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Two pairs of endangered Mexican gray wolves released into the wild in Mexico

Jim Clark/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File
In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a Mexican gray wolf leaves cover at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro County, N.M. Wildlife managers in the United States say their counterparts in Mexico have released two pairs of endangered Mexican gray wolves south of the U.S. border as part of an ongoing reintroduction effort.

Wildlife officials in Mexico have released two pairs of Mexican gray wolves into the wild. It comes as the status the endangered animals has improved slightly in the country.

Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas recently released the captive wolves from southern New Mexico in two locations in the state of Chihuahua. It brings the country’s total in the wild to 45, and also represents a small improvement in the animal’s status there from "probably extinct in the wild" to “in danger of extinction.”

The animal’s range is thought to have once extended from the American Southwest, where at last count there were at least 186 wild Mexican wolves, down to the Mexico City area. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, bolstering the population in Mexico is an important part of the species’ recovery.

"These efforts show that through international cooperation, recovery efforts are moving forward in Mexico and contradict the contention of some critics that recovery can't occur in that country," said Game and Fish's Mexican wolf recovery coordinator Jim deVos in a press statement.

Wolf advocates in the U.S. are applauding the recovery efforts. But Emily Renn, executive director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, wants to see more such releases occur in New Mexico and Arizona, not just Mexico.

"It’s ironic that AZGFD is touting the Mexican releases of well-bonded adult pairs while simultaneously opposing these same kinds of releases in Arizona," said Renn. "It should not be a trade-off of supporting wolf recovery in one place or the other but working to achieve meaningful recovery of Mexican gray wolves in both countries.”

In recent years, wildlife officials have focused mainly on cross-fostering captive born pups in the wild to increase genetic diversity.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom 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.