2008 Mexican wolf count official — 52 wolves

2008 was a year of no growth. It ended with 2 breeding pairs of wolves-

Update (2/6/09) Feds: Killings hamper Mexican wolf populationAP

Update (2/6/09) CBD Press Release – Mexican Wolf Breeding Pairs Drop to Two in 2008: Federal Trapping and Shooting Brings Reintroduced Population of Endangered Species to Brink of Collapse

~ be

Here is the news release from USFWS

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Southwest Region (Arizona ● New Mexico ● Oklahoma ●Texas) http://southwest.fws.gov

Public Affairs Office; PO Box 1306

Albuquerque, NM 87103


505/248-6915 (Fax)

News Release

For Release: February 6, 2009

Contacts: Jeff Humphrey, 505-248-6909 or 602-680-0853


A total of 52 Mexican wolves were counted in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2008, according to the annual survey conducted by the Interagency Field Team for wolf reintroduction. There were also 52 Mexican wolves recorded in the 2007 survey. Surveys are conducted in January of each year. Pups born in the summer must survive to December 31 to be counted as part of the Mexican wolf population. Fixed-wing aircraft and functional radio-telemetry were used to confirm five wolf packs on New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, five packs on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, and six lone wolves – two in Arizona and four in New Mexico. The survey indicated that there were only two pairs that met the federal definition of breeding pairs at year’s end.

Of the 52 wolves, 45 were born in the wild. One captive born female wolf (F836) was released to the wild in 2008. In 2008, one wolf was temporarily captured twice after dispersing outside of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, but the animal was translocated back into the recovery area on both occasions. In previous years, wolves were removed because of livestock depredation, for dispersing outside of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area or repeated nuisance behavior. No such wolves were removed in 2008. Illegal shooting was the leading cause of documented loss of wolves in 2008.“Our interagency partnership has made strides toward obtaining the biological information needed to manage wolves in a working landscape that also supports traditional livestock operations and public recreation,” said Benjamin N. Tuggle, PhD, Regional Director for the Service’s Southwest Region. “Except for the illegal shooting or suspicious demise of seven wolves, 2008 would have seen Mexican wolf populations on the upswing again. These mortalities are an intolerable impediment to wolf recovery. We will continue to aggressively investigate each illegal wolf killing to help ensure that anyone responsible is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Seven of the 10 packs produced at least 18 pups, with 11 surviving until the end of the year. However, based on the definition in the final rule establishing the reintroduction project,

the count only recognizes two breeding pairs because by year’s end, one or more of the mates in two packs had died. In addition, three packs had only a single offspring survive until December 31 (survival of two or more pups until December 31 in the year of their birth is required to qualify as a

breeding pair). In two of these packs, one pup died under suspicious circumstances late in 2008, resulting in both packs not qualifying as a breeding pair.

“We were fortunate this year – we did not remove any wolves from the population for management purposes under the AMOC Standard Operating Procedures,” said Tuggle. “In 2008, we received substantial public input on the wolf reintroduction effort as part of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Completing the Draft EIS, and implementing a wolf-livestock interdiction program, are priorities for us.”

The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project is a cooperative effort administered by six co-lead agencies: Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, USDA Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies function as an Adaptive Management Oversight Committee. This management approach provides opportunities for participation by local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals from all segments of the public.

– http://www.southwest.fws.gov –






  1. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    The feds are placing much of the blame on illegal kills for recovery woes. Obviously these illegal kills are unacceptable and I hope that the new regime in D.C. changes course on how to actually recover El Lobo. Of course apprehending, prosecuting, and seriously punishing the wolf killers must be pursued with much more urgency in my opinion.

    However, as pointed out by Michael Robinson, twice as many wolves have been “removed” , in one way or another, by the feds as compared to illegal kills.

    The USFWS field recovery office in Alpine, AZ is staffed with some very good people, many of whom I’ve been lucky to meet and have discussions concerning the program. I assure you they do not like the direction of the recovery process and here’s hoping for numerous changes for the better over the next 4 years.

    I guess the good new is that the population didn’t decline, which is an improvement over the past few years. More good news, the vast majority of the population were born in the wild and are not the “hand fed, fearless variety” that make regional rednecks shit themselves.

    I was lucky enough to have my first encounter (after 9 years of trying) with El Lobo this past November. The Hawks Nest alpha pair approached my campsite (wolves being curious) on the morning of 11/6/08. I was thrilled and never felt threatened, justed stunned and awed. These beautiful wolves howled and barked at me for about five minutes as I watched them in a meadow thru my spotting scope. At one point one of the wolves approached to @ 100 yards then turned and trotted away. They both then vanished into the forest. Very cool.

  2. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    Typo correction –

    “just” stunned and awed. not “justed”

  3. James Avatar

    The one captive born wolf, F836, mentioned in this article as released in 2008 was recently shot and killed over the MLK holiday weekend.

    Very bad news for a program that continues to be a run by a recovery team with no real power to make it better.

  4. Maska Avatar

    Jeff, your experience with the Hawk’s Nest pair is much like several of our very brief encounters with this and other Mexican wolf packs over the past eleven years. On a number of occasions a wolf or wolves have checked us out briefly, never from much closer than 120 meters, and then gone on about their business. It has most often been while we’re sitting around camp in the very late afternoon or very early morning. The lobos invariably catch us completely by surprise. We always feel immense gratitude for the small glimpse into their very different world.

    We go out often on both sides of the state line. The windswept, rolling grassland in Hawk’s Nest territory is among our favorite places, especially when bathed in the golden light that often accompanies the breakup of the clouds after a summer storm. Cooney Prairie in Middle Fork territory over in New Mexico is another. Perhaps we’ll run into you one day.

  5. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.


    Hawk’s Nest country is very inviting. I can walk the giant grassland meadows for hours. Great country indeed but extemely cold on November nights. For contrast I also enjoy the deep spruce, fir forests of Rim Pack country south of Hannagan Meadow.

    I will have to check out Middle Fork territory in 2009. Thanks for the tip.

  6. Maska Avatar

    It’s interesting–lower and drier than the areas you mention in Arizona, with open ponderosa woods, some pinons and junipers, fairly extensive grasslands, and rough, rocky canyons. It’s a good place to go when it’s too cold and snowy in Arizona. Just be sure to have a full tank of gas, plenty of water, and good tires. It’s a long distance to any facilities, no matter which route you take into the area.

    There are quite a few elk in the area, and a small herd of pronghorn that frequent Cooney Prairie. The latter came quite close to us as we hiked across the prairie last May–even held still long enough for a couple of photos with my little point-and-shoot camera.

    I have to chuckle at your comment about the cold on November nights. About a year ago, in late January 2008, we were camped for a couple of nights in Paradise territory, off FR117 in Arizona. The temperature in the morning, as we crawled out of our tent, was minus ten. That was a little challenging. Of course, all those folks up in Idaho and Montana will undoubtedly consider us pathetically soft. 🙂

    We do a midwinter trip every year. This year one of the few areas we could actually get into was the Middle Fork territory. We found tracks in the snow, but didn’t see or hear any lobos.

    I agree about Rim country. A couple of years ago we were extremely fortunate to get a quick look at the Rim alpha pair–AF858 and then AM992 (who has since moved over to New Mexico and is now the alpha male of Dark Canyon)–while sitting around after an early supper at Double Cienega. They trotted up the cienega, came through a break in the old exclosure fence, and gave us a short once over before running off into the trees. Their radio collars were clearly visible. The next morning we were able to pace off the distance to the spot where they stopped, because they left tracks in a couple of the many gopher mounds in the area–approximately 120 meters from where we had been sitting.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan