Some rare good news for Mexican wolves

Two previous unknown packs have been discovered-

Instead of a growing population, the number of wild Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico has hung between about 40-60 animals for years now. On top of that the Arizona  government for three years now has refused to release any of captive Mexican wolves that have been held in reserve.

Now, however, two previously unknown male/female pairs of wild Mexican wolves have been discovered.  Technically these might be considered to be packs because they will more than likely produce pups next spring. This last spring  18 pups were born.  However, the previous year the pup number was higher than that and yet half of them died or were killed before the end of their first year.

The Mexican wolf was extinct in the wild.  That last handful in the wild were captured to put them in a number of breeding facilities to build up a population for re-release in the wild. In the facilities great care is taken to conserve what little genetic diversity exists in the captive population.  In the wild, the effects of lack of genetic diversity shows up in part by smaller than normal litters and depressed levels of pup survival.

Releases of part of the captive population began in the Arizona/New Mexico border area in 1998.  This is wild country. However, poaching and control for livestock depredations have, nevertheless, taken a continual toll of the small wolf population.  Currently Arizona Fish and Game has been releasing new wolves only on a “case-by-case” basis, and they can’t seem to find any cases to merit a release.  New Mexico’s government had been relatively supportive of the program, but in 2010 a tea party governor was elected.  She is ideologically hostile to wolf restoration and the state withdrew from the program.




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  1. Nate Hobbs Avatar
    Nate Hobbs

    How about we leave them be rather than chase them down with helicopters drop them with tranquilizers and collar them in the name of science and preservation.

  2. Maska Avatar

    Just a little addition to the report: One of the two newly designated packs, the Elk Horn Pack, appears to have denned this year. Although no pups have yet been confirmed, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. The alpha female of this pack, F1212, is a two-year-old disperser from the San Mateo Pack. The Elk Horn Pack has denned fairly close to Reserve, NM, the county seat of Catron County, in an area with several good-sized inholdings and a number of roads, both of which give reason for caution in predicting the lobos’ likelihood of success.

    The other new pack, the Canyon Creek Pack, does not appear to have denned this year. The pack so far consists of M1248, a disperser from the very successful Hawk’s Nest Pack in Arizona, and F1246, a disperser from the Luna Pack in New Mexico. The Canyon Creek Pack has recently been hanging out in the area of the T Bar Grassland, an area of rolling, grassy hills north of the Gila Wilderness. It is grazed by livestock, but is somewhat more remote than the home range of the Elk Horn Pack.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan


    Thank you so much for the detailed update on the status of the wolves. We seem to be able to count on you for the most accurate details.

    1. Maska Avatar

      Ralph, location information, denning status, and other information I used in my comment are all available in weekly flight location reports and monthly updates posted on both the FWS and AZGFD websites. It does take a little effort to pull all the pieces of the story together, but the basic facts are all public. Oh…and maps of the Gila and Apache National Forests are useful, too.

      1. Salle Avatar

        I thank you for making the effort and putting your findings up here.

        1. Maska Avatar

          You’re welcome, Salle. I try to keep up with the news from the field, but as the number of wolves and packs increases, it becomes a bigger task. Fortunately, I enjoy it.

  4. Salle Avatar

    With the cattle industry withering in the massive heat wave, maybe there’s hope for the Mexican Grays after all.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      People with private land are selling their livestock because they can’t feed them off the land (and can’t afford to buy feed).

      I worry that public land lease holders might try to keep their dying livestock on our public lands until they really do die, trying to save a buck. They might destroy the range in doing so for many kinds of wildlife.

      This is just my fear, but it needs to be investigated.

      1. Salle Avatar

        A lot of them are selling off their herds before they lose everything invested. Let’s hope their desire for the cash is strong enough to spare the land from further degradation.

        I can also imagine that they would blame wolves for any losses even though there’s no excuse for leaving cattle out in the drought conditions with extreme heat of late. Of course, they might think that compensation for predation would be worth more than current market value given a current potential glut of cattle being sold off because of the drought conditions… which would really be unfortunate in the short term but maybe belie their intentions in the long run if they chose to make such a claim.

      2. Salle Avatar

        And then there’s this sort of thing that doesn’t bode well for any wildlife anywhere:

        More emergency grazing opened for drought-stricken cattle

        As long as we the taxpayers are footing the bill this is going to expand since the drought isn’t expected to dissipate anytime soon, this year or next and beyond.

  5. Snaildarter Avatar

    Glad to here Az and NM grey wolves are holding their own. I’d to the northern wolf range extend into California, have there been any addtional sightings other than the one lone male a while back.

  6. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Nice to hear some good news for these wolves.

  7. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    And now some bad news. The alpha male of the Blue Stem Pack was recently found dead and the death is under investigation. The Blue Stems are a pack that is confirmed to have pups of the year, so we’ll see if the Alpha Female and remaining pack members can raise them.

    This is the third known mexican wolf death of the year.

  8. louise kane Avatar

    what happened to the the alpha male that was found dead, any news yet

    1. Jeff N. Avatar
      Jeff N.

      Nothing yet.

      Nice tribute from Jean Ossorio at

    2. Maska Avatar

      FYI–the body was sent to the FWS forensics lab at Ashland, OR, for necropsy. No cause of death has been reported. This wolf had been in the wild for six of his nine years.

  9. eloise Avatar

    Those radio collars aren’t ‘rocket science’. Let’s leave the wolves alone so they can’t be hunted.
    On the ‘calif. wolf’ – he gave up and went back over the border. No females/no males – only logical.

    1. Snaildarter Avatar

      Maybe if our California male encountered lots of good food sources he can steal a female and entice her back into California. Who knows maybe a few grizzlies might follow so it least then they can be true to their name sake the golden bear state. Seriously wolves need to be in blue states it might be safer there. Radio collars worry me too, do we have any evidence that the bubbas been using them to track wolves?.

  10. Ben Schoppe Avatar
    Ben Schoppe

    Public land grazers are the best custodians available. They are truly vested in the productivity of those lands as their livelihood depends on it.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Ben – when you can pull yourself away from “trolling” go down to your local library and see if they have a copy of Welfare Ranching, The Subsidized Destruction of the American West or, you might be able to find a used copy on Amazon.

      Its a BIG book, but filled with all sorts of interesting photos re: public lands grazers, should have a problem relating to the text.


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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