Mexican Gray Wolves in Mexico

Mexican gray wolf recovery is an issue that crosses international borders.  Historically, about 90 percent of the Mexican gray wolves home range was in Mexico.  The Mexican gray wolf population was centered in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico.  The home range went as far south as Oaxaca (located in southwestern Mexico) and as far north as southeastern Arizona. 

Similar to the United States, Mexican gray wolves were eradicated due to conflicts with livestock populations and only a few animals remained by the 1960s.  A decade later, Mexican gray wolves were only found in a few locations in the states of Durango and Zacatacas and none remained in the United States.  To prevent extinction, Mexico and the United States began a captive breeding program

Agencies in Mexico have been created with the aim to reestablish wild Mexican wolves from the captive breeding population, educate the public, and conduct research.  One program aimed at wolf reintroduction is the Technical Advisory Subcommittee for the Recovery of the Mexican Wolf.  This group created the Action Plan for the Conservation of the Mexican Wolf in 1999 (similar to the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan in the United States) and established 17 facilities to breed Mexican wolves.  These facilities have produced more than 70 Mexican gray wolves.

Mexico is in the initial stages of returning wolves into the wild using the animals from the captive breeding program.  Sites in northern Mexico were selected as release locations based on research on habitat, prey availability, and public perceptions about the Mexican gray wolf.  In all, ten Mexican gray wolves have been released.  Telemetry collars, loaned from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, allowed for monitoring of the wolves.  Of the released wolves, 4 or 5 animals are still living.  Five wolves were killed immediately following release by warfarin, a blood thinner that is commonly used as a poison.  Despite this setback, the Mexican conservation officials are monitoring and planning future steps to ensure the survival of the Mexican gray wolf in this historic home range.

There are challenges facing the program.  There is little to no public land and many private land owners are hesitant or reluctant to allow releases and wolf populations on their land.  Many ranchers are also uninterested in the return of a predator that could affect their livestock populations.  Despite this, estimates show that up to 2,600 Mexican gray wolves may be sustained within the habitat available in Mexico, if human persecution is significantly reduced.