progress in the wild,” said Jim deVos, Assistant Director of Wildlife Management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department in the release. “The results of this census are very important as they reflect the great progress being made in the recovery of the Mexican wolf in the United States. The increase in the Mexican wolf population is not an isolated year, but rather a continuum of increases over the last 10 years.”
This increase is concerning to cattle ranchers, however, as the increased numbers of Mexican gray wolves have resulted in increased cattle losses. 

According to The New York Times, 184 livestock kills by wolves were confirmed last year across New Mexico and Arizona, and ranchers say some cases went unreported. 

“But no matter the number, ranchers and others who live in the areas say the situation for them has become a problem,” reports AgDay’s Clinton Griffiths. “They point to thousands of dollars in losses, as 2019 marked a record year for cattle killed by the wolves.”

Wildlife managers acknowledge the problems and are trying to determine what might be behind the spike, The New York Times reports.

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