The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a new management proposal for Mexican gray wolves Friday, as part of a larger plan for gray wolves.

Under the proposal, most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves would be lifted and their management would be handled by state wildlife officials.

The only protected populations of gray wolf would be the subspecies of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.

PHOTO: Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team
Mexican gray wolf Durango AM973 in the summer of 2007

The new plan allows more Mexican wolves to be released in New Mexico and lets them roam beyond the current Blue Range Recovery Area, which is in the Apache and Gila national forests in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle says the revised wolf recovery plan could eventually lead to more wolves and more packs.

The Mexican gray wolf once roamed large portions of the Southwest but was almost extinct by the mid-1900s. It was listed as endangered in 1976.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began releasing captive-reared Mexican wolves in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico in 1998.

A 2012 survey of the area turned up 75 wolves living in the wild, up from 58 in 2011.

More resources:

Proposed 2013 Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf: View at Google Docs | Download File

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Mexican gray wolf reintroduction page