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Mexico at a glance

Wolves once roamed over much of what we now know as Mexico until extermination efforts successfully removed the wolf. No reliable sighting of a wild Mexican wolf has been reported since the last five individuals were captured and placed in a captive breeding program in Arizona in 1980. However, there is a possibility that a few naturally occurring wild wolves persisted.

Five Mexican gray wolves were reintroduced by Mexican wildlife officials into an undisclosed area of Sonora, Mexico in October 2011. Unfortunately, four were illegally killed by humans.

The only other known wild population of Mexican wolves are found in the United States in limited areas of Arizona and New Mexico, where they were also reintroduced.


Species Information

Mexican gray wolf

Common Names: gray wolf, lobo (Spanish)
Latin Name: Canis lupus

Gray Wolf Region
Common Names: Mexican wolf, lobo
Location: Sonora, Mexico

Current Wolf Population, Trend, Status
Number of wolves: 1 confirmed
Population trend: n/a
Legal status: Full protection

Human Relationships

Recovery & Management

Mexico’s work on recovering wolves

Jess Edberg, Information Services Director — International Wolf Center, 11/08/2011

Last month, five rare Mexican gray wolves were released by Mexican officials into Mexico’s northern state of Sonora in an international effort to restore the species. The U.S. and Mexico have long been working together to recover the Mexican wolf population on both sides of the border. However, the U.S. had a jump start in the reintroduction when it began releasing wolves in 1998.

A 2009 decision by Mexican President Felipe Calderon to prioritize imperiled species made the Mexican wolf one of five priority species and prompted Mexican wildlife officials to establish a reintroduction plan which was implemented last month. Wolves are listed as a “probably extinct species in the wild” by Mexico’s native- environmental-species protection laws. This designation means that although the native species may exist in captivity, no documentation shows its existence in the wild. Historically, wolves roamed in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leo’n, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Potosi San Luis, the Sank Bank, the Central Plateua and Oaxaca with their main prey consisting of deer and peccaries (a type of wild, pig-like animal).

Mexico’s wolf recovery plan was developed by the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP). The plan was a result of years of work among a variety of national and international wildlife officials and public and private organizations including the Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management. The latter is a formal international partnership comprised of federal wildlife officials representing Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The reintroduction plan, created by CONANP, was created to fulfill the objectives of the recovery plan. CONANP collaborated with Naturalia, a Mexican conservation non-profit, to implement the reintroduction plan releasing the five Mexican gray wolves. The five wolves were from Mexico’s captive-breeding program. The three female and two male wolves were fitted with satellite tracking collars and will be monitored by wildlife officials.

The planned reintroduction has been steeped in controversy for years. Biologically, potential exists for the wolves released in Mexico to migrate north and connect to the U.S. population, thus increasing genetic diversity without U.S. efforts. The Mexican-released wolves also add to the total population on the ground, which is now approximately 55. Sociologically, concerns have been raised about how to manage any immigrant wolves from Mexico into Arizona and potentially New Mexico.

Legally, any Mexican wolves immigrating to the U.S. will receive full, federal protection until they reach the area known as the Blue Range Recovery Area, which classifies Mexican wolves as “nonessential, experimental.” This designation allows federal officials to consider lethal control for wolves that depredate. In either area, any wolf posing an immediate threat to human safety may be lethally controlled.

The most anticipated challenge will occur if Mexican wolf immigrants begin attacking livestock in areas where wolves receive full protection. Livestock producers and managers alike are weighing the options available and planning ahead. Consequently, the international nature of this reintroduction raises concerns about the proposed construction of a secure fence along the United States-Mexico border. The question about how such a barrier meant for humans would affect wolf and other wildlife movements has yet to be answered.