Mexico To Release Endangered Wolves Into The Wild

By Peter O'Dowd
September 13, 2011

Photo courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
A Mexican Gray Wolf.

PHOENIX -- The Mexican government will release from captivity five Mexican Wolves in Northeastern Sonora.

The release will happen on a ranch in the Mexican border state, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

U.S. officials say they hope the animals will wander north, and breed with the Mexican Wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico.

"We’re not asking them to drop them on the border so they will cross over," said Tom Buckley, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "But, if they do, it will be a good thing for the recovery of the species."

Of course, there's no telling where the animals will go once they're set loose in Mexico. If they go north and find mates, it will improve the animals' genetic diversity, Buckley says.

The Mexican Wolf has been listed as an endangered species in the U.S. since the 1970s.

The animals have a long, and often contentious, history in the West. Ranchers traditionally despise the animals because they attack and eat their livestock.

In 1998, 11 Mexican wolves reared in captivity were released into the Blue Range Recovery Area in Eastern Arizona. The population now numbers 50, and the animals roam across the state line into New Mexico.

The Mexican government has been working with its counterparts in the U.S. Mexico has raised 66 wolves in captivity, Buckley said.

"The wolves they will be putting on the ground will be the very first from their captive breeding facilities," he said.

The animals will wear satellite collars. If they cross into the U.S., Buckley said they will be protected.