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Federal wildlife officials propose changes to endangered Mexican gray wolf management plan

Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed changed to its management plan for the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). The agency was ordered to update the plan in 2018 after a federal judge ruled it didn't comply with the Endangered Species Act.

Federal wildlife officials are proposing several changes to the recovery plan for endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. It comes after a federal judge ordered the agency to rewrite its plan to comply with federal law. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes the 325-wolf population limit contained in the original 2015 plan. In addition, the agency wants nearly two-dozen released wolves to survive to breeding age by 2030 to increase genetic diversity, and temporarily restrict three forms of allowable killing of the animals.

Absent from the proposal are changes to the geographic boundary of Mexican wolves, which would keep their official territory south of Interstate-40. Wolf advocates have long called for a significant expansion of the animal’s range in the Southwest.

A federal judge in 2018 ruled elements of Fish and Wildlife’s Mexican wolf management plan didn’t comply with the Endangered Species Act and ordered the agency to rewrite it. Earlier this month Fish and Wildlife was also ordered to add strategies to limit illegal killings of the wolves.

The agency is accepting public comment on the proposal for 90 days starting Friday.

At last count earlier this year there were at least 186 Mexican wolves roaming eastern Arizona and New Mexico.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers 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 frequent contributor to NPR.