By Arizona Game And Fish Department

The Mexican wolf count earlier this year indicates that the population of Mexican wolves has increased by 12 percent since last year, raising the total number of wolves in the wild to a minimum of 131 animals.

That number is among the findings of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT), a task force comprising federal, state and international partners. From November 2018 through January 2019, the team conducted ground counts in Arizona and New Mexico that concluded with aerial counts of Mexican wolves in February.

Among the IFT’s findings: 131 wolves are nearly evenly distributed — 64 wolves in Arizona and 67 in New Mexico. Last year, the team documented 117 wolves. This year’s total represents a 12 percent increase in the population of Canis lupus baileyi.

“The survey results indicate the Mexican wolf program is helping save an endangered subspecies,” said Amy Lueders, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region. “The Mexican wolf has come back from the brink of extinction, thanks to scientific management and the dedicated work of a lot of partners. With continued support and research, we can continue to make progress in Mexican wolf recovery.”

“The numbers highlight the wolf’s progress in the wild,” said Jim deVos, assistant director of wildlife management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The results of this census are very important as they reflect the great progress being made in the recovery of the Mexican wolf in the United States. The increase of about 12 percent in the Mexican wolf population is not an isolated year, but rather a continuum of increases over the last 10 years.”

This year’s findings confirmed:

  • There are a minimum of 32 packs of wolves (two or more animals), plus seven individuals.
  • A minimum of 18 packs had pups; 16 of these packs had pups that survived to the end of the year.
  • A minimum of 81 pups were born in 2018, and at least 47 survived to the end of the year. That’s a 58 percent survival rate.
  • The population growth occurred despite 21 documented mortalities last year.
  • Eleven wolves were captured during the aerial operations.
  • Seventy-nine wolves — 60 percent of the population — wore functioning radio collars. The collars help researchers manage and monitor the population and are vital to collecting scientific information.

In addition to the Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, partners in the recovery program include the Mexican government, White Mountain Apache Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service — Wildlife Services, several participating counties, and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.