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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Status of Listed Species and Recovery Plan Development

Gray Wolf*

Canis lupus -- Endangered


*Extirpated from the wild in Arizona.

JPG-Gray wolf     GIF-Occurrence map

Current Status:

Wild populations of the subspecies of gray wolf occurring in Arizona, known as the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), are extirpated in the U.S. and possibly in Mexico, but the Mexican wolf's status is improving in captivity. Threats to any wild populations include possible illegal killing, a small genetic base, and human encroachment on the remaining habitat.


By the mid-1900s, the Mexican wolf was eliminated from the U.S. portion of its historic range. In the late 1970s, five wolves were captured in Mexico and delivered to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona, for captive propagation. The captive population has grown to 50 animals (41 in 9 facilities in the U.S. and 9 in 3 facilities in Mexico). Sperm from genetically critical males has been collected and preserved, and additional captive propagation cooperators have been recruited. Work toward a proposal to reintroduce Mexican wolves to areas within the U.S. portion of their historic range has been initiated: four potential release sites in Arizona were evaluated, four public meetings were held, and preparation of an environmental impact statement has begun. In addition, a full-time Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator position was established.

Current Recovery Needs:

Necessary recovery actions include surveys to determine the species' status in Mexico; evaluations of sighting reports in the U.S. and follow-up surveys, if warranted; monitoring and protection of any remaining wild wolves; increasing the captive breeding population; genetically evaluating two uncertified captive populations to determine if they are pure; collecting and banking sperm for future use; reintroducing captive-bred wolves into historic habitat; monitoring and managing any reintroduced populations; conducting research on biology/ecology and artificial propagation; and continuing public education and information activities.


Forest Service, Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control Division, National Park Service, and Department of the Army: These agencies are cooperating in the preparation of the reintroduction environmental impact statement. Sites being considered for an experimental release are owned by the Forest Service, Department of the Army, and National Park Service. The Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control Division will play a key role in the management of any reintroduced population.

Arizona Game and Fish Department: In full coordination with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department has taken a leadership role in all aspects of Mexican wolf recovery in Arizona.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: The Museum is a cooperator in the Mexican wolf captive propagation program.

Phoenix Zoo: The zoo is also a cooperator in the Mexican wolf captive propagation program.

Preserve Arizona's Wolves: This private organization, also known as PAWS, is raising funds to help build another Mexican wolf breeding enclosure at the Phoenix Zoo.

Defenders of Wildlife: Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation organization, has established a fund to compensate livestock owners for losses that may be caused by wolves if they are reintroduced.

Recovery Plan Status:

Plan approved 9/15/82.

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