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The Mexican Gray Wolf Story in New Mexico

The Mexican gray wolf is emblematic of the wild Southwest. Moreover, it is a keystone species, a top predator that–if populations were allowed to return to a viable size– would help maintain healthy herds of native ungulates such as elk and deer. Despite how essential this species is to New Mexico’s ecology, endangered Mexican gray wolves continue to be threatened by hostile humans who illegally kill them.

Wilderness and Wild and Scenic designations are paramount in order to protect the Mexican gray wolf from illegal killings

There are 186 Mexican gray wolves known to survive in the wilds of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. If we want to protect New Mexico’s wild heritage, we must act now to protect the Mexican gray wolf. That’s why New Mexico Wild remains committed to advocating for the conservation of the wild places that Mexican gray wolves call home.

In New Mexico, the Mexican gray wolf resides primarily in the Gila region.

Beginning in summer 2013, New Mexico Wild began conducting citizen-based wilderness inventories throughout the Gila National Forest. We estimate there are more than one million acres of public lands eligible for wilderness designation or other protective measures in the Gila region.

Our goal is the permanent protection of these areas through the creation and expansion of Wilderness in the Gila region, together with designating the Gila River and other eligible streams as Wild and Scenic Rivers. These Wilderness and Wild and Scenic designations are paramount in order to protect the Mexican gray wolf from illegal killings so it can thrive in the wild.

New Mexico Wild has taken a leading role in litigation intended to protect the Mexican gray wolf.

As a party to two lawsuits filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Wild is pushing the agency to improve its management of the wolf population as well as its recovery plan. A judge ruled in favor of New Mexico Wild and the other plaintiffs in both cases. As a result, Fish and Wildlife will have 25 months from April 2018 to develop a new management plan for the Mexican gray wolf.

New Mexico Wild also brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the "McKittrick Policy," which prohibits the prosecution of indiviuals who kill endangered wildlife unless it can be proven that the individual knew that the wildlife was endangered prior to the kill. New Mexico Wild and the other plaintiffs ultimately were unsuccessful in their appeal to the 9th Circuit of the federal Court of Appeals to overturn this policy on procedural grounds. However, New Mexico Wild continues to look for other avenues to overturn the policy to provide increased protection for Mexican gray wolves.


On June 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed a public comment period on a scoping plan concerning the long-term management of Mexican gray wolves. Hundreds of New Mexico Wild supporters submitted public comments online, calling on Fish and Wildlife to use the best available science to  develop an achievable plan for fully recovering the endangered species.

In October 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that gray wolves would no longer receive federal protections, handing management of wolves over to tribes and states. While the order does not apply to the Mexican gray wolf subspecies found in New Mexico, the decision is a troubling development nonetheless.

Fortunately, gray wolves achieved a victory in Colorado this November when voters passed an historic ballot measure that directs the state's wildlife managers to reintroduce gray wolf populations by 2024.

Locally, New Mexico Wild will urge the incoming Biden administration to adopt policies that ensure the protection and recovery of Mexican gray wolves. First, we will call upon the new administration to list the Mexican gray wolf as an essential population through a new and meaningful rulemaking process. Second, we will call on the administration to end the disastrous McKittrick Policy once and for all. Third, we will push U.S. Fish and Wildlife to base its new recovery rule on science and not politics. Sign our petition to encourage the new administration to take these steps.

Population Increased!

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of Mexican gray wolves in the wild by the end of 2020 increased to 186, up 14% from the previous year. New Mexico Wild will continue working with local, state, and federal partners to grow the Mexican gray wolf population until the species is no longer imperiled.

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