Mexican Wolf Population in Arizona, New Mexico Hits New High

These Mexican wolves, part of the reintroduced population in Arizona and New Mexico, were photographed in 2007. | Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

After a down year, the reintroduced population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico appears to be on the rebound.

As The Arizona Republic reported last month, federal and state biologists announced that they counted 113 Mexican wolves in Eastern Arizona and Western New Mexico in 2016. That's the most since the species was returned to the area in the 1990s; the previous high was 110, in 2014.

It's also a big jump from the 97 wolves that were counted in 2015. That year saw several illegal shootings of the wolves, along with lower-than-normal pup survival, officials said.

Fifty wild-born pups survived in 2016, compared with 23 in 2015, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partner agencies in the two states.

The federal agency says the numbers are encouraging but that this reintroduced population is not yet "out of the woods." The agency's stated goal is a 10 percent annual population gain for the wolves.

Wolf advocates, meanwhile, say additional releases of captive-bred wolves are needed to ensure the population's genetic diversity. But predation of livestock and game animals remains a concern of ranchers and hunters in both states.

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