Once roaming proudly through the landscapes of New
Mexico, Texas, Arizona and the country of Mexico, the
Mexican gray wolf has sadly almost been wiped out of
existence in the United States and Mexico. Fortunately,
agencies in both countries have allocated part of their
resources and initiated recovery and restoration efforts
including New Mexico.
Wolves were abundant in the area until the early 20th
century when humans started settling in great numbers
in the area. Being natural predators, wolves threatened
the livestock and other resources of these settlers
as well as directly threatening the humans themselves.
For 70 years, the human settlers devoted considerable
amount of resources to exterminate the animals. The
gray wolves were furiously hunted down and eliminated
until only a few remained. As a result, the Mexican
wolf was placed among the other endangered species listed
under the Endangered Species Act. The act was passed
in 1973, and three years later, the human attitude towards
the gray wolf took a complete reversal. Humans specifically
took on a gentler outlook towards the gray wolf and
conspired to save the species from the brink of extinction,
which they brought upon the animal themselves. Restoration
of the gray wolves to New Mexico is now a priority.
Recovery and restoration efforts in New Mexico began
in 1977 with the bi-national captive breeding program
between the United States and Mexico. Under this program,
Mexican gray wolves in Mexico were to be captured and
bred to increase their population. These wolves would
then be reintroduced to the wild after a few years.
The program aimed to breed at least a hundred of these
animals before restoration of the wolves to the wild.
The restoration plan was given the green light by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service five years after the
agreement was entered into by the US and Mexico. These
countries now use their resources for restoring the
wolves back where they belong.
While the wolves were being bred in captivity, the
parties were also busy selecting a place ideal for restoration
of the animals back into their natural habitats. A recommendation
was made in 1996 suggesting two areas: the Apache and
Gila national forests. The former was in the eastern
Arizona area, while latter is in New Mexico's western
regions. This recommendation was approved by the Secretary
of the Interior in March 1997.
Behavioral Management Prior to Being Released
Since animals that have been bred in captivity have
the tendency to become minimally domesticated, a system
was put in place by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
to make sure that the animals were able to adjust to
their life in the wild after restoration to their natural
habitats. These measures involved pre-release captive
facilities and resources where they were made to adjust
to their new life in the wild.
These facilities are designed to simulate the feel
of being in the wild, so wolves can acclimate. Humans
in New Mexico have minimal contact with the wolves.
This is to train them not to get used to human contact
and train them to avoid possible contact, to protect
human resources and property. Wolves are also taught
independence as well as how to associate with other
wolves, which would not be possible if they are placed
in a cage and unable to exercise pack behavior. These
behaviors include breeding, taking care of wolf pups
as well as hunting for food resources in their natural
About the Author
Samson Paulotti writes about what's important for homeowners
Industry Resources and The Restoration Resource