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U.S. Fails To Give Mexican Gray Wolves The Protection They Deserve

<p><a class="checked-link" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mexican_Wolf_2_yfb-edit_1.jpg" style="text-decoration: none;">USFWS/Wikimedia Commons</a></p>

Wolves come in all shapes and sizes - there are timber wolves, gray wolves, dingoes and dogs. With only 83 wild wolves and five breeding pairs, the Mexican gray wolf, however, represents a small sliver of the Canis lupus family. The United States Fish and Wildlife Services, in 2010, considered a population of 100 wolves "small, genetically impoverished, and significantly below estimates of viability appearing in the scientific literature" environmental coalition Earthjustice noted in September.

Despite the small population size, Mexican gray wolves do not have the appropriate legal protection to rebuild their numbers, argue a group of conservationists. On Wednesday, the Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity as well as retired Mexican wolf expert David Parsons sued the Fish and Wildlife Service. In their complaint, the plaintiffs charge that the USFWS failed "to complete a scientifically grounded, legally valid recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf subspecies."

In 2010, the USFWS believed the wolf population was "at risk of failure." A proposed measure in 2012 would have required the wolves to total 750 animals before de-listing, but that plan was scrapped. Parsons, who was a federal biologist coordinating the Mexican wolf recovery, believes that the USFWS is bowing to pressure from livestock organizations. In a 2012 interview with Borderzine, New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association director Caren Cowan said, "The New Mexico Cattle Growers Association does not support the reintroduction of wolves because the program has been a complete failure from its beginning because the plan did not take ranchers into consideration." In 2010, wolves were responsible for 2.4 percent of all cattle predation in New Mexico.

"The Endangered Species Act is unequivocal in its requirement of a recovery plan based solely on the best available science regardless of politics and the level of controversy," Parsons said in a statement. "That certain interests invited to the recovery planning table don't respect federal law or reject the validity of the best science is no excuse for shutting down the recovery planning process and further endangering the extinction of the Mexican gray wolf."

South of the border, the lobo's future is similarly uncertain, but there was a recent bright spark. In July, a litter of wolf pups was born in the Mexican wilds for the first time in 30 years.