More Than Half of All Mexican Gray Wolf Deaths Caused by Illegal Killing

Mar 23, 2017

The Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program in eastern Arizona and New Mexico has long been hindered by illegal killings of the endangered animals. A recent study concluded it’s as big a factor in the population’s recovery as genetic diversity and health. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

A female Mexican gray wolf at the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico.
Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The paper’s authors include Arizona Game and Fish Department scientists and was published in the journal Biological Conservation. It shows more than half of the 124 wolf deaths between 1998 and 2015 were caused by illicit shooting and trapping. The study says increasing tolerance for the animals in local communities is crucial.

It also says an equally important factor is boosting genetic diversity through cross fostering, where captive-born pups are placed with wild litters.

But many wildlife advocates say the technique won’t fully address the population’s problems, and the releases of more adult wolves are needed.

At last count there were at least 113 Mexican gray wolves in the wild.