Costs of the Recovery Program

Mexican gray wolf management is one of the most labor and time intensive programs of any wildlife management program in the United States due to the complexity of the issues, number of stakeholders, and controversy surrounding wolves.  Intensive management means the Mexican gray wolf recovery program is expensive.  For cost purposes, the Mexican gray wolf project can be divided into five components: 1) captive breeding of wolves, 2) planning for the release of the wolf (mandated by law for endangered species), 3) screening and preparing captive bred wolves for release, 4) releasing wolves into the wild, and 5) intensive monitoring and management of wolves in the wild.  Since there are many organizations involved, exact dollar amounts are difficult to calculate.  The captive breeding program is conducted by a largely voluntary network of zoos and zoological facilities at 52 locations in the United States and Mexico, and the money spent is largely unreported.  The other components are more challenging to separate.  From 1977 to 2012, federal and state government cumulative costs on the Mexican wolf recovery program were estimated to be a minimum of $28.8 million.  This estimate does not include private or volunteer costs.

The cost of securing existing Mexican wolf genetic lineages and restoring wolves in the southwest has been substantial.  However, the total cost is challenging (probably impossible) to calculate.  The benefits of the wolf program are also difficult to calculate.