ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — More Mexican gray wolves are roaming the American Southwest now than at any time since biologists began reintroducing the endangered predators than two decades ago.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared progress Monday for the species in New Mexico and Arizona, saying there are at least 131 wolves in the wild in the two states.
That represents a 12% jump in the population.
While not the largest year-over-year increase, officials say it’s still significant since 21 wolves were found dead during 2018.
A subspecies of the gray wolf, Mexican wolves have struggled to gain ground since the first release in 1998 due poaching, legal challenges and politics.
The population increase comes as gray wolves have marked their own turnaround, prompting federal officials to reconsider that species’ endangered and protected status.