Mexican wolves are taking one step forward and two steps back in the American southwest this week, thanks to legislation that will expand their range - but also allow the iconic subspecies to be legally hunted.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced Monday that the Mexican wolf would officially be listed as its own individual subspecies under the Endangered Species Act, separate from the gray wolf listing. The announcement also decreed that the area that Mexican wolves can occupy without relocation would be expanded, as well as the area where wolves bred in captivity can be released into the wild.
Benjamin Tuggle, the service's southwest regional director, said in a statement:
"This revision of the experimental population rule provides Mexican wolves the space they need to establish a larger and more genetically diverse population - a population that can meaningfully contribute to the subspecies' recovery.
But conservationists have taken issue with exactly what USFWS defines as the Mexican wolf's "recovery." With just 100 members left living in the American Southwest, Mexican wolves are a particularly rare endangered species. USFWS also announced the number of Mexican wolves needed to consider the subspecies recovered and eligible for removal from the Endangered Species Act: 300 to 325 wolves. Reuters reports that conservationists have previously set a target number at 750 individuals.