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Mexican Gray Wolf Count Up in 2016

Media contact: Catalina Tresky: (202) 772-0253 or ctresky@defenders.org


Defenders of Wildlife Calls for More Releases to Recover World’s Most Endangered Wolf

TUCSON, Ariz. (Feb. 17, 2017) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published today the 2016 Mexican gray wolf count. There are 113 Mexican gray wolves, or lobos, in the U.S. wild, indicating an increase of 16 wolves from last year’s count. While it is good news that the population count is up, these numbers are still very small compared to what is necessary to recover the subspecies.

Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“Numbers alone only tell part of the story. The Mexican gray wolf count is still too low for recovery, and a lack of genetic diversity in the wild is a recipe for extinction.

“New Mexico is paving a path that could lead to Mexican gray wolf extinction. For the past six months the state’s preliminary injunction has stopped all Mexican gray wolf releases into the wild in New Mexico, which have already been few and far between. Releases are crucial to increase lobo numbers and improve their genetic diversity in the wild.

“We need more wolves and less politics.” 


Mexican gray wolves are the most endangered gray wolf in the world. Lobos are facing low numbers and a genetic crisis in the wild. Limited genetic diversity in the wild can result in smaller litters and lower pup survival – a recipe for extinction. Releases of captive wolves are critical to increase lobo genetic diversity in the wild.

Scientists on FWS’ recovery team agree that lobos require at least three linked populations in suitable habitat. Habitat capable of supporting two additional populations exists in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

In May, the state of New Mexico filed suit against FWS after the agency released two pups that they cross-fostered with a family in the wild. New Mexico also requested a preliminary injunction to halt all Mexican gray wolf releases into the wild until the merits of its case were heard.

In June 2016, a federal court granted New Mexico the preliminary injunction, halting all Mexican gray wolf releases. As interveners in the case between the state and FWS, Defenders and our partners appealed that ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court has yet to rule on the validity of the preliminary junction.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.