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Why Is the Mexican Wolf Endangered?

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The Mexican grey wolf used to roam the southwest throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico. After years of losing its natural habitat and deliberate extermination by settlers, the Mexican grey wolf was saved from extinction when it was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1976. As of 2013, this wolf remains the most endangered wolf species in the world.


When settlers moved to the southwest, bringing the livestock industry with them, Mexican grey wolves began to lose the habitat vital to their survival. In addition, at this time hunters killed off deer, elk, javelina and many other animals that are natural prey for wolves. With diminishing habitat and few animals to hunt, wolves began preying on livestock.


Under pressure from the livestock industry, the U.S. Biological Survey began hunting and killing wolves with rifles, poison and traps. According to Lobos of the Southwest, the agency killed more than 900 wolves between 1915 and 1925 alone. Although the population was drastically reduced, Mexican grey wolves continued to be hunted and trapped to near extinction.

Endangered Species List

In 1976, the Mexican grey wolf was added to the Endangered Species List. In order to save the species, the United State and Mexico collaborated to capture the remaining wild wolves. According to Lobos of the Southwest, five remaining wild wolves were captured alive. These wolves were used to start a breeding program in captivity to increase the Mexican Wolf population.

Breeding in Captivity

Only one of the wild Mexican wolves captured was a female and although she was pregnant, no female pups survived. The first litter of pups bred in captivity were born in 1981 at the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri. Breeding in captivity continues today as the species continues to be the most endangered mammal in North America.

Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan

The 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan planned to re-introduce Mexican wolves to the wild and establish a population of at least 100 wolves by 2006. According to Lobos of the Southwest, the wild Mexican wolf population has only reached approximately 75 wolves with only three breeding pairs, as of 2012.

Continued Threats

Despite efforts to protect Mexican wolves and repopulate the species in the wild, the species still faces threats from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Between 1998 and 2008, agents shot 11 wolves and killed 18 more in capture attempts. In addition, the livestock industry continues to push for the removal of all wolves to protect their herds.