In a move that conflicts with current state plans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced recently that up to 10 Mexican gray wolf (or El Lobo) pups and a mating pair will be released into the wild in southwestern New Mexico at some point in 2016.

The federal agency sent the announcement by internal memo to the New Mexico Game & Fish Department (GFD) recently, as reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican. "It is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's obligation under the law to recover this species, and reintroductions into the wild from the more genetically diverse captive population are an essential part of that recovery process," said the memo, that newspaper reported.

These are the least populated subspecies of wolf in the United States, with an estimated population of 109 living in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona. In small numbers, they have been placed in the wild since 1998. For instance, two of the wolves were released in Arizona in April.

The FWS had applied for a permit to release up to 10 wolves in early 2015, but the GFD had said that the FWS lacked a coherent plan for the release, which had prevented further wolves in 2015, according to the newspaper.

The memo noted that the U.S. Department of the Interior has exempted the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program from adhering to state permit requirements in New Mexico, as the newspaper reported.

The wildlife chair of the Sierra Club's Rio Grande chapter, Mary Katherine Ray, says that it's important to avoid further inbreeding for the species in the U.S., according to New Mexico Political Report (NMPR)

Ray noted that scientists, along with 43 conservation groups, wrote a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking for intervention on the part of the wolf recovery program, in NMPR

Ray notes that wolves' role in the ecosystem involves thinning elk herds and keeping diseases in check, confirmed NMPR. 

Go here to learn more about the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.

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