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Scientists, Conservationists Call For Sweeping Changes To Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan


Dozens of scientists and wildlife advocates are calling on federal officials to dramatically change how endangered Mexican gray wolves are managed in the Southwest. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it comes more than a year after the current plan was found to violate federal law.

A federal judge in 2018 ruled elements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s wolf management program didn’t comply with the Endangered Species Act. The agency has until May 2021 to rewrite it.

Nearly 80 wolf conservationists and scientists sent a letter to the Interior Secretary and wildlife managers, saying they want more captive wolves released, greater range, and higher population numbers, among other changes.

"Under the current rule the future is in my opinion and the opinion of other scientists, fairly bleak … The Fish and Wildlife Service has dragged its feet on aggressively meeting that challenge of improving genetics in the wild," says David Parsons, a wildlife biologist who signed the letter. He also led the Mexican wolf recovery program when it began in the 1990s.

In a statement, current Fish and Wildlife recovery coordinator Brady McGee says the agency is using the best available science for its revision, and will analyze the work through peer review and the National Environmental Policy Act.

At last count there were about 130 Mexican wolves in the wild. The population has struggled since reintroduction because of illegal killings, lack of genetic diversity and other factors.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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