The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added the Mexican gray wolf, Canis lupus baileyi, to its list of endangered species, albeit with some odd caveats.

Scientific American reports:

Mexican gray wolves nearly went extinct 40 years ago. After decades of hunting and persecution the last five wild members of the subspecies were rounded up in 1973 and placed in an emergency captive breeding program. There they remained until 1998, when the first of a series of highly controlled releases took place in Arizona, followed by later releases in New Mexico.

These wolves may have lived in the wild now for almost 17 years, but U.S. officials haven't truly considered them to be wild. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has actually labeled the animals as a "nonessential experimental population" of the main gray wolf species, which meant they could be removed from the wild at any time. Indeed, several re-wilded wolves have been returned to captivity over the years after they threatened the animals on nearby cattle ranches. Others have been shot and killed.


The FWS is doing away with the "experimental" classification in favor of "endangered," though there are some unusual elements that come with the upgrade. Though the animals will be granted more turf, "they will not be permitted to go any farther north than Arizona's Interstate 40." They can breed, but their population will be capped at 325.

And, just in case the wolves decide to act like wolves, "property owners will still have the right to kill any wolf found biting, wounding or killing any domestic animals on federal or private land" or interfering with game animals deemed "valuable to hunters."


Image by Eric Kilby via Scientific American.