Biologists with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have declared that the Mexican gray wolf is a valid subspecies. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it strengthens the case for keeping the animal’s federally endangered status.
According to the report sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mexican wolves are the most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America. They have unique physical characteristics like head shape, size and color that sets them apart.
The report also confirms that the current managed population of the wolves in the Southwest is directly descended from the last remaining wild members of the species.
The Trump administration proposed removing all federal protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states earlier this month, but Mexican gray wolves would keep their endangered status. Conservationists say the new study supports continuing the designation. At last count there were about 114 of the animals in eastern Arizona and New Mexico.
In addition, the report found the endangered red wolf in the Southeastern U.S. is also a distinct species. There are only about two dozen remaining in the wild.