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Hunted to near-extinction, Mexican wolf population hits milestone

The wolf population has doubled in size since 2017 after seven consecutive years of growth, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

ARIZONA, USA — Editor's note: The above video aired in 2018.

A long-simmering dispute between Arizona ranchers and wolves almost led to the extinction of an entire subspecies: the Mexican wolf. 

But, over 25 years of conservation efforts have brought them back from the brink at more than 200 strong.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Arizona and New Mexico game and fish departments, have been working to reintroduce the wolves into the wild and preserve the vital importance they have in their ecosystem.

The most recent population estimate found 241 wild wolves, double the population estimated in 2017 and the seventh consecutive year of growth, 

“This milestone has been 25 years in the making,” said Brady McGee, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator. “In 2022, we recorded more packs, more breeding pairs, and a growing occupied range, proving we are on the path to recovery.”

European settlers' expansion into Arizona encroached on Mexican wolves' environment and reduced their usual prey food sources, according to the Endangered Species Coalition. This reduction saw wolves turning to domestic livestock as a food source more often, which farmers did not receive kindly.

"Threatening livestock operations and perceived-threat to human settlement in general meant an all out war against the Mexican gray wolf," the coalition said on its website. "By mid-century Americans had achieved their goal of culling this gray-and-brown coated predator and Mexican gray wolves were eradicated in the Southwest."

The Mexican wolf is now considered the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America, being recognized as an endangered species since 1976.

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