US Fish and Wildlife Service to Review Status of Mexican Wolf to Determine if it is an Endangered Subspecies

Change could result in greater protections for Mexican Gray Wolf

The USFWS has announced that they will review the status of the Mexican Gray Wolf as an endangered subspecies. The reclassification would require the Service to rewrite their recovery plan and designate critical habitat.

Mexican Gray Wolf May Qualify for Endangered Species Protection Separate From Other Gray Wolves.  Recognition Would Boost Wolf Recovery
Center for Biological Diversity – News release

Feds to review status of Mexican gray wolf

Service to Review Status of Mexican Wolf to Determine if it is an Endangered Subspecies.
Fish and Wildlife Service Newsroom


  1. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    It’s about time!

  2. mikepost Avatar

    Listing “subspecies” is a slippery slope. Listing may very well be the right thing to do for this wolf, but the implications of subspecies listing are significant. If we begin to treat every species variation due to some geographic isolation or local climate issue as a subspecies issue then we provide the anti-ESA folks an argument on a platter. There are big wins to be had with ESA and we should look for home runs, (or at least base hits) and not a swing at every ball.

  3. Wildlife Holidays Avatar

    What actually constitutes a subspecies is so vague i am not sure that there is a need to sub divide a species i like the idea that the species is the final level in taxonomy!

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wildlife Holidays,

    I partially agree with you. This Act (the ESA) is a product of the 60s and 70s. There have been many advances in wildlife genetics since then.

    I may well be that sub-species don’t need to be protected in some cases because the concept might not even make sense in some cases.

    In still other situations, ESA protection perhaps should be extended well below the level now afforded.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I think the subspecies distinction sure matters in fish subspecies. When you compare Lahontan cutthroat to westslope cutthroat there are big behavioral and ecological differences between the two. Westslope cutthroat couldn’t possibly survive in some of the places that Lahontan cutthroat can.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      This might sound like heresy, but I’m not sure North American sub-species of wolves make little difference when it comes to the animal’s ecological effect.

      If there really was something called “the mean, awful, nasty Canadian wolf,” its effects in prey species would be almost identical to any other wolf from North American (except the smaller red wolf).

  5. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    The true test of a species welfare is in its level of structural infrastructure. By extension, I’d have to say almost all elk populations in America are endangered.

    The North Carolina red wolf interbred with coyotes because the USF&WS did not have a clue of species infrastructure needs. All those red wolves were doing by interbreeding was trying to do was making sure they survived as a species. Any baggage included with breeding with coyotes could be taken care of by later generations. Right then it was making sure there was enough animals to keeping their unique identity wipe out from occurring.

    Plus USFWS had never thought of …. DISORDER seeks out ORDER. Thus the Mexican wolf reintroduction attempt should not have been focused solely on past wolf use and present environment compatability for reproduction and expansion.

    It should have thought of as finding one area where an introdsuced very good infrastructured family and extended family of Mexican wolves could build a base of operations in a PROTECTED area. If not a Yellowstone available then all accompaning resources put into one area…which includes enforcement on this area.

    Only then could CULTURE of those wolves have been established…the true indicator of species viability.

    1. cc Avatar

      Ideally the red wolf team would have begun the program by releasing more packs and spread them throughout the recovery area. Given the choice red wolves will mate with red wolves so as the young from these packs dispersed they would have been more likely to meet others of their kind. But what is ideal in hindsight was impossible to do at the time.

      There were no coyotes within the red wolf recovery area back in ‘87 and the area was surrounded on 3 sides by bodies of water coyotes couldn’t cross. I’m sure they anticipated coyotes eventually entering the western land edge of the recovery area but there were a number of limitations on what biologists could initially do to address that. Remember that this was the first ever reintroduction of a predator anywhere and the released wolves were born in captivity so it was a high stakes experiment. It would not have been plausible to release more established packs spread throughout the million acre recovery area. For one thing the captive population could not genetically afford to spare a larger number of wolves for reintroduction especially if their survival in the wild was far from certain. Secondly, even if they could release more that would have increased beyond capacity the logistical and social responsibilities associated with monitoring naive wolves and managing human conflict.

      The biologists have long since gotten a handle on the hybridization issue and the main problem now is illegal shootings and the need for the recovery area to be expanded. Any expansion will again bring coyote management into the forefront and another opportunity to address the infrastructure needs you mention.

  6. JB Avatar

    “This might sound like heresy, but I’m not sure North American sub-species of wolves make little difference when it comes to the animal’s ecological effect.”

    I have heard some ecologists express the idea that concern with particular species is misplaced–rather, we should be looking at things at the ecosystem level (I realize that is not a surprising comment for an ecologist). While this is an intriguing idea, it creates substantial policy problems. For example: What is an “endangered” ecosystem? How do you define the boundaries of these systems? Moreover, if you think recovering a single species is hard, imagine trying to “recover” an entire system!

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      I agree, especially because it is politically impossible to amend the ESA at the current time to correct flaws and make it a better law.

  7. cc Avatar

    There are already some high profile subspecies protected by the ESA, both the Eastern cougar and Florida panther are subspecies of mountain lion. But I’m not as optimistic as some that such distinction will help the Mexican wolf’s recovery. It certainly hasn’t helped panthers any:


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole