Mexican gray wolf, © Jim Clark/USFWS

Lobos Counting on the FWS

Eva Sargent, Southwest Program Director

The official annual count of Mexican gray wolves – also called lobos – is in!  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finished counting the wolves, but the wolves are still counting on the Service to save them from extinction.

First, the good news:  The population of wild Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico increased from 58 last year to 75 now.   But there are still only three breeding pairs.  The lobos are doing their best to survive – finding each other, chasing elk, avoiding lawbreakers who would kill them just for being wolves, and having pups.   They are inching, year by year, closer to their rightful place in the landscape and culture of the Southwest.  But the truth is, they may not make it.  They came through a tremendous genetic crisis in the past, when the last wild female Mexican wolf in the entire world was brought into captivity to literally save her kind.  This limited genetic heritage, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, continues to haunt the lobos today.  Because they are all closely related, they don’t have a large number of different traits carried in their genes. A high amount of genetic diversity is key to survival – it allows populations to change their biology when conditions change.

So although more wolves is cause for celebration, more pups from the same few breeding pairs won’t be enough to solve the genetic crisis.  In order to express every bit of their genetic potential, the wolves needed to expand their population in the wild years ago.  This opportunity was missed, over and over, when genetically valuable animals were sent back to captivity or killed, when packs were disrupted by being captured and moved, and when too few animals were released.  Now, it will take heroic efforts, probably including extreme steps like in vitro fertilization using stored semen or eggs from wolves that died years ago, to try to improve the genetic future for Mexican gray wolves. The Service needs to get moving on this genetic emergency immediately.  The first step is to release more wolves.

Releasing more wolves is a little more difficult than it sounds, but the Service has the authority, means, and responsibility to get this done in a hurry. Only two wolves have been released from captivity since 2006. One of these was illegally shot, and the other was returned to captivity the other day to give him a better chance at pairing with a female.  The Service needs to get this new pair out in the wild as quickly as possible, and immediately get many more wolves warming up in the bullpen, ready to go, because the current slow dribble of new genes into the wild isn’t enough. The Service must assert its authority and do what needs to be done for the wolves’ sake. What the Service does now will determine whether or not our lobos can survive and recover.

When Mexican wolves need help, Defenders turns up the heat on decision makers. We count on you – who understand the importance of lobos in the big scheme of Nature – to help us pressure those in power to do the right thing.  Please make sure you are getting Defenders e-alerts!  That way I can let you know quickly when your emails, meeting attendance, phone calls, petition signing or letter writing can really make a difference.  In March, we will be celebrating the 15th anniversary of the first release of captive-born Mexican gray wolves into the wild.  There will be plenty to do to make sure the lobos are not just surviving, but thriving.  I hope you will join me in this fight.

45 Responses to “Lobos Counting on the FWS”

    • Diane

      Iwas fortunate enough to see 5 sibling grey wolves in New Mexico over the holiday this year. What a treat to see them safe and maybe be able one day to share their genetics if needed. Hopefully that will never need to happen and they will be released back into the wild as it should be.

  1. CJK

    I live in Idaho and they have kill hundreds of wolves here, please do not let the wolves ever get to high levels anywhere, all you are doing is giving the great white hunters something else to kill. DO NOT RELEASE MORE ANIMALS SO THEY CAN BE SHOT AND TRAPED IN THE FUTURE

    • Gussie Moore

      I agree. We need to change the laws so that wolves are protected from being killed before we release any more of them into the wild. States should NOT be allowed to override the Federal protections of endangered species such as the Mexican Grey Wolf or any other species in danger. Please, we need to stop corporations and PACs from forcing their agendas on the entire population. Corporations should not be allowed to subvert the law. We need to protect wolves and all animals from extinction now or it will soon be too late for us all.

    • RBjk

      Great WHITE hunters? I hope you’re not assuming all hunters are white?


      Unfortunately, most of the sport hunters get a bad rep but would never kill an inedible animal like a wolf. There are some who would based on their beautiful pelts. Trapping, poisoning and destroying den sites is not beyond the avid haters of the father and mother of our domestic dogs. Some think that killing wolves will give them more elk and deer to slaughter. The fact is that the wolf packs kill mostly old, young, sick or weak animals. This prevents overgrazing and slow death by starvation. It maintains the finest specimens for breeding stock.
      Farmers and ranchers should be compensated when their livestock, which is raised for slaughter anyway, is killed by wolves.
      The comment Great White Hunter refers to the era when safari hunters ventured forth with guides and high powered weapons to indiscriminately kill for trophies and prestige. It is not referring to hunters who sparingly kill for food and follow the game laws with regard to licensing and special hunting seasons.

    • Jeffrey Albert Geist

      Ranchers and farmers ARE compensated by the government; at least they used to be when the general will was to help wolves return and rehabituate their lost territory. I’m pretty sure they still are, and quite handomely. Have been to MN good number of times and talked to them about wolves; most are more concerned about their dogs – which wolves kill – than anything else. However most of these people let their dogs run completely free in wolf country. Not smart.

  2. Jack

    It is so frustrating. I’m afraid the the FWS is too politicized to make a scientific decision and follow through with appropriate enforcement of it’s decisions. I welcome being wrong about that. We humans seem to think it is all about us, and behave in ways that insures that outcome.

  3. Frederick Hall

    Did you forget/care about hunters in the U.S.? I am 89-years old, a veteran of WWII, grew up on a dairy farm in up-state N.Y. worked 45-
    years for a large company and rose in management. I think I am an American. Hunting is in my blood; now it is mostly varmint hunting all
    over the country/world. Hunters care for anuimals, they treat them like all “game” and do not want to eliminate game-animals. Most of us are conversationists; we are members of their organizations, to control and manage wild animals. Most of us defend game-conservation but we do NOT intend to lose our heritage…do you understan me?

    • Daniel Helsel

      No I do not understand why you feel you have the right to kill any wild animal that comes within your sights. 89? Time for you to realize the world is a complex web of life-hurt one species-you hurt us all. Time for the american hunter to wise up. That means you old timer.

    • Bea

      Bunkum, Fred. So long as there is something to hunt and get away with it, the hunter will aim at it, telling himself someone else will worry about whether he’s shooting the last one or not. Wolves have always been demonized by hunters, farmers and in fairy tales such as yours. Sorry if this sounds mean, but I’m sick of the rhetoric.

    • joy mchenry

      You are selfish, despicable and quite ignorant Fred. It is time for the “Old timers” to move on and leave management of the planet to the younger generations who have a far better understanding of what needs to be done to restore the damage old timers like you have done. Have some respect for the “varmints” place on earth too. I daresay you do not need to eat them for your own sustenance. Do you understand me Fred? I happen to be 84years old myself . Instead of killing animals find something better to do with your time .

    • Bill

      Hello, Mr. Hall,

      I am something of an old-timer myself, though you may not think so as I am still a couple of decades behind you. But I have seen a lot and learned a lot in my 64 years on this fragile planet.

      You should know I am a biology student from a time when it was still considered normal to “collect” specimens for study by practically any means. That included trapping, shooting, stunning, electocution, poisoning and just plain grabbing and wrestling subjects into submission, to face a fate that may or may not even result in their survival. Often the destination involved drowning in a toxic preservative solution that was far from being either pleasant or humane.

      I have seen most of that change in my lifetime. The need to engage in such inhumane measures has been re-examined and the need to kill in order to study re-evaluated alongside it. Much more compassionate procedures have followed with a much reduced emphasis on doing harm with alternative procedures followed that are far less invasive or destructive. We have all come a long way in the last half century and that’s a good thing.

      In the end it’s about awareness. If you haven’t been made aware of the widespread devastation to our planet’s resources perhaps you are on the wrong newsfeed or watching the wrong channels. The situation now can be regarded as nothing short of cataclysmic. Why? If you look back through most of human history, you will see a common thread, fueled by a combination of callousness and greed. At this time that combination threatens to make our planet an unliveable desert world in just a few generations. Clearly something has to be done.

      For starters, can you say compassion? As a hunter, perhaps not. But just ask yourself, what if the shoe were on the other foot? What if you and all of your family had been the ones who for more generations than anyone could ever count been the ones to run and hide from the hunters’ guns? No. I guess you can’t make that mental leap in your cozy warm home fueled by fires from the wood of fresh-cut trees, cooking steaks or perhaps venison over an open fire. It’s all about something we used to call The Good Life.

      The Good Life. Yes. It is good, isn’t it? But for whom is it a good life? Who has to pay for this comfort and luxury we so enjoy? What living, breathing, thinking and loving parent, child or mate had to be selfishly gunned down in thier Prime Of Life for *You* and you alone to enjoy these many hedonistic pleasures you so feel entitled to? And after all, was it all necessary? Have you done the research? Do you know how far we’ve come since you were a young man just starting out? Does anyone? I sometimes wonder.

      Maybe it’s time you found out then. The rest of us have. At least we are on that road and learning as we go. And anyone is always welcome to join. We all had to learn the same way.

      You might just care to join us. After all it’s still one world. And we are all on it together. How about it?


      You very eloquently present the plight of so many sensitive beings who happen to have fur or feathers, shells or scales rather than bare almost naked skins.
      Another aspect of their precarious hold on our planet, which was evolved to include far more species than ourselves, is the destruction of habitat. Much of this comes from our cris-crossing everywhere with roads and highways. We cannot walk much anymore. We need to sit on our duffs and get as close to that warm shelter as possible before we venture out of our gas-guzzler.
      Even worse is what the filthy fossil fuel “hunters” are doing to our planet to provide those warm shelters and gas-guzzlers. They are polluting land, air and water and leaving the clean-up to the rest of us and future generations. The clean-up, unfortunately, will take generations to accomplish. We have an alternative. Scientists now have developed artificial photosynthesis which splits hydrogen and oxygen in every drop of water apart. It uses free sunlight. Hydrogen burns clean giving off pure water vapor. The filthy fossil fuel folk are doing their best to keep this a secret and Obama’s energy czar cut hydrogen funding. Four major auto manufacturers, General Motors, Fiat, Toyota and Volkswagen already have production ready vehicles but the infrastructure fueling stations are not in place. Write your legislator and ask that he or she take a stand. Most won’t as they know who butters their bread, but some will. Unite in this cause for future generations of people and VARMINTS. I am sure that their moms and loved ones don’t think of them as Varmints. They probably think of us as scary, vicious vermin.

    • heyatoya

      My heritage is to not kill any life. That’s my heritage. So how are you more special than me? Oh and Fred I am American too.

    • Judith Mitchell

      Yo, Fred, no; I must say I have never “understoo” your attitude. “In your ‘blood'”? you say?

      Hunting is no longer necessary; cannibalism is no longer necessary either, but I bet cannibals said it was “part of their heritage” and (in more ways than one) “in their blood”. Get over it. I don’t need to eat venison; YOU don’t need to eat venison. If you really think you need to fortify your “blood” with red meat, go and buy some locally and humanely-raised beef.

      I am as American as you are; was born during WWII, in America; and hunting is not MY heritage any more than good ol’ American lynching is. Frightening the bejasus out of wild animals and killing them is not. It’s a choice, Fred. Nurturing wildlife — including predators — IS my heritage.

      Perhaps the most revealing words you used are “control and manage”, as in “controlling” the natural world. Who do you guys think you are? Who on Earth has given hunters the right to “control and manage” wild animal populations? Can you spell HUBRIS? As Tom Goldtooth has said, and I paraphrase: we should not think of ourselves as “stewards” of the Earth; the Earth takes care of us….and we had better become more humbly aware of that interaction.

    • Michael Siegle

      Fred – you are mostly correct about your generation mostly being conservationists, or conservation-oriented. However, there are 2 generations or more since your group. Many of those who are “hunting” have declared war on Wolves, or anything else that can be killed, including Bison and the Great Bear. There are still an honorable group of hunters who understand the ecosystem concept, but those few are decreasing in number. Unfortunate and tragic for many species and ecosystems. Though I am not a hunter, nor do I need to kill for food, I recognize hunting has it’s place in certain circumstances. Some of those circumstances include the loss of keystone predators, like the Wolf.

    • Lee Rockwell

      Fred see you are a “conversationist” but are you a conservationist? It’s a different animal!

    • Jeffrey Albert Geist

      Hopefully, Daniel, you defend wolves when you get the chance. Being a New Yorker, you KNOW how helpful wolves would be regarding the deer problem don’t you…?

  4. Chris Rogers

    I cannot believe that we are so irresponsible. We must care for all of the earths creatures to protect this wonderful speices for our grandchildren. What will we say when they ask, Why didnt you speak up before they were gone? Why cant I see them accept in a museum of all the animals you destroyed.

    I hope that day never comes and none of us will have to answer to the generations that come behind us for our greatest of failures.

  5. Heather Stewart

    I am only worried that the poor animals will be killed nearly as soon as they are released. The laws must be changed to protect them not kill them

  6. Mary Ellen Hannibal

    The genetic impoverishment of wolf populations points to the very great need to create connectivity between wild places where we have severed it, and to protect effective corridors where they are still functional. Take a look at OR-7’s journey from Oregon into California and you will see he has followed a wolf-highway through protected areas; he would not have been able to set out on his territorial imperative were it not for the efforts of conservationists over the past century. Do we need corridor legislation? Do we leave this up to the states or do we look for federal protections of wildlife movement?

  7. Rita De Ferrary

    If I could get one prayer would be for people like Frederick Hall to die out and only have people that are kind to nature and its creatures. Let nature be made whole again. And I would like to also state that the ONLY varmints on the face of this earth are human beings!

    Wolves live in packs, they only kill what they eat. There is an alpha male and an alpha female who breed, not the entire population like humans. Humans have bred themselves into a plague that is destroying EVERYTHING in their path. And this consists of wildlife, habitat, oceans, rivers, and the very air we breath. I would consider that if there were more wolves than people the earth would be better off. Besides which the breeding of cattle, pigs, sheep, and other livestock is the main reason why the earth is being pushed to the edge of its resources. Millions of gallons of water go into make one pound of meat, while the same amount can grow fields of grain and vegetables. MAN is the only beast who kills for pleasure. Wolves are intrinsically better for the environment than man is. The cruelty displayed by man in why he kills, and the pleasure he derives from it, make him less of value than any animal that has ever walked on this earth.

  8. Scott

    It is sad that the protections for such endangered animals have been eroded in the past few years. Sadder yet is that people do not respect protections when they do exist. We should do what we can to preserve critically endangered populations, if only in captivity until populations are healthy enough to survive in the wild.

    To ensure the genetic health of species whose populations are too small, I would hope that cloning technology can be used to infuse some genetic diversity. If so, perhaps the trophies of hunters could serve a useful purpose.

  9. baja

    It would be amusing if it wasn’t so damned tragic to be exposed to the olde american and his rights to hunt,citing the conservation of his ‘ilk’,etc.I wonder about ‘you’ as I wonder about who would sue those trying to save these magnificent wolves who have inhabited the SW and Mexico for millenia+.I am surely among a group who have been shaking their heads for decades when confronted with this mentality and ‘its all about ‘us’ and our god given american right to aide in species extinction. Wow. ~This agency in charge of the wolves very existance should be given any and all means to try and save these animals. How good it would feel to say ‘We did it’!,we saved them like the condors and whooping cranes.~the fight goes on righteous and hopefully convincing.

  10. George Lingo

    I totally agree with Rita De Ferrary’s comment as posted!
    Humans sure aren’t good for the ecosystem, and this is where the entire problem with animals originates!

  11. Ina

    I wonder if anybody understands the importance in our survival as humans and the dependency on wolves. They became our dogs of today through thousands of years of living along us. I cannot believe we have dogs that we train to kill animals. I cannot believe we kill wolves just to watch them die, as a Johhny Cash song would say…It is our duty to be rsponsible citizens of this world and help animals be again in harmony with us. We need to have them protected against other humans by law.

  12. Robert White

    I am a firm believer that laws should be take to save all our wolves not just the Mexican Gray,but also our North American Timber Wolves ,
    I Think they are a very big part of our past and should be a round as long as we humans are as God intended

  13. Ken Valentine

    Uncle Charlie died when he was ninety-nine. He used to hunt and usually got his deer each year which he shared with his sisters, one being my mother so we often had a meal or two of venison each year. When he was in his eighties I used to drive him around when I would go back to Michigan to visit my parents. Charlie would introduce me to relatives I never knew I had. One day when he was in his eighties a deer crossed the road ahead of us and I have never forgotten what he said: “Kenny, they are so beautiful – I don’t know why I ever shot them.” If it was possible for me to double my love for uncle Charlie, I did that day.

    • Ingrid

      I had a similar experience, Ken, with an old family friend who one day, while out duck hunting, raised his shotgun and just couldn’t fire. His hunting buddy said, “you’re done, aren’t you?” He was. He picked up a camera instead. I photograph wildlife as my primary passion, and am consistently confounded and heartbroken by the violence I experience in the field … and the immense suffering, particularly in “sports” like waterfowl hunting where the crippling rate is high. When I engage ‘varmint’ hunters like the ones who target wolves and coyotes, there is no appropriate description for the disparity between their views and mine. Theirs is utterly utilitarian, often ignorant, and shockingly vitriolic at times. It saddens me that we sanction — at all – the legalized violence toward wildlife. And, that anyone, regardless of psychological soundness, can pick up a rifle or shotgun and exercise their will against wild animals. Wild animals are too frequently the unfortunate targets of human whim. There is no legal barometer for ethics when it comes to how hunters treat wildlife. Some are more ethical, others are not. But, it’s completely up to the individual, a dubious measure when you consider how much of the activity takes place out of public view.

  14. Raquel Medina

    Humans only search a way to kill animals. That’s all. Nothing is important, only kill them ! I wonder, how is possible to do such thing? How they can kill so wonderful animal? What these killers have inside?
    All of them are our brothers and we NEED THEM ! All of us, animals humans, trees, plants, we close a circle of life ! We need to understand it ! And, please, I call to your heart, MISERY to them if you want Misery do God to you. Don’t ask for something that you don’t give.

  15. Laura woodford

    My feelings too abt nm fish and wildlife they also did little to educate the ublic or work with ranchers to helpprevent them shootingv the wolves

  16. Lucy Rugg

    I have been a supporter of Defenders for years. Iam a nature photographer, and love all animals. My studio is decked out on all wals with wolf memorabilia. My greatest pleasure is hiking the Rocky Mts.
    I would suggest several things: first make the laws stronger and the penalties prohibitive! Senond, to increase the gene pool for Mexican wolves, enlist the help of Mexico to send some breeding pairs oe pairs of unrelated Alpha pups.

    • Eva Sargent

      Hello Lucy,

      We are working on so many fronts to help the lobos, with the help of supporters like you. One thing you should know is that the US and Mexico captive populations are linked and managed as one, so they do share genes. The Mexican wolf was also extinct in the wild in Mexico shortly after it was lost in the US. Recently there were a few captive born wolves released in Mexico, and we are hoping they do well. They are, however, from the same captive gene pool as the US wolves.

  17. Judith Mitchell

    …and here’s another quote for Defenders and us, their supporters:

    “It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” – Samuel Adams

  18. Azdp1

    Just killing a living being, just to kill it, is an aberration.
    There are murderers who got off on killing humans, and they get a really powerful surge off of it.

    No animal is “a varmint”. Hunters shoot at anything that moves and
    call it game.

    The lack of appreciation from life usually comes from a lack of sensitivity and the need to feel that animals exist for humans to

    They just want to see if they can kill it. One can imagine the bad aims and how much the animal suffers when it isn’t just shot dead.

    I don’t even think the whole hunting thing is about being outdoors or enjoying the wilderness, as they are essentially destroying the wilderness.

  19. Curt

    heyatoya if you goal is to not take ANY life you’re grasp of reality is limited. How can you live in a defined world? Do you drive a car? Do you eat meat? Vegetables? If so you are taking life. How? You car kills thousands of bugs, plant LIFE is what you take when you harvest a plant to eat. I prefer to eat Organic meat which I can only find hunting wild game. I live off the land like Native Americans do and did for generations. Taking game is part of that life. If the wolf cannot survive on it’s own it should be allowed to pass and let natural selection take it’s course. The Coyote proves it can be done in that manner.

  20. Sharon

    Please come to Wisconsin! The locals are killing up to 1,000 wolves per year legally. Surely there is something to breed the Mexican wolves with up here.

  21. Rosemary Lowe

    Most hunters are not slaughtering wildlife for food. That is an excuse apologists of hunting like to promote. Hunting is increasingly seen as “the sport of cowards.” If hunting is such a “fair” thing, let’s see hunters hunt each other–and leave the animals alone.
    Here in the West, the main reason wolves are being exterminated is because of The Livestock Industry, with many ranchers who also hunt and trap coyotes, bears, mountain lions, prairiedogs, wolverines, and wolves to make more room for exotic livestock like cattle and sheep. Public Lands ranchers get to graze at below-market fees on Wilderness & BLM lands, National Forests, and even on National Wildlife Refuges, which are also hunted and trapped on in many states.
    There will be no peace or justice for remaining wild animals until these killers are forced off our public lands.

  22. Marvin J.Sheffield, D.V.M.

    I am incensed by Frederick Hall’s letter. I too am a senior man, who grew up on our family’s Dairy Farm, in Northern New York State. We had fine dairy stock, and I remember all too well the losses of our best dairy stock, who carried the Cornell Ollie Catherine and Butter Queen blood,lines. Too many of them were shot during the deer season, by hunters who were trigger happy. How could anyone mistake a black and white Holstein cow, for a deer? I began to despise hunters especially after our Irish Setter was killed also, by some trigger happy degenerate. . Our wolves, coyotes and Mountain lions, are wonderful creatures that The Good Lord placed on this earth, which He in HIs Wisdom Allowed to have an important place in our Ecosystems. The vast majority of hunters are a selfish bunch of fools. Lead poisoning from using lead ammo, is killing the California Condors, or any other vultures that are part of Natures’ Sanitation Department.

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