Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Status for the Mexican Wolf, 2487-2512 [2015-00441]

Download as PDF Vol. 80 Friday, No. 11 January 16, 2015 Part II Department of the Interior rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Status for the Mexican Wolf and Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf; Final Rules VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4717 Sfmt 4717 E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 2488 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Further contact information can be found on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program’s Web site at http:// www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf/. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–HQ–ES–2013–0073; FXES11130900000–156–FF09E42000] RIN 1018–AY00 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Status for the Mexican Wolf Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine endangered status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, for the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). The effect of this regulation will be to revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife by making a separate entry for the Mexican wolf. We are separating our determination on the listing of the Mexican wolf as endangered from the determination on our proposal regarding the delisting of the gray wolf in the United States and Mexico. This rule finalizes our determination for the Mexican wolf. DATES: This rule becomes effective February 17, 2015. ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the internet at http:// www.regulations.gov and http:// www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf/. Comments and materials we received, as well as some of the supporting documentation we used in preparing this rule, are available for public inspection at http:// www.regulations.gov. All of the comments, materials, and documentation that we considered in this rulemaking are available by appointment, during normal business hours at: Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; by telephone 505–761–4704; or by facsimile 505– 346–2542. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sherry Barrett, Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road, NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; by telephone 505–761–4704; or by facsimile 505–346–2542. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 Executive Summary Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Endangered Species Act (Act), a subspecies warrants protection if it is endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Listing a subspecies as endangered or threatened can only be completed by issuing a rule. We proposed to delist the gray wolf and maintain protections for the Mexican wolf by listing it as an endangered subspecies on June 13, 2013 (78 FR 35664). At this time, we are finalizing the proposal to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. Elsewhere in this Federal Register, we are finalizing revisions to the regulations for the nonessential experimental population of the Mexican wolf. We note that the United States District Court for the District of Columbia recently vacated the final rule at 76 FR 81666 (December 28, 2011) that removed protections of the Act from the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes. Humane Society v. Jewell, 2014 U.S. Dist. Lexis 175846 (D.D.C. December 19, 2014). The court’s action was based, in part, on its conclusion that the Act does not allow the Service to use its authority to identify distinct population segments (DPSs) as ‘‘species’’ to remove the protections for part of a listed species. We have determined that the decision in Humane Society does not change our conclusions in this final rule. First, the district court’s interpretation of the Act is in error, and is in any case not binding on particular matters not at issue in that case. Second, the action here is distinguishable from that in Humane Society. Here, the Service is not designating a DPS, but is taking an action with respect to a subspecies of a listed entity. In addition, the Service is not reducing protections for the Mexican wolf or delisting it, but instead is confirming that it is an endangered species. This rule will finalize the listing of the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. The basis for our action. Under the Act, a subspecies is determined to be endangered or threatened because of any of the following factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. We have determined the Mexican wolf meets the definition of an endangered subspecies primarily because of illegal killing, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, small population size, and the cumulative effects of the aforementioned threats. Absent protection by the Act, regulatory protection would not be adequate to ensure the survival of the Mexican wolf. Peer review and public comment. Through the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis we sought comments from independent specialists to ensure that our designation is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. These peer reviewers were invited to comment on our listing proposal. We also considered all comments and information received during the public comment period. Background Previous Federal Actions for Mexican Wolves Gray wolves were originally listed as subspecies or as regional populations of subspecies in the contiguous United States and Mexico. We listed the Mexican gray wolf subspecies, Canus lupus baileyi, as endangered on April 28, 1976 (41 FR 17736), in the southwestern United States and Mexico. In 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978) classifying the gray wolf as an endangered population at the species level (Canis lupus) throughout the contiguous United States and Mexico, except for the Minnesota gray wolf population, which was classified as threatened. At that time, we considered the gray wolves in Minnesota to be a listable entity under the Act, and we considered the gray wolves in Mexico and the 48 contiguous United States other than Minnesota to be another listable entity (43 FR 9607 and 9610, respectively, March 9, 1978). The separate subspecies listings thus were subsumed into the listings for the gray wolf in Minnesota and the gray wolf in the rest of the contiguous United States and Mexico. The 1978 listing of the gray wolf was undertaken to address changes in our understanding of gray wolf taxonomy, and recognize the fact that individual wolves sometimes disperse across subspecific boundaries, resulting in intergradation of neighboring populations. The 1978 rule also stipulated that ‘‘biological subspecies E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations would continue to be maintained and dealt with as separate entities’’ (43 FR 9609), and offered ‘‘the firmest assurance that [the Service] will continue to recognize valid biological subspecies for purposes of its research and conservation programs’’ (43 FR 9610, March 9, 1978). Accordingly, we implemented three gray wolf recovery programs in the following regions of the country: the Western Great Lakes (Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, administered by the Service’s Great Lakes, Big Rivers Region), the Northern Rocky Mountains (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, administered by the Service’s Mountain–Prairie Region and Pacific Region), and the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico, administered by the Service’s Southwest Region). Recovery plans were developed in each of these areas (the northern Rocky Mountains in 1980, revised in 1987; the Great Lakes in 1978, revised in 1992; and the Southwest in 1982) to establish and prioritize recovery criteria and actions appropriate to the unique local circumstances of the gray wolf. A separate recovery effort for gray wolves formerly listed as Canis lupus monstrabilis was not undertaken because this subspecies was subsumed with the Mexican wolf, C. l. baileyi, and thus addressed as part of the recovery plan for the Southwest. In the Southwest, on August 11, 2009, we received a petition dated the same day from the Center for Biological Diversity requesting that we list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies or distinct population segment (DPS) and designate critical habitat under the Act. On August 12, 2009, we received a petition dated August 10, 2009, from WildEarth Guardians and The Rewilding Institute requesting that we list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies and designate critical habitat under the Act. On October 9, 2012, we published a 12month finding in the Federal Register stating that, because all individuals that constitute the petitioned entity already receive the protections of the Act, the petitioned action was not warranted at that time (77 FR 61375). On February 29, 2012, we concluded a 5-year review of the Canis lupus listed entity, recommending that the entity currently described on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife should be revised to reflect the distribution and status of C. lupus populations in the contiguous United States and Mexico by removing all areas currently included in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) range except where there is a valid species, VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 subspecies, or DPS that is threatened or endangered. On June 13, 2013 (78 FR 35664), we published a proposed rule to delist the gray wolf and maintain protections for the Mexican wolf by listing it as an endangered subspecies. Upon publication of the proposed rule, we opened the public comment period on the proposal. On September 5 and October 2, 2013, we announced public hearings on the proposed rule (78 FR 54614 and 78 FR 60813). The September 5 document also extended the public comment period for the proposed rule to October 28, 2013. Following delays caused by the Federal Government lapse in appropriations, the Service announced rescheduled dates for three of the public hearings, scheduled a fifth public hearing, and extended the public comment period for the proposed rule to December 17, 2013 (78 FR 64192, October 28, 2013). On February 10, 2014 (79 FR 7627), we reopened the public comment period on the proposal in conjunction with the submission of the peer review report. The comment period closed on March 27, 2014. Subspecies Information Taxonomy The Mexican wolf subspecies, Canis lupus baileyi, was originally described by Nelson and Goldman in 1929 as Canis nubilus baileyi, with a distribution of ‘‘Southern and western Arizona, southern New Mexico, and the Sierra Madre and adjoining tableland of Mexico as far south, at least, as southern Durango (Nelson and Goldman 1929, pp. 165–166).’’ Goldman (1944, pp. 389–636) provided the first comprehensive treatment of North American wolves, in which he renamed C. n. baileyi as a subspecies of lupus (i.e., C. l. baileyi) and shifted the subspecies’ range farther south in Arizona. His gray wolf classification scheme was subsequently followed by Hall and Kelson (1959, pp. 847–851; Hall 1981, p. 932). Since that time, gray wolf taxonomy has undergone substantial revision, including a major taxonomic revision in which the number of recognized gray wolf subspecies in North America was reduced from 24 to 5, with the Mexican wolf, C. l. baileyi, being recognized as a subspecies ranging throughout most of Mexico to just north of the Gila River in southern Arizona and New Mexico (Nowak 1995, pp. 375–397). Three published studies of morphometric variation conclude that the Mexican wolf is a morphologically distinct and valid subspecies. Bogan and Mehlhop (1983) analyzed 253 gray PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2489 wolf skulls from southwestern North America using principal component analysis and discriminant function analysis. They found that the Mexican wolf was one of the most distinct subspecies of southwestern gray wolf (Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, p. 17). Hoffmeister (1986) conducted principal component analysis of 28 skulls, also recognizing the Mexican wolf as a distinct southwestern subspecies (pp. 466–468). Nowak (1995) analyzed 580 skulls using discriminant function analysis. He concluded that the Mexican wolf was one of only five distinct North American gray wolf subspecies that should continue to be recognized (Nowak 1995, pp. 395–396). Genetic research provides additional validation of the recognition of the Mexican wolf as a subspecies. Studies have demonstrated that the Mexican wolf has unique genetic markers that distinguish the subspecies from other North American gray wolves. Garcia– Moreno et al. (1996, p. 384) utilized microsatellite analysis to determine whether two captive populations of Mexican wolves were pure C. l. baileyi and should be interbred with the captive certified lineage population that founded the captive breeding program. They confirmed that the two captive populations were pure Mexican wolves and that they and the certified lineage were closely related. Further, they found that, as a group, the three populations were the most distinct grouping of North American wolves, substantiating the distinction of the Mexican wolf as a subspecies. Hedrick et al. (1997, pp. 64–65) examined data for 20 microsatellite loci from samples of Mexican wolves, northern gray wolves, coyotes, and dogs. They concluded that the Mexican wolf was divergent and distinct from other sampled northern gray wolves, coyotes, and dogs. Leonard et al. (2005, p. 10) examined mitochondrial DNA sequence data from 34 wolves collected from 1856 to 1916 from the historical ranges of Canis lupus baileyi and Canis lupus nubilus. They compared these data with sequence data collected from 96 wolves in North America and 303 wolves from Eurasia. They found that the historical wolves had twice the diversity of modern wolves, and that two-thirds of the haplotypes were unique. They also found that haplotypes associated with the Mexican wolf formed a unique southern clade distinct from that of other North American wolves. A clade is a taxonomic group that includes all individuals that have descended from a common ancestor. In another study, von Holdt et al. (2011, p. 7) analyzed single nucleotide E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2490 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations polymorphisms genotyping arrays and found Canis lupus baileyi to be the most genetically distinct group of New World gray wolves. Chambers et al. (2012, pp. 34–37) reviewed the scientific literature related to classification of the Mexican wolf as a subspecies and concluded that this subspecies’ recognition remains well-supported. Most recently, Cronin et al. (2014, p. 9) analyzed single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping arrays and found single nucleotide polymorphisms differentiation of Mexican wolves from other North American wolves. However, Cronin et al. (2014, p. 9) challenge the subspecies concept for North American wolves, including the Mexican wolf, based on their interpretation of other authors work (most notably Leonard et al. 2005 relative to mtDNA monophyly (see southern clade discussion above)). Maps of the Mexican wolf’s historical range are available in the scientific literature (Young and Goldman 1944, p. 414; Hall and Kelson, 1959, p. 849; Hall 1981, p. 932; Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, p. 17; Nowak 1995, p. 395; Parsons 1996, p. 106). The southernmost extent of Mexican wolf’s range in Mexico is consistently portrayed as ending near Oaxaca (Hall 1981, p. 932; Nowak 1995, p. 395). Depiction of the northern extent of the Mexican wolf’s pre-settlement range among the available descriptions varies depending on the authors’ taxonomic treatment of several subspecies that occurred in the Southwest and their related treatment of intergradation zones. Recent research based on historical specimens suggests the Mexican wolf ranged into southern Utah and southern Colorado across zones of intergradation where interbreeding with northern gray wolf subspecies may have occurred (Leonard et al. 2005, p. 11 and p. 15, insomuch as haplotype lu47 only had been documented to occur in Mexican wolves and was documented in a specimen in southern Colorado). Hall’s (1981, p. 932, based on Hall and Kelson 1959) map depicted a range for the Mexican wolf that included extreme southern Arizona and New Mexico, with Canis lupus mogollonensis occurring throughout most of Arizona, and C. l. monstrabilis, Canis l. youngi, C. l. nubilus, and C. l. mogollonensis interspersed in New Mexico. Bogan and Mehlhop (1983, p. 17) synonymized two previously recognized subspecies of gray wolf, C. l. mogollonensis and C. l. monstrabilis, with the Mexican wolf, concluding that the Mexican wolf’s range included the Mogollon Plateau, southern New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. This extended the Mexican VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 wolf’s range northward to central Arizona and central New Mexico through the area that Goldman (1944) had identified as an intergrade zone with an abrupt transition from the Mexican wolf to C. l. mogollensis. Bogan and Mehlop’s analysis did not indicate a sharp transition zone between the Mexican wolf and C. l. mogollensis, rather the wide overlap between the two subspecies led them to synonymize the Mexican wolf and C. l. mogollensis. Hoffmeister (1986, p. 466) suggested that Canis lupus mogollonensis should be referred to as C. l. youngi, but maintained the Mexican wolf, C. l. baileyi, as a subspecies, stating that wolves north of the Mogollon Rim should be considered C. l. youngi. Nowak (1995, pp. 384–385) agreed with Hoffmeister’s synonymizing of C. l. mogollonensis with C. l. youngi, and further lumped these into C. l. nubilus, resulting in a purported northern historical range for Mexican wolf as just to the north of the Gila River in southern Arizona and New Mexico. Nowak (1995) and Bogan and Mehlhop (1983) differed in their interpretation of which subspecies to assign individuals that were intermediate between recognized taxa, thus leading to different depictions of historical range for the Mexican wolf. Subsequently, Parsons (1996, p. 104) included consideration of dispersal distance when developing a probable historical range for the purpose of reintroducing Mexican wolves in the wild pursuant to the Act, by adding a 200-mi (322-km) northward extension to the most conservative depiction of the Mexican wolf historical range (i.e., Hall and Kelson 1959). This description of historical range was carried forward in the Final Environmental Impact Statement ‘‘Reintroduction of the Mexican Wolf within its Historic Range in the Southwestern United States’’ in the selection of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area as a reintroduction location for Mexican wolves (Service 1996). Recent molecular genetic evidence from limited historical specimens supports morphometric evidence of an intergradation zone between Mexican wolf and northern gray wolves (Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 15–16). This research shows that, within the time period that the historical specimens were collected (1856–1916), a northern clade (i.e., group that originated from and includes all descendants from a common ancestor) haplotype was found as far south as Arizona, and individuals with southern clade haplotypes (associated with Mexican wolves) occurred as far north as Utah and Nebraska. Leonard et PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 al. (2005, p. 10) interpret this geographic distribution of haplotypes as indicating gene flow was extensive across the subspecies’ limits during this historical period, and Chambers et al. (2012, p. 37) agree this may be a valid interpretation. Subspecies Description The Mexican wolf is the smallest extant gray wolf in North America. Adults weigh 23 to 41 kg (50 to 90 lb) with a length of 1.5 to 1.8 m (5 to 6 ft) and height at shoulder of 63 to 81 cm (25 to 32 in) (Brown 1988, p. 119). Mexican wolves are typically a patchy black, brown to cinnamon, and cream color, with primarily light underparts (Brown 1988, p. 118). Solid black or white coloration, as seen in other North American gray wolves, does not exist in Mexican wolves. Basic life history for Mexican wolves is similar to that of other gray wolves (Mech 1970, entire; Service 1982, p. 11; Service 2010, pp. 32–41). Historical Distribution and Causes of Decline Prior to the late 1800s, the Mexican wolf inhabited the southwestern United States and Mexico. In Mexico, Mexican wolves ranged from the northern border of the country southward through the Sierra Madre Oriental and Occidental and the altiplano (high plains) to the Neovolcanic Axis (a volcanic belt that runs east-west across central-southern Mexico) (SEMARNAP 2000, p. 8), although wolf distribution may not have been continuous through this entire region (McBride 1980, pp. 2–7). The Mexican wolf is the only subspecies known to have inhabited Mexico. In the United States, Mexican wolves (and, in some areas, Canis lupus nubilus and the previously recognized subspecies C. l. monstrabilis, C. l. mogollonensis, and C. l. youngi) inhabited montane forests and woodlands in portions of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas (Young and Goldman 1944, p. 471; Brown 1988, pp. 22–23) (see Taxonomy). In southern Arizona, Mexican wolves inhabited the Santa Rita, Tumacacori, Atascosa– Pajarito, Patagonia, Chiricahua, Huachuca, Pinaleno, and Catalina Mountains, west to the Baboquivaris and east into New Mexico (Brown 1983, pp. 22–23). In central and northern Arizona, the Mexican wolf and other subspecies of gray wolf were interspersed (Brown 1983, pp. 23–24). The Mexican wolf and other subspecies were present throughout New Mexico, with the exception of low desert areas, documented as numerous or persisting in areas including the Mogollon, Elk, Tularosa, Diablo and Pinos Altos E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Mountains, the Black Range, Datil, Gallinas, San Mateo, Mount Taylor, Animas, and Sacramento Mountains (Brown 1983, pp. 24–25). Gray wolf distribution (of other subspecies) continued eastward into the TransPecos region of Texas and northward up the Rocky Mountains and to the Grand Canyon (Young and Goldman 1944, pp. 23, 50, 404–405), where intergradation between northern and southern wolf clades occurred (Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 11–15). Population estimates of gray wolves, and specifically Mexican wolves, prior to the late 1800s are not available for the southwestern United States or Mexico. Some trapping records and rough population estimates are available from the early 1900s, but do not provide a rigorous estimate of population size of Mexican wolves in the United States or Mexico. For New Mexico, a statewide carrying capacity (potential habitat) of about 1,500 gray wolves was hypothesized by Bednarz, with an estimate of 480 to 1,030 wolves present in 1915 (ibid, pp. 6, 12). Brown summarized historical distribution records for the wolf from McBride (1980, p. 2) and other sources, showing most records in the southwestern United States as being from the Blue Range and the Animas region of New Mexico (Brown 1983, p. 10). In Mexico, Young and Goldman (1944, p. 28) stated that from 1916 to 1918 the Mexican wolf was fairly numerous in Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila, although McBride comments that Mexican wolves apparently did not inhabit the eastern and northern portions of Coahuila, even in areas with seemingly good habitat (1980, p. 2). The 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan cautioned: ‘‘It is important . . . not to accept unquestioningly the accounts of the 1800s and early 1900s that speak of huge numbers of wolves ravaging herds of livestock and game . . . . The total recorded take indicates a much sparser number of wolves in the treated areas than the complaints of damage state or signify, even when one remembers that these figures do not reflect the additional numbers of wolves taken by ranchers, bounty-seekers and other private individuals (Service 1982, p. 4).’’ Mexican wolf populations declined rapidly in the early and mid-1900s, due to government and private efforts across the United States to kill wolves and other predators. By 1925, poisoning, hunting, and trapping efforts drastically reduced Mexican wolf populations in all but a few remote areas of the southwestern United States, and control efforts shifted to wolves in the VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 borderlands between the United States and Mexico (Brown 1983, p. 71). Bednarz (1988, p. 12) estimated that breeding populations of Mexican wolves were extirpated from the United States by 1942. The use of increasingly effective poisons and trapping techniques during the 1950s and 1960s eliminated remaining Mexican wolves north of the United States-Mexico border, although occasional reports of wolves crossing into the United States from Mexico persisted into the 1960s. Wolf distribution in northern Mexico contracted to encompass the Sierra Madre Occidental in Chihuahua, Sonora, and Durango, as well as a disjunct population in western Coahuila (from the Sierra del Carmen westward). Leopold (1959, p. 402) found conflicting reports on the status of the Coahuila population and stated that wolves were likely less abundant there than in the Sierra Madre Occidental. When the Mexican wolf was listed as endangered under the Act in 1976, no wild populations were known to remain in the United States or Mexico. McBride (1980, pp. 2–8) conducted a survey to determine the status and distribution of wolves in Mexico in 1977. He mapped 3 general areas where wolves were recorded as still present in the Sierra Madre Occidental: (1) Northern Chihuahua and Sonora border (at least 8 wolves); (2) western Durango (at least 20 wolves in 2 areas); and (3) a small area in southern Zacatecas. Although occasional anecdotal reports have been made during the last three decades that a few wild wolves still inhabit forested areas in Mexico, no publicly available documented verification exists. Several Mexican wolf individuals captured in the wild in Mexico became the basis for the captive-breeding program that has enabled the reintroduction to the wild (see below, Current Distribution—In Captivity). Current Distribution in the United States On January 12, 1998, we published a final rule in the Federal Register to establish the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in central Arizona, New Mexico, and a small portion of northwestern Texas (63 FR 1752). In March of 1998 we released 11 Mexican wolves from the captive-breeding program to the wild. We have conducted additional initial releases or translocations of individuals and family groups into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) within the MWEPA through 2014. At the end of 2013, a single wild population of a minimum of 83 Mexican wolves PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2491 (December 31, 2013, population count) inhabited the United States in central Arizona and New Mexico. Mexican wolves do not occupy the small portion of northwestern Texas included in the MWEPA. For more information regarding the MWEPA, please see Revision to the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, which published elsewhere in this Federal Register. Mexican wolves associated with the MWEPA also currently occupy the Fort Apache Indian Reservation of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, adjacent to the western boundary of the BRWRA. Since 2000, an agreement between the Service and the White Mountain Apache Tribe permits the release, dispersal, and establishment of Mexican wolves onto the reservation, providing an additional 2,500 mi2 (6,475 km2) of high-quality forested wolf habitat for the reintroduction (Service 2001, p. 4). The White Mountain Apache Tribe does not make information about the number and location of Mexican wolves on the reservation publicly available. Detailed information on the status of the experimental population and the reintroduction project can be found in the 2001 to 2013 annual reports, the 2010 Mexican Wolf Conservation Assessment (Service 2010), and our online population statistics, available at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf/. Current Distribution in Mexico In October 2011, Mexico initiated the reestablishment of Mexican wolves to the wild (see Historical Distribution) with the release of five captive-bred Mexican wolves into the San Luis Mountains just south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexico has continued to release animals into the wild during the past few years. Through August 2014, Mexico released a total of 14 adult Mexican wolves, of which 11 died or are believed dead, and 1 was removed for veterinary care. Of the 11 Mexican wolves that died or are believed dead, 6 were due to illegal killings (4 from poisoning and 2 were shot), 1 wolf was presumably killed by a mountain lion, 3 causes of mortality are unknown (presumed illegal killings because collars were found, but not the carcasses), and 1 disappeared (neither collar nor carcass has been found). The remaining two adult Mexican wolves were documented with five pups in 2014, marking the first successful reproductive event in Mexico. We expect the number of Mexican wolves in Mexico to fluctuate from zero to several packs in or around Sonora, Durango, and Chihuahua in the near future. E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2492 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations In Captivity Due to the extirpation of Mexican wolves in the United States and Mexico, the first step in the recovery of the subspecies was the development of a captive-breeding population to ensure the Mexican wolf did not go extinct. Between 1977 and 1980, a binational captive-breeding program between the United States and Mexico, referred to as the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP), was initiated with the capture of the last known Mexican wolves in the wild in Mexico and subsequent addition of wolves from captivity in Mexico and the United States. The individual unrelated seven wolves used to establish the captive-breeding program are considered the ‘‘founders’’ of the breeding population. These pure Mexican wolves represent three distinct lineages (family groups): McBride (also known as the Certified lineage; three individuals), Ghost Ranch (two individuals), and Aragon (two individuals). From the breeding of these 7 Mexican wolves and generations of their offspring, the captive population has expanded to its current size of 248 Mexican wolves in 55 facilities in the United States and Mexico (Siminski and Spevak 2014). The purpose of the SSP is to reestablish Mexican wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research. This captive population is the sole source of Mexican wolves available to reestablish the subspecies in the wild and is imperative to the success of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project and any additional efforts to reestablish the subspecies that may be pursued in the future in Mexico by the General del Vida Silvestre or by the Service in the United States. Captive Mexican wolves are routinely transferred among the zoos and other SSP holding facilities to facilitate genetic exchange (through breeding) and maintain the health and genetic diversity of the captive population. The SSP strives to house a minimum of 240 wolves in captivity at all times to ensure the security of the subspecies in captivity, while still being able to produce surplus animals for reintroduction. In the United States, Mexican wolves from captive SSP facilities that are identified for potential release are first evaluated for release suitability and undergo an acclimation process. All Mexican wolves selected for release in the United States and Mexico are genetically redundant to the captive population, meaning their genes are already well represented in captivity. VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 This minimizes any adverse effects on the genetic integrity of the remaining captive population in the event that Mexican wolves released to the wild do not survive. Habitat Description Historically, Mexican wolves were associated with montane woodlands characterized by sparsely to densely forested mountainous terrain consisting of evergreen oaks (Quercus spp.) or pinyon (Pinus edulus) and juniper (Juniperus spp.) to higher elevation pine (Pinus spp.), mixed-conifer forests, and adjacent grasslands at elevations of 4,000 to 5,000 ft (1,219 to 1,524 m) where ungulate prey were numerous. Factors making these vegetation communities attractive to Mexican wolves likely included the abundance of ungulate prey, availability of water, and the presence of hiding cover and suitable den sites. Early investigators reported that Mexican wolves probably avoided desert scrub and semidesert grasslands that provided little cover, food, or water (Brown 1988, pp. 19–22). Prior to their extirpation in the wild, Mexican wolves were believed to have preyed upon white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), mule deer (O. hemionus), elk (Cervus elaphus), collared peccaries (javelina) (Tayassu tajacu), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), jackrabbits (Lepus spp.), cottontails (Sylvilagus spp.), and small rodents (Parsons and Nicholopoulos 1995, pp. 141–142); white-tailed deer and mule deer were believed to be the primary sources of prey (Brown 1988, p. 132; Bednarz 1988, p. 29). Today, Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico inhabit evergreen pine–oak woodlands (i.e., Madrean woodlands), pinyon–juniper woodlands (i.e., Great Basin conifer forests), and mixed-conifer montane forests (i.e., Rocky Mountain, or petran, forests) that are inhabited by elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer (Service 1996, pp. 3– 5; AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC–3). Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico show a strong preference for elk compared to other ungulates (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC–14, Reed et al. 2006, pp. 56, 61; Merkle et al. 2009, p. 482). Other documented sources of prey include deer (O. virginianus and O. hemionus) and occasionally small mammals and birds (Reed et al. 2006, p. 55). Mexican wolves are also known to prey and scavenge on livestock (Reed et al. 2006, p. 1129). PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 Summary of Comments and Recommendations We requested written comments from the public on the proposed rule to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and maintaining protections for the Mexican wolf by listing it as endangered during a 6-month comment period from June 13, 2013, to December 17, 2013. Between September 30, 2013, and December 3, 2013, the Service held a series of public hearings on the proposed rule: September 30, 2013, in Washington, District of Columbia; November 19, 2013, in Denver, Colorado; November 20, 2013, in Albuquerque, New Mexico; November 22, 2013, in Sacramento, California; and December 3, 2013, in Pinetop, Arizona. We reopened the public comment period on February 10, 2014, in conjunction with announcing the availability of the independent scientific peer review report on the proposal. This comment period closed on March 27, 2014. We also contacted appropriate Federal, Tribal, State, county, and local agencies, scientific organizations, and other interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposed rule during these comment periods. All substantive information specifically related to our proposal to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies provided during the comment periods, including the public hearings, has either been incorporated directly into this final determination or addressed below. Comments from peer reviewers and State agencies are grouped separately. In addition to the comments, some commenters submitted additional reports and references for our consideration, which were reviewed and incorporated into this final rule as appropriate. Peer Reviewer Comments The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) was asked to perform an independent scientific review of the proposed rule to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and maintain protections for the Mexican wolf by listing it as endangered (78 FR 35664, June 13, 2013). In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), NCEAS solicited expert opinions from seven knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species, the geographic region in which the species occurs, and conservation biology principles. NCEAS received responses from five of the seven peer E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations reviewers they contacted during the public comment period. Based on their panel discussion in January 2014, peer reviewers came to general consensus that the Mexican wolf is the most differentiated gray wolf in North America. Also, peer reviewers discussed and seemed to reach general concurrence that the historical range of the Mexican wolf was likely larger than described by the Service in the proposed rule based on the presence of genetic markers found in historical wolf specimens described by Leonard et al. 2005, and they questioned how this information should be incorporated into decisions about its status. They expressed concern over the Service’s reliance on the Chambers et al. 2012, manuscript within the Service’s proposal to delist the gray wolf in the United States, which included the identification of, and discussion of the validity of, other gray wolf subspecies, but their concerns did not lead them to conclude that the Mexican wolf was not a valid entity to list under the Act. Rather, they focused on how the Service should ‘‘draw a line on a map’’ to indicate the historical range of the Mexican wolf and the appropriate geographic extent of the listed entity. We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers regarding the proposed listing of the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. As previously noted, the peer reviewers generally concurred with our methods and conclusions that the Mexican wolf is ecologically and morphologically distinct. They also provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve this final rule. Peer reviewer comments are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule, as appropriate. (1) Comment: Peer reviewers stated that the Service did not use the best available information related to the exclusive reliance on the concordance method of identifying species/ subspecies utilized by Chambers et al. 2012. The justification for the exclusive use of this approach is not well defended by the Service. Our response: As required by section 4(b) of the Act, we used the best scientific and commercial data available in making this final determination for the Mexican wolf. We solicited peer review from knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species, the geographic region in which the species occurs, and conservation biology principles to ensure that our listing is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analysis. VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 Additionally, we requested comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties concerning the proposed rule. The commenters’ concerns with the Service’s reliance on the Chambers et al. 2012, manuscript primarily focused on taxonomic issues associated with gray wolf populations other than the Mexican wolf. Taxonomic issues related to other gray wolf populations are not germane to this final rule to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. Specific to the Mexican wolf, the peer reviewers concurred that the Mexican wolf is differentiated from other gray wolves by multiple morphological and genetic markers documented in the scientific literature. The Act is explicit that threatened or endangered subspecies are to be protected. (2) Comment: Peer reviewers noted that genetic markers indicate a larger historical range for Mexican wolf than described by the Service and should be taken into consideration when determining its status and the range within which recovery could occur. Our response: We have not attempted to define historical range for the Mexican wolf, but rather to describe available historical range information contained in the scientific literature, including the research by Leonard et al. 2005 referenced by the peer reviewers. Listing the entire Mexican wolf subspecies means that all members of the taxon are afforded the protections of the Act regardless of where they are found; therefore, we do not demarcate a specific geographic area in which conservation and recovery efforts may take place. Rather, guidance about the abundance and distribution of the Mexican wolf necessary for delisting will be provided in a revised recovery plan containing recovery (delisting) criteria. Therefore, we recognize that current research such as Leonard et al. 2005 suggests a larger historical geographic range for the Mexican wolf than described by prior accounts (Hall 1981, p. 932; Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, p. 17; Nowak 1995, pp. 384–385). However, this information does not lead us to a different conclusion about the endangered status of the Mexican wolf, nor are any recovery options precluded by our discussion of historical range. Comments From States (3) Comment: One State agency expressed concern that the Service did not articulate reasons for choosing to list the Mexican wolf as a subspecies rather than a DPS, claiming that the Mexican PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2493 wolf is legally eligible for a DPS listing under the Service’s policy, and, therefore, the choice to list it as a subspecies as opposed to a DPS is a discretionary act subject to review under the Administrative Procedure Act. Our response: Under section 3(16) of the Act, we may consider for listing any species, including subspecies, of fish, wildlife, or plants, or any DPS of vertebrate fish or wildlife that interbreeds when mature. As noted in our Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments Under the Act (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), Congress has instructed the Secretary to exercise authority to list DPS’s sparingly. Because a DPS is typically a subset of a species or subspecies, we first determine whether any negative impacts appear to be affecting the species or subspecies anywhere in its range, and whether any of these impacts rise to the level of threats such that the species or subspecies is endangered or threatened throughout its range. If we determine that a species or subspecies is endangered or threatened throughout its range, then we are not required to conduct a DPS analysis. In other words, we typically first assess whether or not an entity qualifies for listing as a species or subspecies before assessing whether it qualifies as a DPS. Because the Mexican wolf qualifies for listing as a subspecies throughout its range, we are not analyzing whether or not it warrants listing as a DPS. (4) Comment: Among other alternatives, the Service should also be considering listing two DPS’s of gray wolf or Mexican wolf (i.e., one in Arizona and New Mexico and the other in Mexico), the range of which is bisected by the International Border between the United States and Mexico. Our response: See response immediately above regarding listing a DPS of the Mexican wolf. (5) Comment: One State agency expressed concern that, if listed as a subspecies, the Mexican wolf will never be delisted in the United States. The commenter stated that a species or subspecies may be delisted only when it is no longer in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range and that approximately 10 percent of the Mexican wolf’s historical range occurs in the United States with the remainder in Mexico. Because the Mexican wolf in the United States will never constitute a significant portion of the subspecies’ range, delisting would require substantial wolf recovery in Mexico. E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2494 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Our response: ‘‘Range’’ as referred to in the phrase ‘‘significant portion of its range’’ refers to the general geographical area within which the species can be found at the time the Service makes a status determination (79 FR 37578, July 1, 2014). Prior to its extirpation in the 1900’s, the Mexican wolf inhabited large portions of Mexico. Our colleagues in Mexico are continuing to investigate whether areas that functioned as wolf habitat historically are suitable for wolf reintroduction and recovery efforts today (Araiza et al. 2012, entire). Regardless, the Act does not stipulate that a species must inhabit all of its historical range in order to be recovered. Rather, threats to the species must be alleviated such that it is secure in its range at the time of status determination, such as delisting, listing, or reclassification. Therefore, listing the Mexican wolf as a subspecies does not preclude the ability to achieve recovery and delist the subspecies. A recovery strategy, including delisting criteria, will be developed in a revised recovery plan for the Mexican wolf. (6) Comment: One commenter expressed concern that if we have to wait for recovery to occur in Mexico before we can delist the Mexican wolf, States will be faced with unchecked population growth of Mexican wolves with no effective mechanism for controlling population growth, which will lead to the detriment of livestock and big game wildlife in the United States. Our response: See response above. The purpose of the Act is to recover species such that they are no longer in danger of extinction now or within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of their range, at which time they are delisted and management of the species is typically turned over to the State and tribal wildlife agencies. Further, in a separate rule in this Federal Register, we have published the Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, which contains take provisions for Mexican wolves by designated agencies and the public, demonstrating that the Service is cognizant of the need to include such (control) measures as a component of wolf reintroduction and recovery efforts. (7) Comment: One State agency noted that the Service’s proposed rule to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies referenced several important documents to which the public has not had access. Our response: All of the comments, materials, and documentation that we considered in this rulemaking were available by appointment, during VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 normal business hours at: Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; by telephone 505–761–4704; or by facsimile 505–346–2542. (8) Comment: One State agency suggested that the Service should recognize Mexican wolf historical range as extending from central Mexico into Arizona and New Mexico south of Interstate Highway 40. Our response: We have utilized the best available science to describe historical range for the Mexican wolf in the Background section of this final rule. Maps of the Mexican wolf’s historical range are available in the scientific literature (Young and Goldman 1944, p. 414; Hall and Kelson, 1959, p. 849; Hall 1981, p. 932; Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, p. 17; Nowak 1995, p. 395; Parsons 1996, p. 106). Depiction of the northern extent of the Mexican wolf’s historical range among the available descriptions varies depending on the authors’ taxonomic treatment of several subspecies that occurred in the Southwest and their related treatment of intergradation zones. In any case, there is evidence indicating that the Mexican wolf may have ranged north into southern Utah and southern Colorado within zones of intergradation where interbreeding with other gray wolf subspecies may have occurred (Leonard et al. 2005, p. 11 and p. 15). (9) Comment: The Service does not provide cooperators and stakeholders with sufficient time to comprehensively analyze the Service’s varied proposals on Mexican wolf listing. The Service expects stakeholders and cooperators, in a matter of months, to review and digest hundreds of pages of material, sort out the interconnected points concerning all the facets of the entirety, review the alternatives, formulate comments, and otherwise meaningfully participate in the review process. Our response: The Service recognizes that public involvement is an essential part of the rulemaking process, helping to inform both the agency and the affected public. That is why we requested written comments from the public on the proposed rule and contacted appropriate Federal, Tribal, State, county, and local agencies, scientific organizations, and other interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposed rule during the open comment period from June 13, 2013, to December 17, 2013, and the reopened comment period from February 10, 2014, to March 27, 2014. We believe that the nearly 8-month open comment period was sufficient PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 time for cooperators and stakeholders to comprehensively analyze the Service’s proposed rule and provide comment. Comments From Tribes (10) Comment: Any listing or delisting of the gray wolf or the Mexican wolf must recognize the Tribe’s rights and sovereignty in managing wildlife on Tribal lands. The proposed rule fails in this respect. Our response: The Service recognizes the Tribe’s rights and sovereignty in managing wildlife on Tribal lands (see Government to Government Relationships with Tribes section below). Under their sovereign authority Tribes have the option of allowing Mexican wolves to occupy Tribal trust land or to request their removal. Also, elsewhere in this Federal Register, we are finalizing revisions to the nonessential experimental population of the Mexican wolf, which will give Tribes the option to enter into voluntary agreements with the Service for the management of Mexican wolves on Tribal trust land. Public Comments (11) Comment: We received numerous requests from diverse interest groups and individuals asking that we subdivide our final determination on listing the Mexican wolf as endangered from the final determination on our proposal regarding the current listing for gray wolf in all or portions of 42 States and Mexico. Our response: We are separating our determination on the listing of the Mexican wolf as endangered from the determination on our proposal regarding removing the current listing for gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This rule finalizes our determination for the Mexican wolf. A subsequent decision will be made for the rest of the United States. (12) Comment: A problematic aspect of the rule is the fact that the Service does not designate the species as endangered over a specific geographic area, but instead designates the subspecies as endangered where found. Genetic analysis of historic Mexican wolves showed that the range of the Mexican wolf likely extended beyond the historic range initially inferred from limited record data. Our response: Unless we designate a Distinct Population Segment, which has a geographic component to the designation, a species or subspecies listing means that all members of the taxon are afforded the protections of the Act regardless of where they are found. We have described the historical range E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations of the Mexican wolf in the Background section of this rule. (13) Comment: Listing the Mexican wolf as endangered would negatively impact the private landowners and ranchers in the State of Arizona by imposing additional restrictions on those private lands, which is an economic and operational burden on the public. Our response: This final rule to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies will not change the protected status of the Mexican wolf as, to date, it has been listed as endangered within the broader gray wolf listing; rather, this final rule creates an independent listed entity for the Mexican wolf on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, separate from the gray wolf entity. As previously noted, we are finalizing revisions to the nonessential experimental population of the Mexican wolf elsewhere in this Federal Register, which relaxes some of the Act’s prohibitions for take of Mexican wolves in certain circumstances. With this final rule to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies, there are no additional restrictions to private landowners. (14) Comment: Has the Service examined the biological ramifications of the illegal killings? What analyses were used to estimate the level of impact of a 0 to 15 percent annual mortality attributed to illegal killing of wolves? The proposed listing stated 3 Mexican wolves died from disease, 3 from predation, 14 from vehicular collisions, 4 from other reason, 9 for unknown reasons, and 46 from illegal killing. What was the fate of the 13 wolves unaccounted for in this document that died from 1998 to 2012? The Service should show mortality graphically; what is the ratio of illegal kills to population size? Our response: We recognize that illegal killing is the number one source of mortality to Mexican wolves in the wild; see Factor C. Disease and Predation, for our discussion and assessment of this mortality factor. Known wolf mortality is documented annually and is available on our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf/MWPS.cfm. (15) Comment: The Mexican wolf experimental population has been unsuccessful due to weak genetics that caused malformed jaws and other deformities, hybridization with dogs after releases into the wild, habituation to humans, dependence on human food including livestock regardless of abundant wild ungulate prey availability, and a variety of other fatal flaws. VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 Our response: We describe known instances of hybridization in Factor E of this final rule. Based on the low number of occurrences of Mexican wolf-dog hybrids, we do not consider hybridization to be a threat to the Mexican wolf. We also discuss genetic concerns in Factor E, which, although not specific to physical deformities, we do determine inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity to be threats to the Mexican wolf. We have not documented Mexican wolf dependence on human food, including livestock; while Mexican wolves do occasionally prey on livestock, their primary prey in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area is elk (see Background section). (16) Comment: The Service fails to present the expected outcomes of genetic depression (decreased fitness, negatively biased population growth rate, loss of adaptive potential) on the Mexican wolf. How does the Service quantify loss of adaptive potential? What does the Service propose to do to address their concerns over inbreeding? If the nonessential population is genetically depressed, why does the Service continue to release Mexican wolves that are inbred? Over what timeframe does the Service expect to be able to effect a change in the genetic depression of the Mexican gray population? Our response: Tracking of the genetic status of the captive and wild Mexican wolf populations is conducted by the Species Survival Plan, which tracks the mean kinship of wolves and other relevant metrics of the captive and wild population. We describe our concerns related to the genetic composition of the Mexican wolf population under Factor E. In a separate rule published in this Federal Register, Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, and our associated Environmental Impact Statement, we address our need to increase the number of initial releases we conduct in order to improve the genetic composition of the nonessential population. We expect to substantially improve the genetic status of the nonessential population within several Mexican wolf generations, or about 12 to 16 years. (17) Comment: Except in cases of absolute isolation, what we call subspecies are populations with variable rates of gene flow over time and space. It is time for the Service to abandon typological thinking, stop using subspecies for listings, and use the biologically robust concepts of populations with quantifiable rates of gene flow and phylogenetic independence. PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2495 Our response: The Act is explicit that threatened or endangered subspecies are to be protected. Our Service regulations require us to rely on standard taxonomic distinctions and the biological expertise of the Department of the Interior and the scientific community concerning the relevant taxonomic group (50 CFR 424.11). (18) Comment: According to the Service, the ‘‘nature of the available data does not permit the application of many traditional subspecies criteria’’, and many experts actually reject the notion of wolf subspecies due to the ease with which wolves move and interbreed. The Service further admits that the taxonomy for wolves is complicated and continuously evolving. These statements clearly show the lack of definitive information supporting the identification of gray wolf subspecies. Our response: We recognize that wolf taxonomy is complicated and continuously evolving. However, the controversy in the scientific community has focused on wolf populations other than the Mexican wolf (but see Cronin et al. 2014, p. 9), which are outside the purview of this final rule. The best available scientific literature, and our Service regulations that require us to rely on standard taxonomic distinctions, support the recognition of the Mexican wolf as a subspecies of gray wolf. (19) Comment: Review of the literature shows that the Mexican wolf does not warrant subspecies status. Data for 170,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (Cronin et al. in preparation) and 48,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (vonHoldt et al. 2011) shows that single nucleotide polymorphisms allele frequency differentiation of Mexican wolves and other North American wolves is relatively high. However, Mexican wolves lack mtDNA monophyly and share haplotypes with wolves in other areas (Leonard et al. 2005), and mtDNA haplotypes in Mexican wolves have low sequence divergence from other wolf haplotypes. This sequence divergence is particularly low because it is for the hypervariable control region. Our response: As required by section 4(b) of the Act, we used the best scientific and commercial data available and continue to recognize the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) as a distinct gray wolf subspecies. Taxonomic issues related to other gray wolf populations are not germane to this final rule to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. Specific to the Mexican wolf, the peer reviewers concurred that the Mexican wolf is differentiated from other gray wolves by multiple morphological and genetic markers E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2496 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations documented in the scientific literature. Further, Leonard et al. (2005, p. 10) found that haplotypes associated with the Mexican wolf formed a unique southern clade distinct from that of other North American wolves. A clade is a taxonomic group that includes all individuals that have descended from a common ancestor. (20) Comment: A science-based recovery plan has the potential to reduce conflict over the long term by minimizing litigation, minimizing resources needed by the Service for defending its actions, and speeding the eventual delisting of the Mexican wolf. Because lack of an updated recovery plan seriously hampers efforts to recover the subspecies, we encourage the Service to resume the recovery planning process immediately. Our response: We intend to resume the recovery planning process to develop a revised recovery plan for the Mexican wolf after completion of this final rule. (21) Comment: Several commenters recommended management of the Mexican wolf be returned to the States. Delisting of the wolf would automatically trigger this return of State control. Our response: In our final rule, published elsewhere in this Federal Register, Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, we allow for States (or other agencies) to cooperate in the management of Mexican wolves as designated agencies. Due to our determination of endangered status for the Mexican wolf, we are not delisting the Mexican wolf at this time. When the Mexican wolf has been recovered and delisted, management control will be turned over to State and tribal agencies. (22) Comment: The States of Arizona and New Mexico have sufficient regulations and trained personnel and programs in place to protect Mexican wolves so that a Federal listing is unwarranted under the Act. Our response: We have no information to suggest that, absent the Act’s protections, illegal killing of Mexican wolves in the United States would cease. Rather, illegal killing of Mexican wolves could increase, as State penalties (assuming wolves were granted protected status by the States) would be less severe than current Federal penalties under the Act. Thus, existing State penalties in Arizona and New Mexico would not serve as an adequate deterrent to illegal take. Also, in 2011, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish withdrew from the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program and has shown no intention of rejoining or VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 further cooperating with the program. We address this issue under Factor D. Adequate Regulatory Mechanisms. (23) Comment: Several commenters stated that local citizens are fearful of Mexican wolves and noted the need to protect themselves when in areas occupied by wolves, psychological impacts on children, pet safety, and related topics. One commenter stated that he would face criminal charges if he defended himself against a wolf. These commenters stated that the Service has not adequately recognized or addressed these issues. Our response: There are no historical or recent cases of Mexican wolves attacking humans. If a Mexican wolf were to attack someone, the Act allows a person to take (including kill) a Mexican wolf in self-defense or in defense of another person. Elsewhere in this Federal Register, we have published a final Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, which provides conditional take provisions (in addition to take for self-defense) of Mexican wolves by the Service, designated agencies, and individuals under certain circumstances. (24) Comment: The Service states that the status of Mexican wolves in Mexico is unknown. Mexican wolves should be managed through a coordinated effort internationally according to sound biological principles and with consideration to all other State, national, and international laws that protect the health, safety, and welfare of humans. Our response: We are fully aware of the status of Mexican wolves in Mexico, as we are in continual communication with the Federal agencies in Mexico that are responsible for the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf. We have clarified language in this final rule regarding the status of wolves in Mexico; see Current Distribution in Mexico. While we may at times coordinate various Mexican wolf management activities with Federal agencies in Mexico (such as sharing equipment or transferring captive wolves between captive facilities), the reintroduction of Mexican wolves in the United States and Mexico are independent efforts. (25) Comment: The Service should consider the negative impacts to our elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and javelina populations from predation by possible reintroduced Mexican wolves. A decrease in these game animals will create a significant economic and recreational loss to our State. Our response: While the Act is explicit that our listing determinations must be made solely on the basis of the PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 best scientific and commercial data available, in a separate action published elsewhere in this Federal Register we have considered the impacts to ungulate populations from the experimental population of Mexican wolves in our Environmental Impact Statement, Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, available on our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf/NEPA_713.cfm. Summary of Changes From the Proposed Rule In this final rule, we make one substantive change from the proposal. We are separating our determination on the listing of the Mexican wolf as endangered from the determination on our proposal regarding the delisting of the gray wolf in the United States and Mexico. This rule finalizes our determination for the Mexican wolf. A subsequent decision will be made for the gray wolf. Summary of Factors Affecting the Mexican Wolf Several threats analyses have been conducted for the Mexican wolf. In the initial proposal to list the Mexican wolf as endangered in 1975 and in the subsequent listing of the entire gray wolf species in the contiguous United States and Mexico in 1978, the Service found that threats from habitat loss (factor A), sport hunting (factor B), and inadequate regulatory protection from human targeted elimination (factor D) were responsible for the Mexican wolf’s decline and near extinction (40 FR 17590, April 21, 1975; 43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978). In the 2003 reclassification of the gray wolf into three distinct population segments, threats identified for the gray wolf in the Southwestern Distinct Population Segment (which included Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, and portions of Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas) included illegal killing and (negative) public attitudes (68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003). The 2010 Mexican Wolf Conservation Assessment (Conservation Assessment) contains the most recent five-factor analysis for the Mexican wolf (Service 2010, p. 60). The purpose of the Conservation Assessment, which was a non-regulatory document, was to evaluate the status of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project within the broader context of the subspecies’ recovery. The Conservation Assessment found that the combined threats of illegal shooting, small population size, inbreeding, and inadequate regulatory protection were hindering the ability of the current population to reach the E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations population objective of at least 100 wolves in the BRWRA (Service 2010, p. 60). The threats we address in this fivefactor analysis and our conclusions about a given factor may differ from previous listing actions due to new information, or, in the case of the Conservation Assessment, the difference in perspective necessitated by the listing process compared to that of the Conservation Assessment, which was focused on recovery. For example, in this five-factor analysis we analyze currently occupied habitat, whereas the Conservation Assessment included discussion of unoccupied habitat that may be important in the future for recovery. In this five-factor analysis, we are assessing which factors pose a threat to the existing population of wolves in the BRWRA or would pose a threat to these wolves if the protections of the Act were not in place. rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range As previously discussed, wolves are considered habitat generalists with fairly broad ecological capabilities and flexibility in using different prey and vegetation communities (Peterson and Ciucci 2003, pp. 104–111). Gray wolves hunt in packs, primarily pursuing medium to large hooved mammals. Wolf density is positively correlated to the amount of ungulate biomass available and the vulnerability of ungulates to predation (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 170– 175). These characterizations apply to the Mexican wolf and form our basis for defining suitable habitat. We consider suitable habitat for the Mexican wolf as forested, montane terrain containing adequate wild ungulate populations (elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer) to support a wolf population. Suitable habitat has minimal roads and human development, as human access to areas inhabited by wolves can result in wolf mortality. Specifically, roads can serve as a potential source of wolf mortality due to vehicular collision and because they provide humans with access to areas inhabited by wolves, which can facilitate illegal killing of wolves. Although the road itself could be considered a form of habitat modification, the primary threat to wolves related to roads stems from the activities enabled by the presence of roads (i.e., vehicular collision and illegal killing) rather than a direct effect of the road on the wolf such as a boundary to dispersal. We address illegal killing under factor C. Disease or VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 Predation, and vehicular collision under factor E. Other. For the Mexican wolf, we define habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment as a decrease or modification in the extent or quality of forested, montane terrain in currently occupied habitat, or a decrease in ungulate populations in currently occupied habitat, such that wolves would not persist in that area. In order to assess whether habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment is a threat to Mexican wolves, we consider information related to land status (as a characteristic of quality related to minimal human development) and the effects of catastrophic wildfire on Mexican wolves and ungulates. Our definitions of suitable habitat and of habitat destruction, modification, and curtailment are the same for the United States and Mexico. Implications of climate change are addressed under factor E. Other. United States—Mexican wolves currently inhabit only the BRWRA as identified in the January 12, 1998, final rule to designate an experimental population (63 FR 1752), as well as the adjacent Fort Apache Indian Reservation as allowed by an agreement between the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Service. As noted above, we finalize revisions to our regulations for the experimental population of the Mexican wolf, which published elsewhere in this Federal Register. With this MWEPA revision, Mexican wolves will be allowed to inhabit the entire MWEPA, with the exception of any tribal areas where their removal is requested. In the revised MWEPA, there are 32,244 mi2 (83,512 km2) of suitable Mexican wolf habitat (Service 2014, p. 25). Of this suitable habitat, 63 percent occurs on federally owned land; of that, the U.S. Forest Service accounts for 91 percent, the Bureau of Land Management, 7 percent, and other Federal land ownership comprises the final 2 percent. We consider Federal land in the revised MWEPA to be an important characteristic of the quality of the reintroduction area. Federal lands such as National Forests are considered to have the most appropriate conditions for Mexican wolf reintroduction and recovery efforts because they typically have significantly lesser degrees of human development and habitat degradation than other land-ownership types (Fritts and Carbyn 1995, p. 26). We do not have any information or foresee any change in the size, status, ownership, or management of the National Forests in the revised MWEPA in the future. If Mexican wolves were PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2497 not protected by the Act, we cannot foresee any changes to the status of these National Forests such that suitability for Mexican wolves would significantly diminish. Current and reasonably foreseeable management practices in all of the Apache, Gila, and Sitgreaves National Forests; the Payson, Pleasant Valley, and Tonto Basin Ranger Districts of the Tonto National Forest; and the Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest are expected to support ungulate populations at levels that will sustain a growing Mexican wolf population in the revised MWEPA. Prey populations throughout all of Arizona and New Mexico continue to be monitored by the State wildlife agencies within Game Management Units, the boundaries of which are defined in each State’s hunting regulations. We do not predict any significant change to ungulate populations that inhabit the National Forests such that habitat suitability for Mexican wolves would diminish. On the other hand, wildfire is a type of habitat modification that could affect the Mexican wolf population in two primary ways—by killing of wolves directly or by causing changes in the abundance and distribution of ungulates. Two recent large wildfires, the Wallow Fire and the WhitewaterBaldy Complex Fire, have burned within close proximity to denning wolf packs. Due to their very large size and rapid spread, both of these fires are considered catastrophic wildfires. On May 29, 2011, the Wallow Fire began in Arizona and spread to over 538,000 ac (217,721 ha) in Arizona (Apache, Navajo, Graham, and Greenlee Counties; San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, Fort Apache Indian Reservation) and New Mexico (Catron County) by the end of June. The Wallow Fire was human-caused and is the largest fire in Arizona’s recorded history to date. The Wallow Fire burned through approximately 11 percent of the BRWRA. Three known or presumed wolf pack denning locations (Rim pack, Bluestem pack, Hawks Nest pack) were within the fire’s boundaries (Service 2011). Although we had initial concern that denning pups (which are not as mobile as adults or may depend on adults to move them from the den) may not survive the fire due to their proximity to the rapidly spreading fire, we did not document any wolf mortalities as a result of the fire. Telemetry information indicated all radio-collared animals survived, and pups from two of the packs whose den areas burned survived through the year’s end to be included in the end-of- E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2498 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations year population survey. While denning behavior was observed in the third pack, the presence of pups had not been confirmed prior to the fire, and no pups were documented with this pack at the year’s end (Service 2011). In addition to possible direct negative effects of the Wallow Fire (i.e., mortality of wolves, which we did not document), we also considered whether the fire was likely to result in negative short- or long-term effects to ungulate populations. The Wallow Fire Rapid Assessment Team’s postfire assessment hypothesized that elk and deer abundance will respond favorably as vegetation recovers, with ungulate abundance exceeding prefire conditions within 5 years due to decreased competition of forage and browse with fire-killed conifers (Dorum 2011, p. 3). Based on this information, we recognize and will continue to monitor the potential for this fire to result in beneficial (increased prey) effects for Mexican wolves over the next few years. On May 16, 2012, the WhitewaterBaldy Complex Fire was ignited by lightning strikes in New Mexico. It burned at least 297,845 ac (120,534 ha), including an additional (to the Wallow Fire) 7 percent of the BRWRA. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire was contained 2 mi (3 km) from a denning wolf pack to the north (Dark Canyon pack) and 5 mi (8 km) from a denning wolf pack to the east (Middle Fork pack). We have not documented any adverse effects, including mortality, from the fire to these packs. We similarly hypothesize, as with the Wallow Fire, that elk and deer abundance will respond favorably as vegetation recovers in the burned area, with ungulate abundance exceeding prefire conditions within several years. Given that we have not observed any wolf mortality associated with the Wallow and Whitewater-Baldy Complex fires, these specific fires have not significantly affected the Mexican wolf population. Moreover, although these fires demonstrate the possibility that a catastrophic wildfire within the reintroduction area could result in mortality of less mobile, denning pups, we recognize that adult wolves are highly mobile animals and can move out of even a catastrophic fire’s path. While mortality of pups would slow the growth of the population over a year or two, the adult, breeding animals drive the ability of the population to persist. We do not consider even these catastrophic fires to be a significant mortality risk to adult wolves given their mobility and, therefore, do not consider wildfire to be a significant threat to the Mexican wolf. Further, we VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 predict that these fires will result in changes in vegetation communities and prey densities that will be favorable to wolves within a few years. We have no information to indicate there would be changes to the effects of fire on Mexican wolves if they were not protected by the Act. Mexico—The Mexican wolf appears to have been extirpated from the wild in Mexico for more than 30 years. Recently, researchers and officials in Mexico identified priority sites for reintroduction of Mexican wolves in the States of Sonora, Durango, Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas based on vegetation type, records of historical wolf occurrence, and risk factors affecting wolf mortality associated with proximity to human development and roads (Araiza et al. 2012, pp. 630–637). In October 2011, Mexico initiated a reintroduction program with the release of five captivebred Mexican wolves into the San Luis Mountains just south of the United States-Mexico border. Through August 2014, Mexico released a total of 14 adult Mexican wolves, of which 11 died or are believed dead, and 1 was removed for veterinary care. The remaining two adult Mexican wolves were documented with five pups in 2014, marking the first successful reproductive event in Mexico. We expect the number of Mexican wolves in Mexico to fluctuate from zero to several wolves or packs of wolves during 2015 and into the future in or around Sonora and Chihuahua or other Mexican States as wolves are released to the wild from captivity by Mexico and subsequently may survive, breed, die of natural causes, or be illegally killed. We recognize that Mexican wolves are being reintroduced in Mexico to areas identified as priority sites based on recent research (Araiza et al. 2012). However, we also note that Araiza et al.’s habitat assessment does not include assessment of prey availability within the six identified areas, which is a critical indicator of habitat suitability. Some information on prey availability is currently being collected and synthesized by Mexico for specific locations, but is not publicly available at this time. We also note that, due to the majority of land in Mexico being held in private ownership, large patches of secure public land are unavailable in Mexico to support reintroduction, which has been an important characteristic of reintroduction sites in the United States. We will continue to observe the status of the wolf reintroduction effort in Mexico. At this time, because our focus in this analysis is on currently occupied range, the PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 absence of a Mexican wolf population in Mexico precludes analysis of habitat threats there. Summary of Factor A We have no information indicating that present or threatened habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment is significantly affecting the Mexican wolf or is likely to do so in the future. Zones 1 and 2 of the revised MWEPA provide an adequately sized area containing high-quality forested montane terrain with adequate ungulate populations (deer and elk) to support Mexican wolves in the experimental population. We do not foresee any changes in the status of the area (primarily U.S. Forest Service land). Further, we do not consider wildfire to be resulting in habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment that is threatening the Mexican wolf, although we recognize that future catastrophic wildfires have the potential to slow the growth of the population if pup mortality occurs in several packs. We have not conducted an analysis of threats under factor A in Mexico due to the lack of a Mexican wolf population there for more than 30 years. Based on the mortality of reintroduced Mexican wolves in Mexico from 2011 to 2013, we do not expect a population to be established there for at least several years. Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Since the inception of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project in 1998, we have not authorized legal killing or removal of wolves from the wild for commercial, recreational (i.e., hunting), scientific, or educational purposes. We are not aware of any instances of illegal killing of Mexican wolves for their pelts in the Southwest, or of illegal trafficking in Mexican wolf pelts or parts. Mexican wolf pelts and parts from wolves that die in captivity or in the wild may be used for educational or scientific purposes, such as taxidermy mounts for display, when permission is granted from the Service; most wolf parts are sent to a curatorial facility at the University of New Mexico to be preserved, catalogued, and stored. A recreational season for wolf hunting is not currently authorized in the Southwest. We have authorized, through a section 10(a)(1)(A) research-and-recovery permit under 50 CFR 17.32, as well as in accordance with the Mexican wolf experimental population rule and section 10(j) management rule under 50 CFR 17.84(k), agency personnel to take E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations any Mexican wolf in the experimental population, as well as to conduct activities related directly to the recovery of reintroduced experimental populations of Mexican wolf within Arizona and New Mexico. While removal of individual Mexican wolves (including lethal take) has occurred by the Service as a result of these measures, these actions are conducted within the purpose of our recovery program to contribute to the conservation of the Mexican gray wolf. Several Mexican wolf research projects occur in the BRWRA or adjacent tribal lands by independent researchers or project personnel, but these studies have utilized radiotelemetry, scat analysis, and other noninvasive methods that do not entail direct handling of, or impact to, wolves (e.g., Cariappa et al. 2008, Breck et al. 2011, Rinkevich 2012). Nonlethal research for the purpose of conservation is also conducted on Mexican wolves in the SSP captive-breeding program; projects include research on reproduction, artificial insemination, and gamete collection and preservation (see Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Program annual reports online at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf/ for descriptions of past and current research projects). Research on disease and conditioned taste aversion is also being conducted in the SSP captive-breeding program. In all cases, any take authorized by the Service for scientific, educational, and conservation purposes must benefit the Mexican wolf and promote its recovery. Since reintroductions began in 1998 and have continued through December 31, 2013, we are aware of 25 incidents in which Mexican wolves were captured in nongovernmental (private) traps, at least 7 have been severely injured, and at least 3 have died as a result of injuries or activities associated with being captured in a leg-hold trap. While these seven injuries may have a significant effect on the individual Mexican wolf and may affect that particular animal’s pack, they are relatively rare occurrences. We conclude that the 3 mortalities through 2013 have not affected the Mexican wolf’s population growth because this accounts for only 3 mortalities in 15 years, and at the end of 2013, the minimum population size was 83 Mexican wolves. Absent the protection of the Act, Mexican wolves could be protected from overutilization in the United States by State regulations and programs in Arizona and New Mexico and Federal law in Mexico. The Arizona Revised Statutes Title 17 gives the Arizona Game and Fish Commission (Commission) the VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 authority to regulate take of wildlife in the State of Arizona. ‘‘Take’’ (to pursue, shoot, hunt, trap, kill, capture, snare, or net) of wildlife in Arizona on lands under the authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission is prohibited, unless a provision (e.g., Commission Order, special rule, permit) is made to allow take. Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rules, Article 4, outlines additional restrictions that would provide further protections from overutilization including regulating and outlining prohibitions on possession and transport of illegally taken wildlife, and regulating and placing restrictions on scientific collection/handling of wildlife. Because Commission Order 14 (Other Birds and Mammals) does not open a hunting season on wolves, all take of Mexican wolf in Arizona is prohibited (except via special permit, as for science and management purposes; permits that in-turn require the permittee to secure all required Federal permits). A hunting season could be opened if the agency documented a harvestable surplus or identified a need for population reduction in a specific area. The Arizona Game and Fish Department, the administrative, management, and enforcement arm of the Commission, is charged with carrying out the Commission’s programs and enforcing its regulations. Pursuant to the Wildlife Conservation Act of New Mexico, it is unlawful to take, possess, transport, export, process, sell, or offer for sale or ship any State or Federal endangered species or subspecies (17–2–41 New Mexico Statutes Annotated [NMSA]), thus, as a State-listed endangered subspecies, the Mexican wolf would be protected from take related to overutilization. Similarly, in Mexico, the General Wildlife Law (‘‘Ley General de Vida Silvestre’’, 2000, as amended) provides regulation against take of species or subspecies identified by the Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM–059– ´ SEMARNAT–2010, ‘‘Proteccion ´ ambiental–Especies nativas de Mexico de flora y fauna silvestres.’’ These regulatory provisions are further discussed under factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms. Summary of Factor B Based on available information, overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes does not occur or is exceedingly rare in the United States. In addition, we have no examples of these forms of take occurring in Mexico since the Mexican reintroduction program began in 2011. Arizona, New Mexico, PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2499 and Mexico have regulatory provisions under which Mexican wolves could be protected against overutilization if the subspecies were not protected by the Act. Due to the nonexistent or very low level of overutilization occurring, and the ability of the States and Mexico to regulate overutilization, we do not consider overutilization to be affecting the Mexican wolf now or in the future. Factor C. Disease or Predation A number of viral, fungal, and bacterial diseases and endo- and ectoparasites have been documented in gray wolf populations (Kreeger 2003, pp. 202–214). However, little research has been done specific to disease in Mexican wolves, and little documentation exists of disease prevalence in wild wolves in the BRWRA population. We obtain the majority of our information on documented mortalities (from all sources, including disease) in the BRWRA from animals wearing radio collars. We may, therefore, underestimate the number of mortalities resulting from disease (e.g., due to the number of uncollared wolves). Typically, infectious diseases (such as viruses and bacteria) are transmitted through direct contact (e.g., feces, urine, or saliva) with an infected animal, by aerosol routes, or by physical contact with inanimate objects (fomites). Parasites are infective through water, food sources, or direct contact. Wolves are able to tolerate a number of parasites, such as tapeworms or ticks, although occasionally such organisms can cause significant disease, or even be lethal (Kreeger 2003, p. 202). Mexican wolves are routinely vaccinated for rabies virus, distemper virus, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus, and adenovirus before release to the wild from captive facilities. In addition, common dewormers and external parasite treatments are administered. Wolves captured in the wild are vaccinated for the same diseases and administered dewormers and external parasite treatments. Kreeger (2003, pp. 208–211) describes the transmission route and effect of these diseases on gray wolves and can be referenced for general information. Recent rules for the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf populations contain information from studies of disease occurrences in those geographic regions, and can also serve as a reference for a more comprehensive discussion of these (and other) diseases than that provided below (72 FR 6051, February 8, 2007; 73 FR 10513, February 27, 2008). E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2500 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Rabies, caused by a rhabdovirus, is an infectious disease of the central nervous system typically transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. Rabies can spread between infected wolves in a population (e.g., among and between packs), or between populations, resulting in severe population declines. Rabies is untreatable and leads to death. A rabies outbreak in and near the BRWRA began in 2006 in eastern Arizona and continued through 2009, with positive rabies diagnoses (fox variant) in both foxes and bobcats. No Mexican wolves in the BRWRA were diagnosed with rabies during this outbreak (Arizona Department of Health Services 2012; New Mexico Department of Health 2011) or throughout the history of the reintroduction. Canine distemper, caused by a paramyxovirus, is an infectious disease typically transmitted by aerosol routes or direct contact with urine, feces, and nasal exudates. Death from distemper is usually caused by neurological complications (e.g., paralysis, seizures), or pneumonia. Distemper can cause high fatality rates, though survivors are occasionally documented in canine populations. Distemper virus may have been a contributing factor to high levels of pup mortality in Yellowstone National Park during several summers (Smith and Almberg 2007, p. 18). Although wolf populations are known to be exposed to the virus in the wild, mortality from distemper in wild Mexican wolves is uncommon. However, we expect Mexican wolf pups, in general, would be most susceptible to death from distemper virus at a time period prior to when they are captured, collared, and vaccinated. Therefore, our collared sample of pups may not be accurately documenting this source of mortality. Distemper has been documented in one wild litter of Mexican wolves in the BRWRA. Two sibling Mexican wolf pups brought to a captive-wolfmanagement facility in 2000 from the wild were diagnosed with distemper (indicating they were exposed to the disease in the wild) and died in captivity (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC– 12). (Note: these captive deaths are not included in the BRWRA mortality statistics.) These are the only known mortalities due to distemper documented in relation to the current experimental population (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC–12). Canine parvovirus is an infectious disease caused by a parvoviridae virus that results in severe gastrointestinal and myocardial (heart disease) symptoms. Parvovirus is persistent in the environment and can be spread by VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 direct contact or viral particles in the environment. Symptoms of an infected adult animal may include severe vomiting and diarrhea, resulting in death due to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. Pups may die from myocardial (heart) disease if infected with canine parvovirus while in utero or soon after birth from cardiac arrhythmias. Although canine parvovirus has been documented in wild wolf populations, documented mortalities due to parvovirus are few; researchers hypothesize that parvovirus is a survivable disease, although less so in pups. Parvovirus is thought to have slowed various stages of colonization and dispersal of wolves in the greater Minnesota population (Mech et al. 2008, pp. 832–834). Parvovirus has been documented in one wild litter of wolves in the BRWRA. Three sibling Mexican wolf pups were documented having, and then dying from, parvovirus in 1999: One pup died in an acclimation release pen in the BRWRA, indicating it had been exposed to the disease in the wild (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC–12). The other two pups, which also may have been exposed to the disease in the wild, were transferred to, and died at, a prerelease captive facility and are considered captive mortalities. Mortality from canine parvovirus has otherwise not been documented in the BRWRA population. However, we expect pups, in general, to be most susceptible to death from parvovirus prior to when they are captured, collared, and vaccinated. Therefore, our collared sample of pups may not be accurately documenting this source of mortality. Three of 100 total documented Mexican wolf deaths in the BRWRA population between 1998 and 2013 have been attributed to disease: 1 to canine parvovirus, 1 to chronic bacterial pleuritis (bacterial infection around the lungs), and 1 to bacterial pneumonia. The pleuritis and pneumonia cases, though bacterial diseases, are likely both secondary to other unknown natural factors, rather than contagious, infectious diseases. Potential pup mortality caused by infectious disease may be poorly documented in the freeranging population because these pups are too young to radio collar and thus difficult to detect or monitor. In addition, collared animals are vaccinated, which reduces the potential for mortality to occur among collared wolves. We do not have evidence that disease was a significant factor in the decline of Mexican wolves prior to its protection by the Act in the 1970’s. However, we recognize that, in a general sense, PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 disease has the potential to affect the size and growth rate of a wolf population and could have a negative impact on the experimental population if the active vaccination program were not in place. We also recognize that some diseases are more likely to spread as wolf-to-wolf contact increases (Kreeger 2003, pp. 202–214), thus the potential for disease outbreaks to occur may increase as the current population expands in numbers or density, although the effect on the population may be lower because a larger wolf population would be more likely to sustain the epidemic. Absent the protection of the Act, the potential for disease to affect the Mexican wolf population would primarily depend on whether State wildlife agencies or other parties provided a similar level of vaccination to the population as that which we currently provide. In addition to disease, we must also assess whether predation is affecting the Mexican wolf now or in the future under factor C. In our assessment of predation, we focus on wild predators as well as illegal killing of Mexican wolves. Wild predators do not regularly prey on wolves (Ballard et al. 2003, pp. 259– 271). Although large prey may occasionally kill wolves during selfdefense (Mech and Peterson 2003, p. 134), this occurrence is rare and not considered predation on the wolf. Between 1998 and December 31, 2013, three documented Mexican wolf mortalities are attributed to predators (wolf, mountain lion, and unknown) (Service 2013, Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Population Statistics). This may be an underestimate (e.g., due to the number of uncollared wolves), but we still consider the overall incidence to be low based on the occurrences we have documented. Monitoring of Northern Rocky Mountain wolf populations demonstrates that wolf-to-wolf conflicts may be the biggest source of predation among gray wolves, but this typically occurs from territorial conflicts and has not occurred at a level sufficient to affect the viability of these populations (73 FR 10513; February 27, 2008). As the Mexican wolf population begins to saturate available habitat, wolf mortalities resulting from territorial conflicts may become more prevalent but this type of mortality is not currently a concern. We do not foresee any change in the occurrence of wild predation on Mexican wolves if the subspecies was not protected by the Act and, therefore, do not consider predation from wild predators to be affecting the Mexican wolf. E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Illegal mortalities have been the biggest source of Mexican wolf mortalities since the reintroduction began in 1998 (Service 2013: Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Statistics). Out of 100 wild wolf mortalities documented between 1998 and 2013, 55 deaths are attributed to illegal killing (55 percent of total mortalities). Documented illegal shootings have ranged from zero to seven per year between 1998 and December 2013, with one or more occurring every year with the exception of 1999. Illegal shooting has varied from no impact to the population (e.g., in 1999 when no illegal shootings were documented) to resulting in the known mortality of about 15 percent of the population in a given year (e.g., in 2001). Documented causes of illegal shooting in other gray wolf populations have included intentional killing and mistaken identity as a coyote or dog (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 181). We do not know the reason for each instance of illegal shooting of a Mexican wolf. We recognize that some wolf populations can maintain themselves despite sustained human-caused mortality rates of 17 to 48 percent (Fuller et al. 2003 [+/– 8 percent], pp. 184–185; Adams et al. 2008 [29 percent], p. 22; Creel and Rotella 2010 [22 percent], p. 5; Sparkman et al. 2011 [25 percent], p. 5; Gude et al. 2011 [48 percent], pp. 113–116; Vucetich and Carroll In Review [17 percent]) and that human-caused mortality sometimes replaces much of the wolf mortality in a population that would have occurred naturally (e.g., due to intraspecific strife from territorial conflicts occurring in populations that have saturated available habitat) (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 186). Regardless, for the Mexican wolf experimental population, we think it is likely that the majority of illegal shootings function as additive mortality (that is, these mortalities are in addition to other mortalities that occur, rather than compensatory mortality where the deaths from illegal shooting would substitute for deaths that would occur naturally) (Murray et al. 2010, pp. 2515, 2522). Illegal mortalities have a negative effect on the size and growth rate of the experimental population at its current small size, but the effect of these mortalities on the population has likely been masked to some degree by the number of captive Mexican wolves released into the wild over the course of the reintroduction effort. Additionally, we are unable to document all Mexican wolf mortalities (i.e., uncollared wolves) and, therefore, may be underestimating VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 the number of mortalities caused by illegal shooting. We expect that, absent the protection of the Act, killing of Mexican wolves would continue at current levels or, more likely, increase significantly because Federal penalties would not be in place to serve as a deterrent. Mexican wolves could be protected from take by State regulations in Arizona and New Mexico and Federal regulations in Mexico, but State penalties are less severe than Federal penalties (see a description and discussion of this under factor D), and Federal protection in Mexico does not infer protection for Mexican wolves in the United States. Based on the continuous occurrence of illegal shooting taking place while the Mexican wolf is protected by the Act and the likelihood of increased occurrences of wolf shooting absent the protection of the Act, we consider illegal killing of Mexican wolves to be significant to the population. We further consider the threat of illegal shooting to Mexican wolves in ‘‘Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative Effects,’’ which discusses this and other threats within the context of the small, geographically restricted and isolated experimental population. In Mexico, illegal killing of Mexican wolves released to the wild in between 2011 and 2013 has already been documented. Through August 2014, Mexico released a total of 14 adult Mexican wolves, of which 11 died or are believed dead, and 1 was removed for veterinary care. Of the 11 Mexican wolves that died or are believed dead, 6 were due to illegal killings (4 from poisoning and 2 were shot), 1 wolf was presumably killed by a mountain lion, 3 causes of mortality are unknown (presumed illegal killings because collars were found, but not the carcasses), and 1 disappeared (neither collar nor carcass has been found). The illegal killing of at least six Mexican wolves has significantly hindered Mexico’s initial efforts to establish a population; continued monitoring of the wolves Mexico releases in the future will be necessary to document whether these initial events were by chance or are indicative of a significant, ongoing threat to Mexican wolves in Mexico. Summary of Factor C Based on the low incidence of disease and mortality from wild predators, we do not consider these factors to be significantly affecting the Mexican wolf nor do we expect them to in the future. Illegal shooting has been a continuous source of mortality to the experimental population in the United States since its inception, and we expect that if PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2501 Mexican wolves were not protected by the Act the number of shootings would increase substantially in the United States. Therefore, we consider illegal shooting to be significantly affecting Mexican wolves in the United States. In Mexico, four wolves released in 2011 were illegally poisoned within months of their release to the wild, significantly hindering their reintroduction efforts. Illegal poisoning may affect the future Mexican wolf population in Mexico significantly if such events continue. Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms The Act requires us to examine the adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms with respect to those existing and foreseeable threats, discussed under the other factors that may affect the Mexican wolf. In this five-factor analysis, we consider illegal shooting (factor C), inbreeding (factor E), and small population size (factor E) to be significantly affecting Mexican wolves. We address regulatory mechanisms related to illegal shooting, as no regulatory mechanisms are available to address inbreeding or small population size beyond the overarching protection of the Act. As discussed in factor C, illegal killing (or ‘‘take,’’ as it is referred to in the Act) of Mexican wolves currently occurs at significant levels in both the United States and Mexico. In the United States, illegal shooting of Mexican wolves has been a continuous source of mortality over the course of the reintroduction project. In Mexico, illegal killing has resulted in a setback to the reestablishment of a population of Mexican wolves in the State of Sonora and the Western Sierra Madre; we are unsure of whether this threat will continue. The Act provides broad protection of listed subspecies to prohibit and penalize illegal take but has not been sufficient to deter all illegal killing of Mexican wolves in the United States. Section 9 of the Act (Prohibited acts) prohibits the take of any federally-listed species, subspecies, or DPS. Section 11 (Penalties and enforcement) provides civil penalties up to $25,000, and criminal penalties up to $50,000 and/or not more than 1 year in jail for knowing violations of section 9. Experimental populations are treated as if they are listed as threatened, which limits criminal penalties to up to $25,000 and imprisonment for not more than 6 months. All cases of suspected illegal take of Mexican wolves in the United States are investigated by the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement Special Agents. On- E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2502 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations the-ground personnel involved in preventing illegal take of a Mexican wolf and apprehending those who commit illegal take include Service Special Agents, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) Game Wardens, New Mexico Department of Fish and Game Conservation Officers, U.S. Forest Service special agents and Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs), San Carlos Apache Tribe LEOs, and White Mountain Apache Tribe LEOs. Specific actions to reduce illegal take include targeted patrols during high-traffic periods (hunting seasons and holidays); the ability to restrict human activities within a 1-mi (1.6-km) radius of release pens, active dens, and rendezvous sites; proactive removal of road kills to reduce the potential of wolves scavenging, which may result in vehicular collision or illegal take of a Mexican wolf; and monetary rewards for information that leads to a conviction for unlawful take of the subspecies. Of the 55 wolf mortalities classified as illegal mortalities between 1998 and 2013, only 4 individuals have been convicted and 1 individual has paid a civil penalty. If Mexican wolves were not protected by the Act, they would be protected by State regulations in Arizona and New Mexico, and by Federal law in Mexico. In Arizona, the Mexican wolf is managed as Wildlife of Special Concern (Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rules, Article 4, R12–4–401) and is identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (Tier 1a, endangered) (Species of Greatest Conservation Need 2006, pending). Species with these designations are managed under the AGFD’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Management program, which seeks to protect, restore, preserve, and maintain such species. These provisions, i.e., the Species of Greatest Conservation Need list and the Wildlife of Special Concern list, are nonregulatory. However, Arizona Revised Statute Title 17 establishes AGFD with authority to regulate take of wildlife in the State of Arizona. ‘‘Take’’ (to pursue, shoot, hunt, trap, kill, capture, snare, or net) of wildlife in Arizona on lands under the authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission is prohibited, unless a provision (e.g., Commission Order, special rule, permit) is made to allow take. Penalties for illegal take or possession of wildlife can include revocation of hunting license or civil penalties up to $8,000 depending on its classification as established through annual regulations. In New Mexico, the Mexican wolf is listed as endangered (Wildlife Conservation Act, pp. 17–2–37 through 17–2–46 NMSA 1978). Pursuant to the VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 Wildlife Conservation Act, it is unlawful to take, possess, transport, export, process, sell or offer for sale, or ship any State or Federal endangered species or subspecies (17–2–41 NMSA). Penalties for violating the provisions of 17–2–41 may include fines of up to $1,000 or imprisonment. In Mexico, several legal provisions provide regulatory protection for the Mexican wolf. The Mexican wolf is classified as ‘‘E’’ (‘‘probably extinct in the wild’’) by the Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM–059–SEMARNAT– ´ 2010, ‘‘Proteccion ambiental–Especies ´ nativas de Mexico de flora y fauna ´ silvestres–Categorıas de riesgo y ´ especificaciones para su inclusion, ´ exclusion o cambio–Lista de especies en riesgo’’ (NOM–059–SEMARNAT–2010), which is a list of species and subspecies at risk. This regulation does not directly provide protection of the listed species or subspecies; rather it includes the criteria for downlisting, delisting, or including a species, subspecies, or population on the list. The General Wildlife Law (‘‘Ley General de Vida Silvestre,’’ 2000, as amended), however, has varying restrictions depending on risk status that apply only to species or subspecies that are listed in the NOM– 059–SEMARNAT–2010. ´ Mexico’s Federal Penal Law (‘‘Codigo Penal Federal’’ published originally in 1931) Article 420 assigns a fine of 300 to 3,000 days of current wage and up to 9 years prison to those who threaten the viability of a species, subspecies, or population, transport a species at risk, or damage a specimen of a species at risk. Administrative fines are imposed by an administrative authority (PROFEPA, ‘‘Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente,’’ or the Attorney General for Environmental Protection) and are calculated on the basis of minimum wage in Mexico City ($62.33 daily Mexican pesos). The fines established in the General Wildlife Law range from 1,246.60 to 311,650 Mexican pesos (approximately U.S. $98 to U.S. $24,400) for the four minor infractions, to a range of 3,116 to 3,116,500 Mexican pesos (approximately U.S. $244 to U.S. $244,400) for the other offenses, including the killing of a wolf. Penal fines are imposed by a judge and are calculated on the basis of the current daily wage of the offender including all their income. We have no information to suggest that, absent the Act’s protections, shooting of Mexican wolves in the United States would cease. Rather, we believe that shooting of Mexican wolves could increase, as State penalties (assuming wolves were granted protected status by the States) would be PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 less severe than current Federal penalties under the Act. Thus, existing State penalties in Arizona and New Mexico would not serve as an adequate deterrent to illegal take. The illegal killing of at least four wolves in Mexico (see factor C) between 2011 and 2014 suggests that Federal penalties in Mexico may not be an adequate deterrent to illegal take there, although Federal fines in Mexico are potentially higher than those available under the Act in the United States. The adequacy of these penalties to address overutilization (factor B) is not an issue, as instances of overutilization do not occur or are exceedingly rare and, therefore, do not significantly affect the Mexican wolf. Summary of Factor D Regulatory mechanisms to prohibit and penalize illegal killing exist under the Act, but illegal shooting of wild Mexican wolves in the United States persists. We conclude that, absent the protection of the Act, killing of wolves in the United States would increase, potentially drastically, because State penalties are less severe than current Federal penalties. In regards to regulatory protection for the Mexican wolf in Mexico, the recent poisoning of several reintroduced wolves suggests that illegal killing may be a challenge for that country’s reintroduction efforts as well. Thus, in the absence of the Act, existing regulatory mechanisms will not act as an effective deterrent to the illegal killing of Mexican wolves in the United States, and this inadequacy will significantly affect the Mexican wolf. Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence We document sources of mortality in six categories as part of our ongoing monitoring of Mexican wolves in the experimental population: Illegal Killing, Vehicle Collision, Natural, Other, Unknown, and Awaiting Necropsy. In factor C, we assessed illegal shooting in the United States, disease, and predation (our mortality category ‘‘Natural’’ includes disease and predation). In factor E, we assess the impacts to the Mexican wolf from the remaining sources of mortality—Vehicle Collision, Natural, Other, and Unknown. As stated in our discussions of disease, predation, and illegal shooting, we may not be documenting all mortalities to the population because mortality of uncollared wolves is not typically detected; similarly, we may underestimate the number of mortalities attributed to any one cause discussed below. We also assess intolerance of E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations wolves by humans, land-use conflicts, hybridization, inbreeding, climate change, and small population size. Our category of ‘‘Natural’’ causes of mortality includes a number of mortality sources, such as predation, starvation, interspecific strife, lightning strikes, and disease. Because we have documented three or fewer natural mortalities per year since 1998, we do not consider natural mortalities to be occurring at a level, individually or collectively, that significantly affects the Mexican wolf (and see factor C for additional discussion of disease and predation) (Service 2013: Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Statistics). Therefore, we do not further discuss these ‘‘Natural’’ causes of mortality. Similarly, mortalities caused by ‘‘Other’’ sources of mortality, which also includes several sources of mortality (capture-related mortalities, public-trap mortality, legal public shooting, etc.) and ‘‘Unknown’’ causes are occurring at very low levels (5 of 100 mortalities, and 8 of 100 mortalities, respectively) and are not occurring at a level that significantly affects the Mexican wolf. Vehicular collision has accounted for 14 percent of Mexican wolf mortalities from 1998 to December 31, 2013 (14 out of 100 total documented Mexican wolf deaths) (Service 2013: Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Statistics). Thirteen out of 14 Mexican wolf mortalities attributed to vehicular collision throughout the course of the reintroduction (through December 31, 2013) occurred along paved U.S. or State highways; one wolf died on a Forest Service dirt road as a result of vehicle collision. The number of vehicular-related mortalities, which has ranged from zero to two per year, with the exception of a high of four vehicular-related wolf deaths in 2003, has not shown a trend (increasing or decreasing) over time. Given the occurrence of these mortalities on highways, it is likely that these collisions were accidental events that occurred from vehicles traveling at relatively high speeds. We are cognizant that different types of roads present different levels of threats to Mexican wolves—paved roads with higher speed limits present more risk of wolf mortality due to vehicular collision than unpaved roads with lower speed limit. Roads, both paved and unpaved, in currently occupied Mexican wolf range in the Gila and Apache National Forests primarily exist to support forest management, livestock grazing, recreational access, resource protection, and transport of forest products on the National Forests (Service 1996, pp. 3– VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 13). National Forests contain various road types (paved, unpaved, opened, closed, etc.) and trails (motorized, nonmotorized), but are generally considered to be driven at relatively low speeds and have relatively low traffic volume. Non-Forest Service roads (e.g., highways and other paved roads) are limited in currently occupied range, and include portions of U.S Highways 191 and 180, and State Highways 260, 152, 90, 78, 32, and 12. U.S. highway 60 runs immediately to the north of this area. It has been recommended that areas targeted for wolf recovery have low road density of not more than 1 linear mile of road per square mile of area (1.6 linear km of road per 2.56 square kilometers; Thiel 1985, pp. 406–407), particularly during colonization of an area (Fritts et al. 2003, p. 301). Road density in the BRWRA was estimated at 0.8 mi road per mi2 (1.28 km road per km2) prior to the reintroduction (Johnson et al. 1992, p. 48). The U.S. Forest Service Southwest Region recently calculated road densities for the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests during analysis of alternatives to designate a system of roads, trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use in compliance with the Travel Management Rule. They did not assess road use in terms of a baseline of traffic volume or projections of traffic volume for the future. Both the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests continue to have an appropriately low density of roads for the Mexican wolf reintroduction effort, with no plans to increase road density in either Forest— road density in the Apache portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is estimated at 0.94 mi road per mi2 for all roads (1.5 km road per km2) (open, closed, decommissioned) and motorized trails, or 0.43 mi road per mi2 (0.69 km road per km2) for open roads and motorized trails (USDA 2010a, p. 102); road density in the Gila National Forest is estimated at 1.02 mi per mi2 (1.64 km per km2) for open and closed (but not decommissioned) roads and motorized trails (an overall average of 0.99 mi per mi2 (1.59 km per km2) (USDA 2010b, p. 149). Therefore, these Forests provided Mexican wolf habitat with appropriately low road density for establishment (colonization) of the experimental population. The revised MWEPA includes the addition of the Sitgreaves National Forest, Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest, and Tonto, Payson, and Pleasant Valley Ranger Districts of the Tonto National Forest to the Gila and Apache National Forests as Zone 1, the area in which we will primarily conduct initial releases; these PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2503 Forests have appropriately low road densities compared with non-Forest Service land to support these management activities (Service 2014, Ch 3, p. 2). In Zone 2, which comprises a wider matrix of habitat quality than Zone 1, including areas of substantially higher road density of paved, highspeed roads, we recognize that wolf morality due to vehicular collision may increase. However, we do not have any data to determine the degree to which this may occur or whether it will significantly affect the Mexican wolf. In summary, Mexican wolf mortalities from vehicular collision show a strong pattern of occurrence on high-speed paved State or U.S. Highways rather than on Forest Service roads, and are currently occurring at relatively low levels (two or fewer mortalities per year, with the exception of 1 year in which four mortalities were attributed to vehicular collision). We consider it possible that wolf mortalities due to vehicular collision may increase in the future as Mexican wolves will be allowed to disperse beyond the Gila and Apache National Forests into areas with higher road density within the MWEPA. We will continue to document wolf mortality due to vehicular collision to determine whether this becomes significant. In absence of Federal protection, we would not expect that incidence rate of wolf-vehicular collision to change, due to the accidental nature of these incidents. Therefore, with or without the protections of the Act, we conclude that vehicular collisions, considered in isolation of other sources of mortality, are not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. We further consider the significance of these mortalities in Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative Effects. Intolerance by Humans—Human attitudes have long been recognized as a significant factor in the success of gray wolf recovery efforts to the degree that it has been suggested that recovery may depend more on human tolerance than habitat restoration (see Boitani 2003, p. 339, Fritts et al. 2003; Mech 1995). In the Southwest, extremes of public opinion vary between those who strongly support or oppose the recovery effort. Support may stem from such feelings as an appreciation of the Mexican wolf as an important part of nature and an interest in endangered species restoration, while opposition may stem from negative social or economic consequences of wolf reintroduction, general fear and dislike of wolves, or Federal land-use conflicts. Public polling data in Arizona and New Mexico shows that most E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2504 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations respondents have positive feelings about wolves and support the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf to public land (Research and Polling 2008a, p. 6, Research and Polling 2008b, p. 6). These polls targeted people statewide in locations outside of the reintroduction area, and thus provide an indication of regional support. In any case, there is no direct evidence to indicate that intolerance by humans of Mexican wolves will result in increased illegal killings. Without additional information, we are unable to confirm whether, or the degree to which, disregard for or opposition to the reintroduction project is a causative factor in illegal killings. Similarly, in Mexico, we do not know whether the illegal poisoning of four reintroduced Mexican wolves was purposeful and stemmed from opposition to the reintroduction or rather was targeted more generally at (other) predators. We recognize that humans can be very effective at extirpating wolf populations if human-caused mortality rates continue at high levels over time, as demonstrated by the complete elimination of Mexican wolves across the Southwest and Mexico prior to the protection of the Act. At this time, however, we do not have enough information to determine whether, or the degree to which, intolerance by humans may pose a threat to the Mexican wolf. Land-Use Conflicts—Historically, land-use conflict between Mexican wolves and livestock producers was a primary cause of the wolf’s endangerment due to human killing of wolves that depredated livestock. At the outset of the reintroduction effort, the amount of permitted grazing in the recovery area was identified as a possible source of public conflict for the project due to the potential for wolves to depredate on livestock (Service 1996, p. 4–4). Since the reintroduction project began in 1998, 73 Mexican wolves have been removed from the wild due to livestock depredation, reaching a high of 16 and 19 removals in 2006 and 2007, respectively (Service 2013 Mexican Wolf Blue Range Project Statistics). Since 2007, the Service, other State, Federal, and tribal agencies, private parties, and livestock producers have increased proactive efforts (e.g., hazing, fencing, range riders) to minimize depredations, resulting in fewer removals from 2008 to 2013 than in the first 10 years of the program. Since 2007, we removed one Mexican wolf in 2012 and two Mexican wolves in 2013 from the experimental population due to confirmed livestock depredation (Service 2013 Mexican Wolf Blue Range VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 Project Statistics). While recognizing that management removals must be part of an overall management scheme that promotes the growth of the experimental population, the Service is committed to actively managing depredating Mexican wolves to improve human tolerance. Furthermore, the Service, in cooperation with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, established the Mexican Wolf/Livestock Interdiction Trust Fund (Trust Fund), which was founded on September 23, 2009. The objective of the Trust Fund is to generate long-term funding for prolonged financial support to livestock operators with the framework of cooperative conservation and recovery of Mexican wolf populations in the Southwest. Funding is provided for initiatives that address management, monitoring, and proactive conservation needs for Mexican wolves related to livestock protection, measures to avoid and minimize depredation, habitat protection, species protection, scientific research, conflict resolution, compensation for damage, education, and outreach activities. The Trust Fund is overseen by the Mexican Wolf/ Livestock Coexistence Council, an 11member group of ranchers, Tribes, county coalitions, and environmental groups that may identify, recommend, and approve conservation activities, identify recipients, and approve the amount of the direct disbursement of Trust Funds to qualified recipients. It is the current policy of the Coexistence Council to pay 100 percent of the market value of confirmed depredated livestock and 50 percent market value for probable kills. Based on these efforts, we conclude that land-use conflicts are not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. As noted above, since 2007 we removed three Mexican wolves from the experimental population due to confirmed livestock depredation (Service 2013 Mexican Wolf Blue Range Project Statistics). Also, when we remove Mexican wolves due to confirmed livestock depredation, many of the wolves are released back into a different part of the experimental population area where they are less likely to cause livestock depredations. We are able to manage problem Mexican wolves in a manner that does not significantly affect the experimental population. In the absence of protection by the Act, land-use conflicts would still occur in areas where Mexican wolves and livestock coexist. However, because the Mexican wolf is protected by State law in Arizona and New Mexico, we expect that livestock PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 producers and State agencies would continue to employ effective practices of hazing or other active management measures to reduce the likelihood of occurrence of depredation incidents. Therefore, we conclude that land-use conflicts are unlikely to significantly affect the Mexican wolf if it was not protected by the Act. Hybridization—Hybridization between wolves and other canids can pose a significant challenge to recovery programs (e.g., the red wolf recovery program) (Service 2007, pp. 10–11) because species in the Canis genus can interbreed and produce viable offspring. In the Mexican wolf experimental population, hybridization is a rare event. Three confirmed hybridization events between Mexican wolves and dogs have been documented since the reintroduction project began in 1998. In the first two cases, hybrid litters were humanely euthanized (Service 2002, p. 17, Service 2005:16.). In the third case, four of five pups were humanely euthanized; the fifth pup, previously observed by project personnel but not captured, has not been located and its status is unknown (BRWRA Monthly Project Updates, June 24, 2011, http:// www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf/CEBRWRA.cfm). No hybridization between Mexican wolves and coyotes has been confirmed through our genetic monitoring of coyotes, wolves, and dogs that are captured in the wild as part of regular management activities of canids in the wild. Our response to hybridization events has negated potential impacts to the BRWRA population from these events (e.g., effects to the genetic integrity of the population). Moreover, the likelihood of hybrid animals surviving, or having detectable impacts on wolf population genetics or viability, is low due to aspects of wolf sociality and fertility cycles (Mengel 1971, p. 334; Vila and Wayne 1999, pp. 195–199). We do not foresee any change in the likelihood of hybridization events occurring, or the potential effect of hybridization events, if the Mexican wolf was not protected by the Act; that is, hybridization events and effects would continue to be rare. Therefore, we conclude that hybridization is not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf population now nor is it likely to do so in the future. Inbreeding, Loss of Heterozygosity, and Loss of Adaptive Potential— Mexican wolves have pronounced genetic challenges resulting from an ongoing and severe genetic bottleneck (that is, a reduction in a population’s size to a small number for at least one generation) caused by its near E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations extirpation in the wild and the small number of founders upon which the captive population was established. These challenges include inbreeding (mating of close relatives), loss of heterozygosity (a decrease in the proportion of individuals in a population that have two different alleles for a specific gene), and loss of adaptive potential, three distinct but interrelated phenomena. When a population enters a genetic bottleneck, the strength of genetic drift (random changes in gene frequencies in a population) is increased and the effectiveness of natural selection is decreased. As a result, formerly uncommon alleles may drift to higher frequencies and become fixed (the only variant that exists), even if they have deleterious (negative) effects on the individuals that carry them. Conversely, beneficial alleles may become less common and even be lost entirely from the population. In general, rare alleles are lost quickly from populations experiencing bottlenecks. Heterozygosity is lost much more slowly, but the losses may continue until long after the population has grown to large size (Nei et al. 1975, entire). The extent of allele and heterozygosity loss is determined by the depth (the degree of population contraction) and duration of a bottleneck. Heterozygosity is important because it provides adaptive potential and can mask (prevent the negative effects of) deleterious alleles. Inbreeding can occur in any population, but is most likely to occur in small populations due to limited choice of mates. The potential for inbreeding to negatively affect the captive and reintroduced Mexican wolf populations has been a topic of concern for over a decade (Parsons 1996, pp. 113–114; Hedrick et al. 1997, pp. 65– 68). Inbreeding affects traits that reduce population viability, such as reproduction (Kalinowski et al. 1999, pp. 1371–1377; Asa et al. 2007, pp. 326– 333; Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365– 2371), survival (Allendorf and Ryman 2002, pp. 50–85), and disease resistance (Hedrick et al. 2003, pp. 909–913). Inbreeding is significant because it reduces heterozygosity and increases homozygosity (having two of the same alleles) throughout the genome. Inbreeding depression is thought to be primarily a result of the full expression of deleterious alleles that have become homozygous as a result of inbreeding (Charlesworth and Willis 2009, entire). In other words, rare deleterious alleles, or gene variants that have deleterious effects such as deformities, are more likely to be inherited and expressed in VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 an offspring of two related individuals than of unrelated individuals (that is, the offspring may be homozygous). Theory suggests that, although lethal alleles (those that result in the death of individuals with two copies) may be purged or reduced in frequency in small populations (Hedrick 1994, pp. 363– 372), many other mildly and moderately deleterious alleles are likely to become fixed in the population (homozygous in all individuals) with little or no reduction in the overall genetic load (amount of lethal alleles) (Whitlock et al. 2000, pp. 452–457). In addition, there is little empirical evidence in the scientific literature that purging reduces the genetic load in small populations. As previously described, Mexican wolves experienced a rapid population decline during the 1900s, as predator eradication programs sought to eliminate wolves from the landscape. Subsequently, a captive-breeding program was initiated. The McBride lineage was founded with three wolves in 1980. The Ghost Ranch and Aragon lineages were each founded by single pairs in 1961 and around 1976, respectively. These lineages were managed separately until the mid-1990s, by which time all three lineages had become strongly inbred. Inbreeding coefficients (f) (a measure of how closely related two individuals are) for McBride pups born in the mid-1990s averaged about 0.23—similar to inbreeding levels for offspring from outbred full sibling or parent–offspring pairs (f = 0.25). Inbreeding coefficients for Aragon and Ghost Ranch lineage pups born in the mid-1990s were higher, averaging 0.33 for Aragon pups and 0.64 for Ghost Ranch pups (Hedrick et al. 1997, pp. 47–69). Of the three lineages, only the McBride lineage was originally managed as a captive-breeding program to aid in the conservation of Mexican wolves. However, out of concern for the low number of founders and rapid inbreeding accumulation in the McBride lineage, the decision was made to merge the Aragon and Ghost Ranch lineages into the McBride lineage after genetic testing confirmed that this approach could improve the gene diversity of the captive population (Garcia-Moreno et al. 1996, pp. 376–389). Consequently, pairings (for mating) between McBride wolves and Aragon wolves and between McBride and Ghost Ranch wolves began in 1995 with the first generation (F1) of these pups born in 1997. Although the parents of these first generation wolves were strongly inbred, the offspring were expected to be free of inbreeding and free of the inbreeding depression. Fortyseven F1 wolves were produced from PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2505 1997 to 2002. Upon reaching maturity, the F1 wolves were paired among themselves, backcrossed with pure McBride wolves, and paired with the descendants of F1 wolves called ‘‘crosslineage’’ wolves to maintain gene diversity and reduce inbreeding in the captive population. Although there was slight statistical evidence of inbreeding depression among captive wolves of the McBride and Ghost Ranch lineages, the outbred F1 wolves proved to have far greater reproductive fitness than contemporary McBride and Ghost Ranch wolves (which were strongly inbred) as well as minimally inbred wolves from early in the McBride and Ghost Ranch pedigrees. Pairings between F1 wolves were 89 percent more likely to produce at least one live pup, and mean litter sizes for F1 × F1 pairs were more than twice as large as contemporary McBride pairings (7.5 vs 3.6 pups per litter; Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365–2371). The large increases in reproductive fitness among F1 wolves suggested that the McBride and Ghost Ranch lineages were suffering from a large fixed genetic load of deleterious alleles. In other words, McBride and Ghost Ranch wolves had accumulated identical copies of gene variants that had negative effects on their health or reproductive success at many locations (loci) throughout their genome. In addition, pups born to cross-lineage dams (mother wolves) had up to 21 percent higher survival rates to 180 days than contemporary McBride lineage pups (Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365– 2371). Although the F1 wolves had high reproductive fitness, strong inbreeding depression among cross-lineage wolves in captivity has been documented. Inbreeding levels of both dams and sires (mother and father wolves, respectively) were found to negatively affect the probability that a pair would produce at least one live pup. For example, the estimated probabilities of a pair producing at least one live pup dropped from 0.96 for F1 × F1 pairs (with no inbreeding in the dam and sire) to 0.40 for pairs with a mean inbreeding coefficient of 0.15 (Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365–2371). Consistent with the finding that inbreeding levels of sires affected the probability of producing at least one live pup, Asa et al. (2007, pp. 326–333) found that two measures of semen quality, sperm cell morphology and motility of sperm cells, declined significantly as inbreeding levels increased. Among pairs that produced at least one live pup, increases of 0.1 in the inbreeding coefficients of both the dam and pups E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2506 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations was estimated to reduce litter size by 2.8 pups. Inbreeding levels of the pups were found to have about twice the detrimental effect as inbreeding in the dam, suggesting that inbreeding accumulation in pups was causing pups to die prior to being born (Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365–2371). As of July 2014, the captive population of Mexican wolves consisted of 258 wolves, of which 33 are reproductively compromised or have very high inbreeding coefficients, leaving 225 wolves as the managed population (Siminski and Spevak 2014). The age structure of the population, however, is heavily skewed, with wolves 7 years old and older comprising about 62 percent of the population— meaning that most of the population is composed of old wolves who will die within a few years. This age structure, which has resulted from the high reproductive output of the F1 wolves and their descendants in captivity, the combination of few releases of captiveborn wolves to the wild in recent years, removal of wolves from the wild population to captivity, and limited pen space for pairings, means that additional gene diversity will be lost as the captive population continues to age (R. Fredrickson, pers. comm., 2014). The SSP strives to minimize and slow the loss of gene diversity of the captive population but (due to the limited number of founders) cannot increase it. As of 2014, the gene diversity of the captive program was 83.36 percent of the founding population, which falls below the average mammal SSP (93 percent) and below the recognized SSP standard to maintain 90 percent of the founding population diversity. Below 90 percent, the SSP states that reproduction may be compromised by low birth weight, smaller litter sizes, and related issues. Representation of the Aragon and Ghost Range lineages in 2014 was 17.94 percent and 20.07 percent, respectively (Siminski and Spevak 2014, p. 8). More specifically, the representation of the seven founders is very unequal in the captive population, ranging from about 30 percent for the McBride founding female to 4 percent for the Ghost Ranch founding male. Unequal founder contributions lead to faster inbreeding accumulation and loss of founder alleles. The captive population is estimated to retain only 3.00 founder genome equivalents, suggesting that more than half of the alleles (gene variants) from the seven founders have been lost from the population. With the current gene diversity of 83.36 percent and current space limitations of 300 captive Mexican VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 wolves, retaining 75 percent gene diversity for only 41 years from present is possible with the current generation length of 5.8 years in the captive population, population growth rate of l = 1.065, effective population size (Ne) of 26.96, and a ratio of effective to census size (Ne / N; that is, the number of breeding animals as a percentage of the overall population size) of 0.1266 (Siminski and Spevak 2014, p. 7). The genetically effective population size is defined as the size of an ideal population that would result in the rate of inbreeding accumulation or heterozygosity loss as the population being considered. The effective sizes of populations are almost always smaller than census sizes of populations. A rule of thumb for conservation of small populations holds Ne should be maintained above 50 to prevent substantial inbreeding accumulation, and that small populations should be grown quickly to much larger sizes (Ne ≥ 500) to maintain evolutionary potential (Franklin 1980, entire). The low ratio of effective to census population sizes in the captive population reflects the limitations on breeding (due to a lack of cage space) over the last several years, while the low effective population size is another indicator of the potential for inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity. The gene diversity of the experimental population of Mexican wolves can only be as good as the diversity of the captive population from which it is established. Based on information available in July 11, 2014, the genetic diversity of the wild population was 74.52 percent of the founding population (Siminski and Spevak 2014, pp. 9), with 5.36 percent and 14.56 percent representation of Aragon and Ghost Range lineages, respectively. At the end of 2013, the minimum population in the Mexican wolf experimental population was 83 Mexican wolves, but the experimental population is a poor representative of the genetic variation remaining in the captive population. Founder representation in the experimental population is more strongly skewed than in the captive population. Mean inbreeding levels are 65 percent greater, and founder genome equivalents are 35 percent lower than in the captive population. In addition, the estimated relatedness of the Mexican wolf experimental population is on average 65 percent greater than that in the captive population (population mean kinship: 0.2548 versus 0.1664; Siminski & Spevak 2014, p. 9). Without substantial management action to PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 improve the genetic composition of the population, inbreeding will accumulate and heterozygosity and alleles will be lost much faster than in the captive population. There is evidence of strong inbreeding depression in the Mexican wolf experimental population. Fredrickson et al. (2007, pp. 2365–2371) estimated that the mean observed litter size (4.8 pups for pairs producing pups with no inbreeding) was reduced on average by 0.8 pups for each 0.1 increase in the inbreeding coefficient of the pups. For pairs producing pups with inbreeding coefficients of 0.20, the mean litter size was estimated to be 3.2 pups. Computer simulations of the experimental population incorporating the Mexican wolf pedigree suggest that this level of inbreeding depression may substantially reduce the viability of the experimental population (Carroll et al. 2014, p. 82). The recent history of Mexican wolves can be characterized as a severe genetic bottleneck that began no later than the founding of the Ghost Ranch lineage in 1960. The founding of the three lineages along with their initial isolation likely resulted in the loss of most rare alleles and perhaps even some moderately common alleles. Heterozygosity loss was accelerated as a result of rapid inbreeding accumulation. The merging of the captive lineages likely slowed the loss of alleles and heterozygosity, but did not end it. The consequences to Mexican wolves of the current genetic bottleneck will be future populations that have reduced fitness (for example, smaller litter sizes, lower pup survival) due to inbreeding accumulation and the full expression of deleterious alleles. The loss of alleles will limit the ability of future Mexican wolf populations to adapt to environmental challenges. Based on data from the SSP documenting loss of genetic variation, research documenting viability-related inbreeding effects in Mexican wolves, and our awareness that the wild population is at risk of inbreeding due to its small size, we conclude that inbreeding, and loss of heterozygosity, and loss of adaptive potential are significantly affecting Mexican wolves and are likely to continue to do so in the future. If the Mexican wolf was not protected by the Act, these risks would remain, and may increase if States or other parties did not actively promote genetic diversity in the experimental population by releasing wolves with appropriate genetic ancestry to the population. Small Population Size—Rarity may affect the viability (likelihood of extinction or persistence over a given time period) of a subspecies depending E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations on the subspecies’ biological characteristics and threats acting upon it. We consider several types of information to determine whether small population size is affecting the Mexican wolf, including historical conditions, consideration of stochastic (or, chance) events, theoretical recommendations of population viability, and applied population-viability models specific to Mexican wolves. We discuss three types of stochastic events—demographic, environmental, and catastrophic—as the fourth type of stochastic event— genetic—is addressed under the subheading of Inbreeding. We further discuss the significance of small population size in Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative Effects, below. Historical abundance and distribution serve as a qualitative reference point against which to assess the size of the current population. Prior to European colonization of North America, Mexican wolves were geographically widespread throughout numerous populations across the southwestern United States and Mexico. Although we do not have definitive estimates of historical abundance, we can deduce from gray wolf population estimates (Leonard et al. 2005, p. 15), trapping records, and anecdotal information that Mexican wolves numbered in the thousands across its range in the United States and Mexico. We, therefore, recognize that the current size and geographic distribution of the Mexican wolf represents a substantial contraction from its historical (pre-1900s) abundance and distribution. Scientific theory and practice generally agree that a subspecies represented by a small population faces a higher risk of extinction (or a lower probability of population persistence) than a subspecies that is widely and abundantly distributed (Goodman 1987, pp. 11–31; Pimm et al. 1988, p. 757). One of the primary causes of this susceptibility to extinction is the sensitivity of small populations to random demographic events (Shaffer 1987, pp. 69–86, Caughley 1994, p. 217). In small populations, even those that are growing, random changes in average birth or survival rates could cause a population decline that would result in extinction. This phenomenon is referred to as demographic stochasticity. As a population grows larger and individual events tend to average out, the population becomes less susceptible to extinction from demographic stochasticity and is more likely to persist. Two Mexican wolf populationviability analyses were initiated VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 subsequent to the development of the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan but prior to the reintroduction of Mexican wolves into the experimental population in 1998 (Seal 1990 entire, IUCN 1996 entire, Service 2010, p. 66), although neither was completed. Population-viability modeling will be conducted as part of the development of draft recovery criteria; these results will be available to the public when the draft recovery plan is published. In the meantime, Carroll et al. (2014, p. 81) conducted a population viability model for Mexican wolves and found that the risk of extinction varied by both population size and the number of effective migrants per generation. The risk of extinction for population sizes below 200 was affected by the number of migrants, such that populations of 100 had a greater than 5 percent extinction risk, even with 3 effective migrants per generation, while populations of 125 were more secure with 2.5 to 3.0 effective migrants per generation, and populations of 150 were secure with greater than 0.5 effective migrants per generation (Carroll et al. 2014, p. 81). Given our understanding of the high extinction risk of the current size of the experimental population and our awareness that this rarity is not the typical abundance and distribution pattern for Mexican wolves, we consider the small population size of the Mexican wolf. At the end of 2013, the minimum population size was 83 Mexican wolves, meaning the experimental population is, by demographic measures, considered small and has a low probability of persistence (Shaffer 1987, p. 73; Boyce 1992, p. 487; Mills 2007, p. 101; Service 2010, pp. 63–68). Absent the protection of the Act, the extinction risks associated with small population size would remain, and may increase if Arizona or New Mexico does not actively support the experimental population through appropriate management measures. The vulnerability of a small population to extinction can also be driven by the population’s vulnerability to decline or extinction due to stochastic environmental or catastrophic events (Goodman 1987, pp. 11–31; Pimm et al. 1988, p. 757). While we consider these types of events to be critically important considerations in our recovery efforts for the subspecies, we have not identified any single environmental event (i.e., disease, climate change (below)) or catastrophic event (wildfire) to be significantly affecting Mexican wolf based on our current information and management practices (e.g., PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2507 vaccinations, monitoring). However, we reconsider the concept of vulnerability to these events below, in Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative Effects. Climate Change—Our analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms ‘‘climate’’ and ‘‘climate change’’ are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ‘‘Climate’’ refers to the mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2013, p. 1450). The term ‘‘climate change’’ thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 2013, p. 1450). Various types of changes in climate can have direct or indirect effects on the Mexican wolf. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative, and they may change over time, such as the effects of interactions of climate with other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation). In our analysis, we use our expert judgment to weigh relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of climate change. Research to investigate the possible impacts of climate change specifically on the Mexican wolf has not been conducted. Therefore, we base our analysis on pertinent information from the scientific literature related to Mexican wolf habitat and prey. Throughout their circumpolar distribution, gray wolves persist in a variety of ecosystems with temperatures ranging from ¥70 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (¥56 to 48 degrees Celsius) with wide-ranging prey type and availability (Mech and Boitani 2003, p. xv). Mexican wolves historically inhabited, and still inhabit, a range of southwestern ecotypes subsisting on large ungulate prey as well as small mammals Mexican wolves did not historically, (nor currently), inhabit extreme desert areas or semi-desert grasslands except potentially during dispersal movements (Service 2010, p. 39). Due to their plasticity and lack of reliance on microhabitat, we generally do not consider Mexican wolves to be highly vulnerable or sensitive to climate change (Dawson et al. 2011, p. 53). However, we recognize that climate change is already having detectable impacts on the ecosystems of the Southwest, and future changes could affect Mexican wolves or their prey. For E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2508 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations example, warmer temperatures, more frequent and severe drought, and reductions in snowpack, streamflows and water availability are projected across the southwestern US (Garfin et al. 2014, pp. 464–466). To the degree that warmer temperatures and increased aridity or decreased water availability (Dai 2011, p. 58) or any of these other conditions, limit prey abundance, we would also expect decreased Mexican wolf densities. Information suggests that ungulate prey populations in more xeric ecoregions in the Southwest may be impacted more negatively than those in wetter areas due to decreased forage quality and availability (deVoss and McKinney 2012, p. 19). However, Mexican wolves are associated with mid-to high-elevation montane forests and adjacent grasslands rather than areas with more xeric conditions. Reduced water in the system, due to reduced summer base flow in streams, and the earlier onset of summer lowflow conditions, may reduce or localize big game populations in the summer months; such changes have the potential to adversely affect the wolf within the next 50 to 100 years through reductions or distributional shifts in wild ungulate populations. Information also suggests that mule deer may be more susceptible to climate change impacts that alter vegetation patterns than elk (deVoss and McKinney 2012, pp. 16–19), but elk are currently a much more important source of prey for Mexican wolves than mule deer. Both Mexican wolves and their primary prey (elk) may exhibit reasonable adaptive capacity (Dawson et al. 2011, p. 53), such that they could shift habitats in response to changing climatic conditions or potentially persist in place. Elk, which make up approximately 77 to 80 percent of the Mexican wolf’s diet in the experimental population, are known to be habitat generalists due to their association with wide variation in environmental conditions (Kuck 1999, p. 1). Both positive and negative impacts to elk from climate change have been hypothesized in the literature, although no specific regional research has been conducted (deVoss and McKinney 2012, p. 18). For example, if climate change results in decreased winter snow pack in the Colorado Plateau Region (which includes central Arizona and New Mexico), elk populations could expand in number due to milder winters and increased forage availability (National Wildlife Federation 2013, p. 14). Conversely, if migratory elk herds stop migrating in response to milder winters, increased elk densities in some areas VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 could lead to higher levels of disease transmission between elk, which may increase mortality (ibid). With these types of positive and negative considerations in mind, several sources tentatively suggest that overall elk may respond favorably in range and population size to climate change (National Wildlife Federation 2013, p. 14, deVoss and McKinney 2012, p. 19). In Mexico, elk are not present as a source of prey for Mexican wolves. Therefore, the effects of climate change on deer populations could be important for the establishment and maintenance of a wolf population there. Seasonal decreases in precipitation and resulting changes in vegetation quality and availability could lead to the same type of impacts to ungulates as hypothesized in the United States, such as range contraction or decreasing populations. However, as with Factors A–D and because our focus in this analysis is on currently occupied range, the absence of a Mexican wolf population in Mexico precludes analysis of climate change there. Therefore, based on the relatively low vulnerability and sensitivity of the Mexican wolf to changes in climate, and the potential for elk to respond favorably to climate change in this region, we conclude that climate change is not substantially affecting the Mexican wolf at the current time nor do we expect it to do so in the future. Summary of Factor E Inbreeding, loss of adaptive potential, loss of heterozygosity, and small population size are significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. Inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity have the potential to affect viability-related fitness traits in Mexican wolves and, therefore, to affect the persistence of the subspecies in the wild in the near term; loss of genetic variation (adaptive potential) significantly affects the likelihood of persistence of the Mexican wolf over longer timeframes. Absent the protection of the Act, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, and loss of adaptive potential would persist and possibly increase depending on whether the States or other parties undertook active promotion of the maintenance of gene diversity. The small size of the Mexican wolf experimental population results in a high risk of extinction due to the susceptibility of the population to stochastic demographic events. The minimum estimated population of 83 Mexican wolves at the end of 2013 is not a sufficient size to ensure persistence into the future. Absent the protection of the Act, small population PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 size would continue to significantly affect the Mexican wolf, or may increase if States or other parties did not actively support the experimental population through appropriate management measures. Intolerance by humans, landuse conflicts, hybridization, and climate change are not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf, nor are they expected to do so in the future. Vehicular collision is not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf; however, we expect that this source of mortality may increase in the future due to wolf dispersal and occupancy in areas of higher road density than currently occupied habitat. We do not have data to estimate how significant this may become. Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative Effects In the preceding review of the five factors, we found that the Mexican wolf is most significantly affected by illegal killing, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, and small population size. In absence of the Act’s protections, these issues would continue to affect the Mexican wolf, and would likely increase in frequency or severity. We also identify several potential sources of mortality or risk (disease, vehicular collision, wildfire, hybridization, etc.) that we do not currently consider to be significantly affecting the Mexican wolf due to their low occurrence, minimal impact on the population, or lack of information. However, we recognize that multiple sources of mortality or risk acting in combination have greater potential to affect the Mexican wolf than each factor alone. Thus, we consider how factors that, by themselves may not have a significant effect on the Mexican wolf, may affect the subspecies when considered in combination. The small population size of the Mexican wolf exacerbates the potential for all other factors to disproportionately affect the Mexican wolf. The combined effects of demographic, genetic, environmental, and catastrophic events to a small population can create an extinction vortex—an unrecoverable population decline—that results in extinction. Small population size directly and significantly increases the likelihood of inbreeding depression, which has been documented to decrease individual fitness, hinder population growth, and decrease the population’s probability of persistence. Small population size also increases the likelihood that concurrent mortalities from multiple causes that individually may not be resulting in a population decline (e.g., vehicular collisions, natural sources of mortality) E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 could collectively do so, depending on the population’s productivity, especially when additive to an already significant source of mortality, such as illegal shooting. Effects from disease, catastrophe, environmental conditions, or loss of heterozygosity that normally could be sustained by a larger, more resilient population have the potential to rapidly affect the size, growth rate, and genetic integrity of the small experimental population when they act in combination. Therefore we consider the combination of factors C, D, and E to be significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. Summary of Five-Factor Analysis We do not find habitat destruction, curtailment, or modification to be significantly affecting the Mexican wolf now, nor do we find that these factors are likely to do so in the future regardless of whether the subspecies is protected by the Act. The size and federally protected status of the National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico are adequate and appropriate for the reintroduction project. These National Forests provide secure habitat with an adequate prey base and habitat characteristics to support the current wolf population. The Wallow Fire and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, while catastrophic, were not sources of habitat modification, destruction, or curtailment that affected the Mexican wolf because there were no documented wolf mortalities during the fires, and prey populations are expected to increase in response to post-fire positive effects on vegetation. We do not find overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes to be significantly affecting the Mexican wolf because we have no evidence to indicate that legal killing or removal of wolves from the wild for commercial, recreational (i.e., hunting), scientific, or educational purposes is occurring. The killing of wolves for their pelts is not known to occur, and Mexican wolf researchrelated mortalities are minimal or nonexistent. Incidents of injuries and mortalities from trapping (for other animals) have been low. In absence of Federal protection, State regulations in Arizona and New Mexico, and Federal regulations in Mexico, could provide regulations to protect Mexican wolves from overutilization. Overutilization of Mexican wolves would not likely increase if they were not listed under the Act due to the protected status they would be afforded by the States and Mexico. Based on known disease occurrences in the current population and the active VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 vaccination program, we do not consider disease to be significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. Absent the protection of the Act, a similar vaccination program would need to be implemented by the States or other parties, or the potential for disease to significantly affect the Mexican wolf could increase. Predation (by nonhuman predators) is not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. No wild predator regularly preys on wolves, and only a small number of predator-related wolf mortalities have been documented in the current Mexican wolf experimental population. We do not consider predation likely to significantly affect the Mexican wolf in the future or if the subspecies was not protected by the Act. Illegal shooting is identified as significantly affecting the Mexican wolf and is a significant threat. Adequate regulatory protections are not available to protect Mexican wolves from illegal shooting without the protection of the Act. We would expect shooting of Mexican wolves to increase if they were not federally protected, as State penalties (assuming Mexican wolves were maintained as State-protected) are less than Federal penalties. Inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, and small population size are significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. We recognize the importance of the captive management program and the active reintroduction project and recovery program in addressing these issues. Absent the protection of the Act, their effects on Mexican wolf would continue, or possibly increase depending on the degree of active management provided by the States or other parties. Vehicular collisions, intolerance by humans, land-use conflicts, hybridization, and climate change are not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf, nor are they expected to do so in the near future or if the Mexican wolf was not protected by the Act. Climate change is not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf nor would it do so in the absence of the Act’s protections. The effects of climate change may become more pronounced in the future, but as is the case with all stressors that we assess, even if we conclude that a species or subspecies is currently affected or is likely to be affected in a negative way by one or more climate-related impacts, it does not necessarily follow that these effects are significant to the species or subspecies. The habitat generalist characteristics of the wolf and their primary prey, elk, lead us to conclude PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 2509 that climate change will not significantly affect the Mexican wolf in the future. The cumulative effects of factors that increase mortality and decrease genetic diversity are significantly affecting the Mexican wolf, particularly within the context of its small population size (a characteristic that significantly decreases the probability of a population’s persistence). The cumulative effects of these threats are significantly affecting the Mexican wolf at the current time and likely will continue to do so in the future. Absent the protection of the Act, the cumulative effects of these threats may increase due to the potential for more killing of Mexican wolves, increased risk of inbreeding, and other sources of mortality, all exacerbated by the Mexican wolf’s small population size. Determination Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species, subspecies, or DPS based on (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the Mexican wolf and have determined that the subspecies warrants listing as endangered throughout its range. As required by the Act, we considered the five potential threat factors to assess whether the Mexican wolf is endangered or threatened throughout its range. Based on our analysis, we find that the Mexican wolf is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range due to small population size, illegal killing, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity and adaptive potential, and the cumulative effect of all threats. Also, existing regulatory mechanisms are not adequate to ensure the survival of the Mexican wolf. Our finding that the Mexican wolf is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range is consistent with our administrative approach to determining which subspecies are on the brink of extinction and, therefore, warrant listing E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 2510 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations as endangered. Prior to the early 1900s, the Mexican wolf was distributed over a large geographic area that included portions of the Southwest and much of Mexico. The Mexican wolf was nearly eliminated in the wild by the mid1900’s due to predator eradication efforts, which led to its listing as an endangered subspecies in 1976 and again as part of the species-level gray wolf listing in 1978. Therefore, the Mexican wolf is a subspecies that was formerly widespread but was reduced to such critically low numbers and restricted range (i.e., eliminated in the wild) that it is at high risk of extinction due to threats that would not otherwise imperil it. At the time of its initial listing, no robust populations of Mexican wolves remained in the wild. The establishment and success of the captive-breeding program temporarily prevented immediate absolute extinction of the Mexican wolf and, by producing surplus animals, has enabled us to undertake the reestablishment of Mexican wolves in the wild by releasing captive animals into the experimental population. In the context of our current proposal to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies, we recognize that, even with these significant improvements in the Mexican wolf’s status, its current geographic distribution is a very small portion of its former range. Moreover, within this reduced and restricted range, the Mexican wolf faces significant threats that are intensified by its small population size. The Mexican wolf is highly susceptible to inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, and loss of adaptive potential due to the bottleneck created during its extreme population decline prior to protection by the Act, the limited number of and relatedness of the founders of the captive population, and the loss of some genetic material from the founders. The effects of inbreeding have been documented in Mexican wolves and require active, ongoing management to minimize. Mexican wolf mortality from illegal killing, as well as all other sources of mortality or removal from the wild experimental population, is occurring within the context of a small population. Smaller populations have low probabilities of persistence compared to larger, more geographically widespread populations. Absent the protection of the Act, illegal killing would likely increase dramatically, further reducing the population’s size and increasing its vulnerability to genetic and demographic factors, putting the Mexican wolf at imminent risk of extinction. These factors are occurring throughout the Mexican VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:46 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 wolf’s range in the wild, resulting in our determination that the subspecies warrants listing as endangered throughout its range. After a thorough review of all available information and an evaluation of the five factors specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, as well as consideration of the definitions of ‘‘threatened species’’ and ‘‘endangered species’’ contained in the Act and the reasons for delisting as specified in 50 CFR 424.11(d), we revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (50 CFR 17.11) by listing the Mexican wolf subspecies (Canis lupus baileyi) as endangered. The Mexican wolf is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range and thus warrants the protections of the Act. Listing the entire Mexican wolf subspecies means that all members of the taxon are afforded the protections of the Act regardless of where they are found. The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ‘‘in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range’’ and a threatened species as any species ‘‘that is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future.’’ We find that the Mexican wolf is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range due to illegal killing, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, small population size, and the cumulative effects of factors C, D, and E. Historically, the Mexican wolf was distributed across portions of the southwestern United States and northern and central Mexico. The subspecies may have also ranged north into southern Utah and southern Colorado within zones of intergradation where interbreeding with other gray wolf subspecies may have occurred (Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 15–16). The Mexican wolf was near extinction prior to protection by the Act in the 1970’s, such that the captive-breeding program was founded with only seven wolves. Although our recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf, which are still under way, have led to the reestablishment of a wild population in the United States, the single, small population of Mexican wolves would face an imminent risk of extinction from the cumulative effects of small population size, inbreeding, and illegal shooting, without the protection of the Act. Absent protection by the Act, regulatory protection, especially against illegal killing, would not be adequate to ensure the survival of the Mexican wolf. Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and commercial information, we list the Mexican wolf as endangered in accordance with sections PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act. We find that a threatened subspecies status is not appropriate for the Mexican wolf because of the contracted range, because the threats are occurring rangewide and are not localized, and because the threats are ongoing and expected to continue into the future. Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a subspecies may warrant listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The threats to the survival of the Mexican wolf occur throughout its range and are not restricted to any particular significant portion of that range. Accordingly, our assessment and proposed determination applies to the Mexican wolf throughout its entire range. Effects of the Rule This final rule lists the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. As a matter of procedure, in a separate but concurrent rulemaking published in this Federal Register, we also finalize the revision to the regulations for the nonessential experimental population of the Mexican wolf to ensure appropriate association of the experimental population with this Mexican wolf subspecies listing. Required Determinations National Environmental Policy Act We determined that an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement, as defined under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR part 1320, which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), require that Federal agencies obtain approval from OMB before collecting information from the public. This rule does not contain any new collections of information that require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. This rule will not impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements on state or local governments, individuals, businesses, or organizations. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2 2511 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes In accordance with the President’s memorandum of April 29, 1994, Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, and the Department of the Interior’s manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make information available to Tribes. We have coordinated with affected Tribes through correspondence and meetings in order to both (1) provide them with an understanding of the changes, and (2) to understand their concerns with those changes. We fully considered all of the comments on the proposed rule that were submitted by Tribes and Tribal members during the public comment period, and we addressed those concerns, new data, and new information where appropriate. References Cited A complete list of all references cited in this document is posted on http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–HQ–ES–2013–0073 and available upon request from the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, Albuquerque, NM (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Data Quality Act In developing this rule we did not conduct or use a study, experiment, or survey requiring peer review under the Data Quality Act (Pub. L. 106–554). Authors The primary authors of this rule are the staff members of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and Species Historic range Common name Vertebrate population where endangered or threatened * Holartic .................... * * U.S.A.: All of AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT and WV; and portions of AZ, IA, IN, IL, ND, NM, OH, OR, SD, UT, and WA as follows: (1) Northern AZ (that portion north of the centerline of Interstate Highway 40); (2) Southern IA, (that portion south of the centerline of Highway 80); (3) Most of IN (that portion south of the centerline of Highway 80); (4) Most of IL (that portion south of the centerline of Highway 80); (5) Western ND (that portion south and west of the Missouri River upstream to Lake Sakakawea and west of the centerline of Highway 83 from Lake Sakakawea to the Canadian border); (6) Northern NM (that portion north of the centerline of Interstate Highway 40); (7) Most of OH (that portion south of the centerline of Highway 80 and east of the Maumee River at Toledo); (8) Western OR (that portion of OR west of the centerline of Highway 395 and Highway 78 north of Burns Junction and that portion of OR west of the centerline of Highway 95 south of Burns Junction); (9) Western SD (that portion south and west of the Missouri River); (10) Most of Utah (that portion of UT south and west of the centerline of Scientific name recordkeeping requirements, Transportation. Regulation Promulgation For the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Service amends 50 CFR part 17 as follows: PART 17—[AMENDED] 1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 1531– 1544; and 4201–4245, unless otherwise noted. 2. Amend § 17.11(h) in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under Mammals by: ■ a. Revising the entry for ‘‘Wolf, gray (Canis lupus)’’; and ■ b. Adding two entries for ‘‘Wolf, Mexican (Canis lupus baileyi)’’ in alphabetic order. The revision and additions read as follows: ■ § 17.11 Endangered and threatened wildlife. * * * (h) * * * Status * When listed * Critical habitat Special rules Mammals rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 * Wolf, gray ................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 * Canis lupus ............. 17:39 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 * E E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM * 1, 6, 13, 15, 35 16JAR2 NA NA 2512 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Species Historic range Common name Scientific name Vertebrate population where endangered or threatened Status When listed Critical habitat Special rules Highway 84 and that portion of UT south of Highway 80 from Echo to the UT/WY Stateline); and (11) Western WA (that portion of WA west of the centerline of Highway 97 and Highway 17 north of Mesa and that portion of WA west of the centerline of Highway 395 south of Mesa). Mexico * Wolf, Mexican ........... * Canis lupus baileyi Wolf, Mexican ........... Canis lupus baileyi * * * * * Southwestern United States and Mexico. Southwestern United States and Mexico. * * * * Entire, except where included in an experimental population as set forth in 17.84(k). U.S.A. (portions of AZ and NM)—see 17.84(k). * * * This final rule, along with the public comments, environmental impact statement (EIS), and record of decision, are available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket No. FWS–R2–ES–2013–0056 or from the office listed in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sherry Barrett, Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; by telephone 505–761–4704; or by facsimile 505–346–2542. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. Further contact information can be found on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program’s Web site at http:// www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf/. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: [FR Doc. 2015–00441 Filed 1–15–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R2–ES–2013–0056; FXES11130900000–156–FF09E42000] RIN 1018–AY46 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision to the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Final rule. Executive Summary We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), revise the regulations for the nonessential experimental population of the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. This action is being taken in coordination with our final rule in this Federal Register to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. The regulatory revisions in this rule will improve the project to reintroduce a nonessential experimental population, thereby increasing potential for recovery of this species. DATES: This rule becomes effective February 17, 2015. Why we need to publish a rule. We are revising the regulations under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (Act or ESA) that established the experimental population of the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) to further its conservation by improving the effectiveness of the reintroduction project in managing the experimental population. We intend to do this by: (1) Modifying the geographic boundaries in which Mexican wolves are managed south of Interstate-40 in Arizona and New Mexico under section 10(j) of the Act; (2) modifying the management regulations that govern the initial release, translocation, removal and take of Mexican wolves; and (3) AGENCY: rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES2 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:57 Jan 15, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 * .......................... NA NA XN .......................... NA 17.84(k) * ADDRESSES: Dated: January 7, 2015. Stephen Guertin, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. * E * * issuing a permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act for management of Mexican wolves both inside and outside of the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA). Revisions to the regulations, which were promulgated in 1998, and the section 10(a)(1)(A) permit are needed because: (1) Under the current regulations we will not be able to achieve the necessary population growth, distribution, and recruitment that would contribute to the persistence of, and improve the genetic variation within, the experimental population; (2) there is a potential for Mexican wolves to disperse into southern Arizona and New Mexico from reintroduction areas in the States of Sonora and Chihuahua in northern Mexico; and (3) certain provisions lack clarity, are inadequate, or limit the efficacy and flexibility of our management of the experimental population of Mexican wolves. Also, this final rule is necessitated by a related action we are taking to classify the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. The Mexican wolf has been listed under the Act in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.11(h) as part of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) listing since 1978. Therefore, when we designated the Mexican wolf experimental population in 1998 (1998 Final Rule; 63 FR 1752, January 12, 1998), it corresponded to the gray wolf listing in even though it was specific to our Mexican wolf recovery effort. With this publication of the final rule to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies, we need to revise 50 CFR 17.11(h) such that the experimental population will be associated with the Mexican wolf subspecies listing rather than with the gray wolf species. E:\FR\FM\16JAR2.SGM 16JAR2

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 11 (Friday, January 16, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 2487-2512]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-00441]



[[Page 2487]]

Vol. 80

Friday,

No. 11

January 16, 2015

Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Status for 
the Mexican Wolf and Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental 
Population of the Mexican Wolf; Final Rules

Federal Register / Vol. 80 , No. 11 / Friday, January 16, 2015 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073; FXES11130900000-156-FF09E42000]
RIN 1018-AY00


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Status 
for the Mexican Wolf

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine 
endangered status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, 
for the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). The effect of this 
regulation will be to revise the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife by making a separate entry for the Mexican wolf. We are 
separating our determination on the listing of the Mexican wolf as 
endangered from the determination on our proposal regarding the 
delisting of the gray wolf in the United States and Mexico. This rule 
finalizes our determination for the Mexican wolf.

DATES: This rule becomes effective February 17, 2015.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov and http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/. 
Comments and materials we received, as well as some of the supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this rule, are available for public 
inspection at http://www.regulations.gov. All of the comments, 
materials, and documentation that we considered in this rulemaking are 
available by appointment, during normal business hours at: Mexican Wolf 
Recovery Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological 
Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; by 
telephone 505-761-4704; or by facsimile 505-346-2542.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sherry Barrett, Mexican Wolf Recovery 
Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological 
Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road, NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; by 
telephone 505-761-4704; or by facsimile 505-346-2542. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339. Further contact 
information can be found on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program's Web 
site at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Endangered Species Act 
(Act), a subspecies warrants protection if it is endangered or 
threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 
Listing a subspecies as endangered or threatened can only be completed 
by issuing a rule. We proposed to delist the gray wolf and maintain 
protections for the Mexican wolf by listing it as an endangered 
subspecies on June 13, 2013 (78 FR 35664). At this time, we are 
finalizing the proposal to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered 
subspecies. Elsewhere in this Federal Register, we are finalizing 
revisions to the regulations for the nonessential experimental 
population of the Mexican wolf.
    We note that the United States District Court for the District of 
Columbia recently vacated the final rule at 76 FR 81666 (December 28, 
2011) that removed protections of the Act from the gray wolf in the 
western Great Lakes. Humane Society v. Jewell, 2014 U.S. Dist. Lexis 
175846 (D.D.C. December 19, 2014). The court's action was based, in 
part, on its conclusion that the Act does not allow the Service to use 
its authority to identify distinct population segments (DPSs) as 
``species'' to remove the protections for part of a listed species. We 
have determined that the decision in Humane Society does not change our 
conclusions in this final rule. First, the district court's 
interpretation of the Act is in error, and is in any case not binding 
on particular matters not at issue in that case. Second, the action 
here is distinguishable from that in Humane Society. Here, the Service 
is not designating a DPS, but is taking an action with respect to a 
subspecies of a listed entity. In addition, the Service is not reducing 
protections for the Mexican wolf or delisting it, but instead is 
confirming that it is an endangered species.
    This rule will finalize the listing of the Mexican wolf as an 
endangered subspecies.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, a subspecies is determined 
to be endangered or threatened because of any of the following factors: 
(A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment 
of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or 
predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and 
(E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. 
We have determined the Mexican wolf meets the definition of an 
endangered subspecies primarily because of illegal killing, inbreeding, 
loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, small population 
size, and the cumulative effects of the aforementioned threats. Absent 
protection by the Act, regulatory protection would not be adequate to 
ensure the survival of the Mexican wolf.
    Peer review and public comment. Through the National Center for 
Ecological Analysis and Synthesis we sought comments from independent 
specialists to ensure that our designation is based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analyses. These peer reviewers were 
invited to comment on our listing proposal. We also considered all 
comments and information received during the public comment period.

Background

Previous Federal Actions for Mexican Wolves

    Gray wolves were originally listed as subspecies or as regional 
populations of subspecies in the contiguous United States and Mexico. 
We listed the Mexican gray wolf subspecies, Canus lupus baileyi, as 
endangered on April 28, 1976 (41 FR 17736), in the southwestern United 
States and Mexico.
    In 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978) 
classifying the gray wolf as an endangered population at the species 
level (Canis lupus) throughout the contiguous United States and Mexico, 
except for the Minnesota gray wolf population, which was classified as 
threatened. At that time, we considered the gray wolves in Minnesota to 
be a listable entity under the Act, and we considered the gray wolves 
in Mexico and the 48 contiguous United States other than Minnesota to 
be another listable entity (43 FR 9607 and 9610, respectively, March 9, 
1978). The separate subspecies listings thus were subsumed into the 
listings for the gray wolf in Minnesota and the gray wolf in the rest 
of the contiguous United States and Mexico.
    The 1978 listing of the gray wolf was undertaken to address changes 
in our understanding of gray wolf taxonomy, and recognize the fact that 
individual wolves sometimes disperse across subspecific boundaries, 
resulting in intergradation of neighboring populations. The 1978 rule 
also stipulated that ``biological subspecies

[[Page 2489]]

would continue to be maintained and dealt with as separate entities'' 
(43 FR 9609), and offered ``the firmest assurance that [the Service] 
will continue to recognize valid biological subspecies for purposes of 
its research and conservation programs'' (43 FR 9610, March 9, 1978).
    Accordingly, we implemented three gray wolf recovery programs in 
the following regions of the country: the Western Great Lakes 
(Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, administered by the Service's 
Great Lakes, Big Rivers Region), the Northern Rocky Mountains (Idaho, 
Montana, and Wyoming, administered by the Service's Mountain-Prairie 
Region and Pacific Region), and the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, 
Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico, administered by the Service's Southwest 
Region). Recovery plans were developed in each of these areas (the 
northern Rocky Mountains in 1980, revised in 1987; the Great Lakes in 
1978, revised in 1992; and the Southwest in 1982) to establish and 
prioritize recovery criteria and actions appropriate to the unique 
local circumstances of the gray wolf. A separate recovery effort for 
gray wolves formerly listed as Canis lupus monstrabilis was not 
undertaken because this subspecies was subsumed with the Mexican wolf, 
C. l. baileyi, and thus addressed as part of the recovery plan for the 
Southwest.
    In the Southwest, on August 11, 2009, we received a petition dated 
the same day from the Center for Biological Diversity requesting that 
we list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies or distinct 
population segment (DPS) and designate critical habitat under the Act. 
On August 12, 2009, we received a petition dated August 10, 2009, from 
WildEarth Guardians and The Rewilding Institute requesting that we list 
the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies and designate critical 
habitat under the Act. On October 9, 2012, we published a 12-month 
finding in the Federal Register stating that, because all individuals 
that constitute the petitioned entity already receive the protections 
of the Act, the petitioned action was not warranted at that time (77 FR 
61375).
    On February 29, 2012, we concluded a 5-year review of the Canis 
lupus listed entity, recommending that the entity currently described 
on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife should be revised to 
reflect the distribution and status of C. lupus populations in the 
contiguous United States and Mexico by removing all areas currently 
included in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) range except where 
there is a valid species, subspecies, or DPS that is threatened or 
endangered.
    On June 13, 2013 (78 FR 35664), we published a proposed rule to 
delist the gray wolf and maintain protections for the Mexican wolf by 
listing it as an endangered subspecies. Upon publication of the 
proposed rule, we opened the public comment period on the proposal. On 
September 5 and October 2, 2013, we announced public hearings on the 
proposed rule (78 FR 54614 and 78 FR 60813). The September 5 document 
also extended the public comment period for the proposed rule to 
October 28, 2013. Following delays caused by the Federal Government 
lapse in appropriations, the Service announced rescheduled dates for 
three of the public hearings, scheduled a fifth public hearing, and 
extended the public comment period for the proposed rule to December 
17, 2013 (78 FR 64192, October 28, 2013). On February 10, 2014 (79 FR 
7627), we reopened the public comment period on the proposal in 
conjunction with the submission of the peer review report. The comment 
period closed on March 27, 2014.

Subspecies Information

Taxonomy
    The Mexican wolf subspecies, Canis lupus baileyi, was originally 
described by Nelson and Goldman in 1929 as Canis nubilus baileyi, with 
a distribution of ``Southern and western Arizona, southern New Mexico, 
and the Sierra Madre and adjoining tableland of Mexico as far south, at 
least, as southern Durango (Nelson and Goldman 1929, pp. 165-166).'' 
Goldman (1944, pp. 389-636) provided the first comprehensive treatment 
of North American wolves, in which he renamed C. n. baileyi as a 
subspecies of lupus (i.e., C. l. baileyi) and shifted the subspecies' 
range farther south in Arizona. His gray wolf classification scheme was 
subsequently followed by Hall and Kelson (1959, pp. 847-851; Hall 1981, 
p. 932). Since that time, gray wolf taxonomy has undergone substantial 
revision, including a major taxonomic revision in which the number of 
recognized gray wolf subspecies in North America was reduced from 24 to 
5, with the Mexican wolf, C. l. baileyi, being recognized as a 
subspecies ranging throughout most of Mexico to just north of the Gila 
River in southern Arizona and New Mexico (Nowak 1995, pp. 375-397).
    Three published studies of morphometric variation conclude that the 
Mexican wolf is a morphologically distinct and valid subspecies. Bogan 
and Mehlhop (1983) analyzed 253 gray wolf skulls from southwestern 
North America using principal component analysis and discriminant 
function analysis. They found that the Mexican wolf was one of the most 
distinct subspecies of southwestern gray wolf (Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, 
p. 17). Hoffmeister (1986) conducted principal component analysis of 28 
skulls, also recognizing the Mexican wolf as a distinct southwestern 
subspecies (pp. 466-468). Nowak (1995) analyzed 580 skulls using 
discriminant function analysis. He concluded that the Mexican wolf was 
one of only five distinct North American gray wolf subspecies that 
should continue to be recognized (Nowak 1995, pp. 395-396).
    Genetic research provides additional validation of the recognition 
of the Mexican wolf as a subspecies. Studies have demonstrated that the 
Mexican wolf has unique genetic markers that distinguish the subspecies 
from other North American gray wolves. Garcia-Moreno et al. (1996, p. 
384) utilized microsatellite analysis to determine whether two captive 
populations of Mexican wolves were pure C. l. baileyi and should be 
interbred with the captive certified lineage population that founded 
the captive breeding program. They confirmed that the two captive 
populations were pure Mexican wolves and that they and the certified 
lineage were closely related. Further, they found that, as a group, the 
three populations were the most distinct grouping of North American 
wolves, substantiating the distinction of the Mexican wolf as a 
subspecies.
    Hedrick et al. (1997, pp. 64-65) examined data for 20 
microsatellite loci from samples of Mexican wolves, northern gray 
wolves, coyotes, and dogs. They concluded that the Mexican wolf was 
divergent and distinct from other sampled northern gray wolves, 
coyotes, and dogs. Leonard et al. (2005, p. 10) examined mitochondrial 
DNA sequence data from 34 wolves collected from 1856 to 1916 from the 
historical ranges of Canis lupus baileyi and Canis lupus nubilus. They 
compared these data with sequence data collected from 96 wolves in 
North America and 303 wolves from Eurasia. They found that the 
historical wolves had twice the diversity of modern wolves, and that 
two-thirds of the haplotypes were unique. They also found that 
haplotypes associated with the Mexican wolf formed a unique southern 
clade distinct from that of other North American wolves. A clade is a 
taxonomic group that includes all individuals that have descended from 
a common ancestor.
    In another study, von Holdt et al. (2011, p. 7) analyzed single 
nucleotide

[[Page 2490]]

polymorphisms genotyping arrays and found Canis lupus baileyi to be the 
most genetically distinct group of New World gray wolves. Chambers et 
al. (2012, pp. 34-37) reviewed the scientific literature related to 
classification of the Mexican wolf as a subspecies and concluded that 
this subspecies' recognition remains well-supported. Most recently, 
Cronin et al. (2014, p. 9) analyzed single nucleotide polymorphism 
genotyping arrays and found single nucleotide polymorphisms 
differentiation of Mexican wolves from other North American wolves. 
However, Cronin et al. (2014, p. 9) challenge the subspecies concept 
for North American wolves, including the Mexican wolf, based on their 
interpretation of other authors work (most notably Leonard et al. 2005 
relative to mtDNA monophyly (see southern clade discussion above)). 
Maps of the Mexican wolf's historical range are available in the 
scientific literature (Young and Goldman 1944, p. 414; Hall and Kelson, 
1959, p. 849; Hall 1981, p. 932; Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, p. 17; Nowak 
1995, p. 395; Parsons 1996, p. 106). The southernmost extent of Mexican 
wolf's range in Mexico is consistently portrayed as ending near Oaxaca 
(Hall 1981, p. 932; Nowak 1995, p. 395). Depiction of the northern 
extent of the Mexican wolf's pre-settlement range among the available 
descriptions varies depending on the authors' taxonomic treatment of 
several subspecies that occurred in the Southwest and their related 
treatment of intergradation zones. Recent research based on historical 
specimens suggests the Mexican wolf ranged into southern Utah and 
southern Colorado across zones of intergradation where interbreeding 
with northern gray wolf subspecies may have occurred (Leonard et al. 
2005, p. 11 and p. 15, insomuch as haplotype lu47 only had been 
documented to occur in Mexican wolves and was documented in a specimen 
in southern Colorado).
    Hall's (1981, p. 932, based on Hall and Kelson 1959) map depicted a 
range for the Mexican wolf that included extreme southern Arizona and 
New Mexico, with Canis lupus mogollonensis occurring throughout most of 
Arizona, and C. l. monstrabilis, Canis l. youngi, C. l. nubilus, and C. 
l. mogollonensis interspersed in New Mexico. Bogan and Mehlhop (1983, 
p. 17) synonymized two previously recognized subspecies of gray wolf, 
C. l. mogollonensis and C. l. monstrabilis, with the Mexican wolf, 
concluding that the Mexican wolf's range included the Mogollon Plateau, 
southern New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. This extended the 
Mexican wolf's range northward to central Arizona and central New 
Mexico through the area that Goldman (1944) had identified as an 
intergrade zone with an abrupt transition from the Mexican wolf to C. 
l. mogollensis. Bogan and Mehlop's analysis did not indicate a sharp 
transition zone between the Mexican wolf and C. l. mogollensis, rather 
the wide overlap between the two subspecies led them to synonymize the 
Mexican wolf and C. l. mogollensis.
    Hoffmeister (1986, p. 466) suggested that Canis lupus mogollonensis 
should be referred to as C. l. youngi, but maintained the Mexican wolf, 
C. l. baileyi, as a subspecies, stating that wolves north of the 
Mogollon Rim should be considered C. l. youngi. Nowak (1995, pp. 384-
385) agreed with Hoffmeister's synonymizing of C. l. mogollonensis with 
C. l. youngi, and further lumped these into C. l. nubilus, resulting in 
a purported northern historical range for Mexican wolf as just to the 
north of the Gila River in southern Arizona and New Mexico. Nowak 
(1995) and Bogan and Mehlhop (1983) differed in their interpretation of 
which subspecies to assign individuals that were intermediate between 
recognized taxa, thus leading to different depictions of historical 
range for the Mexican wolf.
    Subsequently, Parsons (1996, p. 104) included consideration of 
dispersal distance when developing a probable historical range for the 
purpose of reintroducing Mexican wolves in the wild pursuant to the 
Act, by adding a 200-mi (322-km) northward extension to the most 
conservative depiction of the Mexican wolf historical range (i.e., Hall 
and Kelson 1959). This description of historical range was carried 
forward in the Final Environmental Impact Statement ``Reintroduction of 
the Mexican Wolf within its Historic Range in the Southwestern United 
States'' in the selection of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area as a 
reintroduction location for Mexican wolves (Service 1996).
    Recent molecular genetic evidence from limited historical specimens 
supports morphometric evidence of an intergradation zone between 
Mexican wolf and northern gray wolves (Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 15-16). 
This research shows that, within the time period that the historical 
specimens were collected (1856-1916), a northern clade (i.e., group 
that originated from and includes all descendants from a common 
ancestor) haplotype was found as far south as Arizona, and individuals 
with southern clade haplotypes (associated with Mexican wolves) 
occurred as far north as Utah and Nebraska. Leonard et al. (2005, p. 
10) interpret this geographic distribution of haplotypes as indicating 
gene flow was extensive across the subspecies' limits during this 
historical period, and Chambers et al. (2012, p. 37) agree this may be 
a valid interpretation.
Subspecies Description
    The Mexican wolf is the smallest extant gray wolf in North America. 
Adults weigh 23 to 41 kg (50 to 90 lb) with a length of 1.5 to 1.8 m (5 
to 6 ft) and height at shoulder of 63 to 81 cm (25 to 32 in) (Brown 
1988, p. 119). Mexican wolves are typically a patchy black, brown to 
cinnamon, and cream color, with primarily light underparts (Brown 1988, 
p. 118). Solid black or white coloration, as seen in other North 
American gray wolves, does not exist in Mexican wolves. Basic life 
history for Mexican wolves is similar to that of other gray wolves 
(Mech 1970, entire; Service 1982, p. 11; Service 2010, pp. 32-41).
Historical Distribution and Causes of Decline
    Prior to the late 1800s, the Mexican wolf inhabited the 
southwestern United States and Mexico. In Mexico, Mexican wolves ranged 
from the northern border of the country southward through the Sierra 
Madre Oriental and Occidental and the altiplano (high plains) to the 
Neovolcanic Axis (a volcanic belt that runs east-west across central-
southern Mexico) (SEMARNAP 2000, p. 8), although wolf distribution may 
not have been continuous through this entire region (McBride 1980, pp. 
2-7). The Mexican wolf is the only subspecies known to have inhabited 
Mexico. In the United States, Mexican wolves (and, in some areas, Canis 
lupus nubilus and the previously recognized subspecies C. l. 
monstrabilis, C. l. mogollonensis, and C. l. youngi) inhabited montane 
forests and woodlands in portions of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas 
(Young and Goldman 1944, p. 471; Brown 1988, pp. 22-23) (see Taxonomy). 
In southern Arizona, Mexican wolves inhabited the Santa Rita, 
Tumacacori, Atascosa-Pajarito, Patagonia, Chiricahua, Huachuca, 
Pinaleno, and Catalina Mountains, west to the Baboquivaris and east 
into New Mexico (Brown 1983, pp. 22-23). In central and northern 
Arizona, the Mexican wolf and other subspecies of gray wolf were 
interspersed (Brown 1983, pp. 23-24). The Mexican wolf and other 
subspecies were present throughout New Mexico, with the exception of 
low desert areas, documented as numerous or persisting in areas 
including the Mogollon, Elk, Tularosa, Diablo and Pinos Altos

[[Page 2491]]

Mountains, the Black Range, Datil, Gallinas, San Mateo, Mount Taylor, 
Animas, and Sacramento Mountains (Brown 1983, pp. 24-25). Gray wolf 
distribution (of other subspecies) continued eastward into the Trans-
Pecos region of Texas and northward up the Rocky Mountains and to the 
Grand Canyon (Young and Goldman 1944, pp. 23, 50, 404-405), where 
intergradation between northern and southern wolf clades occurred 
(Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 11-15).
    Population estimates of gray wolves, and specifically Mexican 
wolves, prior to the late 1800s are not available for the southwestern 
United States or Mexico. Some trapping records and rough population 
estimates are available from the early 1900s, but do not provide a 
rigorous estimate of population size of Mexican wolves in the United 
States or Mexico. For New Mexico, a statewide carrying capacity 
(potential habitat) of about 1,500 gray wolves was hypothesized by 
Bednarz, with an estimate of 480 to 1,030 wolves present in 1915 (ibid, 
pp. 6, 12). Brown summarized historical distribution records for the 
wolf from McBride (1980, p. 2) and other sources, showing most records 
in the southwestern United States as being from the Blue Range and the 
Animas region of New Mexico (Brown 1983, p. 10). In Mexico, Young and 
Goldman (1944, p. 28) stated that from 1916 to 1918 the Mexican wolf 
was fairly numerous in Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila, although 
McBride comments that Mexican wolves apparently did not inhabit the 
eastern and northern portions of Coahuila, even in areas with seemingly 
good habitat (1980, p. 2).
    The 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan cautioned: ``It is important . 
. . not to accept unquestioningly the accounts of the 1800s and early 
1900s that speak of huge numbers of wolves ravaging herds of livestock 
and game . . . . The total recorded take indicates a much sparser 
number of wolves in the treated areas than the complaints of damage 
state or signify, even when one remembers that these figures do not 
reflect the additional numbers of wolves taken by ranchers, bounty-
seekers and other private individuals (Service 1982, p. 4).''
    Mexican wolf populations declined rapidly in the early and mid-
1900s, due to government and private efforts across the United States 
to kill wolves and other predators. By 1925, poisoning, hunting, and 
trapping efforts drastically reduced Mexican wolf populations in all 
but a few remote areas of the southwestern United States, and control 
efforts shifted to wolves in the borderlands between the United States 
and Mexico (Brown 1983, p. 71). Bednarz (1988, p. 12) estimated that 
breeding populations of Mexican wolves were extirpated from the United 
States by 1942. The use of increasingly effective poisons and trapping 
techniques during the 1950s and 1960s eliminated remaining Mexican 
wolves north of the United States-Mexico border, although occasional 
reports of wolves crossing into the United States from Mexico persisted 
into the 1960s. Wolf distribution in northern Mexico contracted to 
encompass the Sierra Madre Occidental in Chihuahua, Sonora, and 
Durango, as well as a disjunct population in western Coahuila (from the 
Sierra del Carmen westward). Leopold (1959, p. 402) found conflicting 
reports on the status of the Coahuila population and stated that wolves 
were likely less abundant there than in the Sierra Madre Occidental.
    When the Mexican wolf was listed as endangered under the Act in 
1976, no wild populations were known to remain in the United States or 
Mexico. McBride (1980, pp. 2-8) conducted a survey to determine the 
status and distribution of wolves in Mexico in 1977. He mapped 3 
general areas where wolves were recorded as still present in the Sierra 
Madre Occidental: (1) Northern Chihuahua and Sonora border (at least 8 
wolves); (2) western Durango (at least 20 wolves in 2 areas); and (3) a 
small area in southern Zacatecas. Although occasional anecdotal reports 
have been made during the last three decades that a few wild wolves 
still inhabit forested areas in Mexico, no publicly available 
documented verification exists. Several Mexican wolf individuals 
captured in the wild in Mexico became the basis for the captive-
breeding program that has enabled the reintroduction to the wild (see 
below, Current Distribution--In Captivity).
Current Distribution in the United States
    On January 12, 1998, we published a final rule in the Federal 
Register to establish the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area 
(MWEPA) in central Arizona, New Mexico, and a small portion of 
northwestern Texas (63 FR 1752). In March of 1998 we released 11 
Mexican wolves from the captive-breeding program to the wild. We have 
conducted additional initial releases or translocations of individuals 
and family groups into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) within 
the MWEPA through 2014. At the end of 2013, a single wild population of 
a minimum of 83 Mexican wolves (December 31, 2013, population count) 
inhabited the United States in central Arizona and New Mexico. Mexican 
wolves do not occupy the small portion of northwestern Texas included 
in the MWEPA. For more information regarding the MWEPA, please see 
Revision to the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental 
Population of the Mexican Wolf, which published elsewhere in this 
Federal Register.
    Mexican wolves associated with the MWEPA also currently occupy the 
Fort Apache Indian Reservation of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, 
adjacent to the western boundary of the BRWRA. Since 2000, an agreement 
between the Service and the White Mountain Apache Tribe permits the 
release, dispersal, and establishment of Mexican wolves onto the 
reservation, providing an additional 2,500 mi\2\ (6,475 km\2\) of high-
quality forested wolf habitat for the reintroduction (Service 2001, p. 
4). The White Mountain Apache Tribe does not make information about the 
number and location of Mexican wolves on the reservation publicly 
available.
    Detailed information on the status of the experimental population 
and the reintroduction project can be found in the 2001 to 2013 annual 
reports, the 2010 Mexican Wolf Conservation Assessment (Service 2010), 
and our online population statistics, available at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.
Current Distribution in Mexico
    In October 2011, Mexico initiated the reestablishment of Mexican 
wolves to the wild (see Historical Distribution) with the release of 
five captive-bred Mexican wolves into the San Luis Mountains just south 
of the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexico has continued to release animals into 
the wild during the past few years. Through August 2014, Mexico 
released a total of 14 adult Mexican wolves, of which 11 died or are 
believed dead, and 1 was removed for veterinary care. Of the 11 Mexican 
wolves that died or are believed dead, 6 were due to illegal killings 
(4 from poisoning and 2 were shot), 1 wolf was presumably killed by a 
mountain lion, 3 causes of mortality are unknown (presumed illegal 
killings because collars were found, but not the carcasses), and 1 
disappeared (neither collar nor carcass has been found). The remaining 
two adult Mexican wolves were documented with five pups in 2014, 
marking the first successful reproductive event in Mexico. We expect 
the number of Mexican wolves in Mexico to fluctuate from zero to 
several packs in or around Sonora, Durango, and Chihuahua in the near 
future.

[[Page 2492]]

In Captivity
    Due to the extirpation of Mexican wolves in the United States and 
Mexico, the first step in the recovery of the subspecies was the 
development of a captive-breeding population to ensure the Mexican wolf 
did not go extinct. Between 1977 and 1980, a binational captive-
breeding program between the United States and Mexico, referred to as 
the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP), was initiated with the 
capture of the last known Mexican wolves in the wild in Mexico and 
subsequent addition of wolves from captivity in Mexico and the United 
States. The individual unrelated seven wolves used to establish the 
captive-breeding program are considered the ``founders'' of the 
breeding population. These pure Mexican wolves represent three distinct 
lineages (family groups): McBride (also known as the Certified lineage; 
three individuals), Ghost Ranch (two individuals), and Aragon (two 
individuals). From the breeding of these 7 Mexican wolves and 
generations of their offspring, the captive population has expanded to 
its current size of 248 Mexican wolves in 55 facilities in the United 
States and Mexico (Siminski and Spevak 2014).
    The purpose of the SSP is to reestablish Mexican wolves in the wild 
through captive breeding, public education, and research. This captive 
population is the sole source of Mexican wolves available to 
reestablish the subspecies in the wild and is imperative to the success 
of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project and any additional efforts 
to reestablish the subspecies that may be pursued in the future in 
Mexico by the General del Vida Silvestre or by the Service in the 
United States.
    Captive Mexican wolves are routinely transferred among the zoos and 
other SSP holding facilities to facilitate genetic exchange (through 
breeding) and maintain the health and genetic diversity of the captive 
population. The SSP strives to house a minimum of 240 wolves in 
captivity at all times to ensure the security of the subspecies in 
captivity, while still being able to produce surplus animals for 
reintroduction.
    In the United States, Mexican wolves from captive SSP facilities 
that are identified for potential release are first evaluated for 
release suitability and undergo an acclimation process. All Mexican 
wolves selected for release in the United States and Mexico are 
genetically redundant to the captive population, meaning their genes 
are already well represented in captivity. This minimizes any adverse 
effects on the genetic integrity of the remaining captive population in 
the event that Mexican wolves released to the wild do not survive.
Habitat Description
    Historically, Mexican wolves were associated with montane woodlands 
characterized by sparsely to densely forested mountainous terrain 
consisting of evergreen oaks (Quercus spp.) or pinyon (Pinus edulus) 
and juniper (Juniperus spp.) to higher elevation pine (Pinus spp.), 
mixed-conifer forests, and adjacent grasslands at elevations of 4,000 
to 5,000 ft (1,219 to 1,524 m) where ungulate prey were numerous. 
Factors making these vegetation communities attractive to Mexican 
wolves likely included the abundance of ungulate prey, availability of 
water, and the presence of hiding cover and suitable den sites. Early 
investigators reported that Mexican wolves probably avoided desert 
scrub and semidesert grasslands that provided little cover, food, or 
water (Brown 1988, pp. 19-22).
    Prior to their extirpation in the wild, Mexican wolves were 
believed to have preyed upon white-tailed deer (Odocoileus 
virginianus), mule deer (O. hemionus), elk (Cervus elaphus), collared 
peccaries (javelina) (Tayassu tajacu), pronghorn (Antilocapra 
americana), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), jackrabbits (Lepus spp.), 
cottontails (Sylvilagus spp.), and small rodents (Parsons and 
Nicholopoulos 1995, pp. 141-142); white-tailed deer and mule deer were 
believed to be the primary sources of prey (Brown 1988, p. 132; Bednarz 
1988, p. 29).
    Today, Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico inhabit evergreen 
pine-oak woodlands (i.e., Madrean woodlands), pinyon-juniper woodlands 
(i.e., Great Basin conifer forests), and mixed-conifer montane forests 
(i.e., Rocky Mountain, or petran, forests) that are inhabited by elk, 
mule deer, and white-tailed deer (Service 1996, pp. 3-5; AMOC and IFT 
2005, p. TC-3). Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico show a strong 
preference for elk compared to other ungulates (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. 
TC-14, Reed et al. 2006, pp. 56, 61; Merkle et al. 2009, p. 482). Other 
documented sources of prey include deer (O. virginianus and O. 
hemionus) and occasionally small mammals and birds (Reed et al. 2006, 
p. 55). Mexican wolves are also known to prey and scavenge on livestock 
(Reed et al. 2006, p. 1129).

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    We requested written comments from the public on the proposed rule 
to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and maintaining protections for the Mexican wolf by listing it 
as endangered during a 6-month comment period from June 13, 2013, to 
December 17, 2013. Between September 30, 2013, and December 3, 2013, 
the Service held a series of public hearings on the proposed rule: 
September 30, 2013, in Washington, District of Columbia; November 19, 
2013, in Denver, Colorado; November 20, 2013, in Albuquerque, New 
Mexico; November 22, 2013, in Sacramento, California; and December 3, 
2013, in Pinetop, Arizona. We reopened the public comment period on 
February 10, 2014, in conjunction with announcing the availability of 
the independent scientific peer review report on the proposal. This 
comment period closed on March 27, 2014. We also contacted appropriate 
Federal, Tribal, State, county, and local agencies, scientific 
organizations, and other interested parties and invited them to comment 
on the proposed rule during these comment periods.
    All substantive information specifically related to our proposal to 
list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies provided during the 
comment periods, including the public hearings, has either been 
incorporated directly into this final determination or addressed below. 
Comments from peer reviewers and State agencies are grouped separately. 
In addition to the comments, some commenters submitted additional 
reports and references for our consideration, which were reviewed and 
incorporated into this final rule as appropriate.

Peer Reviewer Comments

    The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) 
was asked to perform an independent scientific review of the proposed 
rule to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and maintain protections for the Mexican wolf by listing it as 
endangered (78 FR 35664, June 13, 2013). In accordance with our peer 
review policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), NCEAS solicited 
expert opinions from seven knowledgeable individuals with scientific 
expertise that included familiarity with the species, the geographic 
region in which the species occurs, and conservation biology 
principles. NCEAS received responses from five of the seven peer

[[Page 2493]]

reviewers they contacted during the public comment period.
    Based on their panel discussion in January 2014, peer reviewers 
came to general consensus that the Mexican wolf is the most 
differentiated gray wolf in North America. Also, peer reviewers 
discussed and seemed to reach general concurrence that the historical 
range of the Mexican wolf was likely larger than described by the 
Service in the proposed rule based on the presence of genetic markers 
found in historical wolf specimens described by Leonard et al. 2005, 
and they questioned how this information should be incorporated into 
decisions about its status. They expressed concern over the Service's 
reliance on the Chambers et al. 2012, manuscript within the Service's 
proposal to delist the gray wolf in the United States, which included 
the identification of, and discussion of the validity of, other gray 
wolf subspecies, but their concerns did not lead them to conclude that 
the Mexican wolf was not a valid entity to list under the Act. Rather, 
they focused on how the Service should ``draw a line on a map'' to 
indicate the historical range of the Mexican wolf and the appropriate 
geographic extent of the listed entity.
    We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers regarding 
the proposed listing of the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. 
As previously noted, the peer reviewers generally concurred with our 
methods and conclusions that the Mexican wolf is ecologically and 
morphologically distinct. They also provided additional information, 
clarifications, and suggestions to improve this final rule. Peer 
reviewer comments are addressed in the following summary and 
incorporated into the final rule, as appropriate.
    (1) Comment: Peer reviewers stated that the Service did not use the 
best available information related to the exclusive reliance on the 
concordance method of identifying species/subspecies utilized by 
Chambers et al. 2012. The justification for the exclusive use of this 
approach is not well defended by the Service.
    Our response: As required by section 4(b) of the Act, we used the 
best scientific and commercial data available in making this final 
determination for the Mexican wolf. We solicited peer review from 
knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included 
familiarity with the species, the geographic region in which the 
species occurs, and conservation biology principles to ensure that our 
listing is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and 
analysis. Additionally, we requested comments or information from other 
concerned governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific 
community, industry, and any other interested parties concerning the 
proposed rule. The commenters' concerns with the Service's reliance on 
the Chambers et al. 2012, manuscript primarily focused on taxonomic 
issues associated with gray wolf populations other than the Mexican 
wolf. Taxonomic issues related to other gray wolf populations are not 
germane to this final rule to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered 
subspecies. Specific to the Mexican wolf, the peer reviewers concurred 
that the Mexican wolf is differentiated from other gray wolves by 
multiple morphological and genetic markers documented in the scientific 
literature. The Act is explicit that threatened or endangered 
subspecies are to be protected.
    (2) Comment: Peer reviewers noted that genetic markers indicate a 
larger historical range for Mexican wolf than described by the Service 
and should be taken into consideration when determining its status and 
the range within which recovery could occur.
    Our response: We have not attempted to define historical range for 
the Mexican wolf, but rather to describe available historical range 
information contained in the scientific literature, including the 
research by Leonard et al. 2005 referenced by the peer reviewers. 
Listing the entire Mexican wolf subspecies means that all members of 
the taxon are afforded the protections of the Act regardless of where 
they are found; therefore, we do not demarcate a specific geographic 
area in which conservation and recovery efforts may take place. Rather, 
guidance about the abundance and distribution of the Mexican wolf 
necessary for delisting will be provided in a revised recovery plan 
containing recovery (delisting) criteria. Therefore, we recognize that 
current research such as Leonard et al. 2005 suggests a larger 
historical geographic range for the Mexican wolf than described by 
prior accounts (Hall 1981, p. 932; Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, p. 17; Nowak 
1995, pp. 384-385). However, this information does not lead us to a 
different conclusion about the endangered status of the Mexican wolf, 
nor are any recovery options precluded by our discussion of historical 
range.

Comments From States

    (3) Comment: One State agency expressed concern that the Service 
did not articulate reasons for choosing to list the Mexican wolf as a 
subspecies rather than a DPS, claiming that the Mexican wolf is legally 
eligible for a DPS listing under the Service's policy, and, therefore, 
the choice to list it as a subspecies as opposed to a DPS is a 
discretionary act subject to review under the Administrative Procedure 
Act.
    Our response: Under section 3(16) of the Act, we may consider for 
listing any species, including subspecies, of fish, wildlife, or 
plants, or any DPS of vertebrate fish or wildlife that interbreeds when 
mature. As noted in our Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct 
Vertebrate Population Segments Under the Act (61 FR 4722, February 7, 
1996), Congress has instructed the Secretary to exercise authority to 
list DPS's sparingly. Because a DPS is typically a subset of a species 
or subspecies, we first determine whether any negative impacts appear 
to be affecting the species or subspecies anywhere in its range, and 
whether any of these impacts rise to the level of threats such that the 
species or subspecies is endangered or threatened throughout its range. 
If we determine that a species or subspecies is endangered or 
threatened throughout its range, then we are not required to conduct a 
DPS analysis. In other words, we typically first assess whether or not 
an entity qualifies for listing as a species or subspecies before 
assessing whether it qualifies as a DPS. Because the Mexican wolf 
qualifies for listing as a subspecies throughout its range, we are not 
analyzing whether or not it warrants listing as a DPS.
    (4) Comment: Among other alternatives, the Service should also be 
considering listing two DPS's of gray wolf or Mexican wolf (i.e., one 
in Arizona and New Mexico and the other in Mexico), the range of which 
is bisected by the International Border between the United States and 
Mexico.
    Our response: See response immediately above regarding listing a 
DPS of the Mexican wolf.
    (5) Comment: One State agency expressed concern that, if listed as 
a subspecies, the Mexican wolf will never be delisted in the United 
States. The commenter stated that a species or subspecies may be 
delisted only when it is no longer in danger of extinction throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range and that approximately 10 
percent of the Mexican wolf's historical range occurs in the United 
States with the remainder in Mexico. Because the Mexican wolf in the 
United States will never constitute a significant portion of the 
subspecies' range, delisting would require substantial wolf recovery in 
Mexico.

[[Page 2494]]

    Our response: ``Range'' as referred to in the phrase ``significant 
portion of its range'' refers to the general geographical area within 
which the species can be found at the time the Service makes a status 
determination (79 FR 37578, July 1, 2014). Prior to its extirpation in 
the 1900's, the Mexican wolf inhabited large portions of Mexico. Our 
colleagues in Mexico are continuing to investigate whether areas that 
functioned as wolf habitat historically are suitable for wolf 
reintroduction and recovery efforts today (Araiza et al. 2012, entire). 
Regardless, the Act does not stipulate that a species must inhabit all 
of its historical range in order to be recovered. Rather, threats to 
the species must be alleviated such that it is secure in its range at 
the time of status determination, such as delisting, listing, or 
reclassification. Therefore, listing the Mexican wolf as a subspecies 
does not preclude the ability to achieve recovery and delist the 
subspecies. A recovery strategy, including delisting criteria, will be 
developed in a revised recovery plan for the Mexican wolf.
    (6) Comment: One commenter expressed concern that if we have to 
wait for recovery to occur in Mexico before we can delist the Mexican 
wolf, States will be faced with unchecked population growth of Mexican 
wolves with no effective mechanism for controlling population growth, 
which will lead to the detriment of livestock and big game wildlife in 
the United States.
    Our response: See response above. The purpose of the Act is to 
recover species such that they are no longer in danger of extinction 
now or within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant 
portion of their range, at which time they are delisted and management 
of the species is typically turned over to the State and tribal 
wildlife agencies. Further, in a separate rule in this Federal 
Register, we have published the Revision to the Nonessential 
Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, which contains take 
provisions for Mexican wolves by designated agencies and the public, 
demonstrating that the Service is cognizant of the need to include such 
(control) measures as a component of wolf reintroduction and recovery 
efforts.
    (7) Comment: One State agency noted that the Service's proposed 
rule to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies referenced 
several important documents to which the public has not had access.
    Our response: All of the comments, materials, and documentation 
that we considered in this rulemaking were available by appointment, 
during normal business hours at: Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 
2105 Osuna Road NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; by telephone 505-761-4704; 
or by facsimile 505-346-2542.
    (8) Comment: One State agency suggested that the Service should 
recognize Mexican wolf historical range as extending from central 
Mexico into Arizona and New Mexico south of Interstate Highway 40.
    Our response: We have utilized the best available science to 
describe historical range for the Mexican wolf in the Background 
section of this final rule. Maps of the Mexican wolf's historical range 
are available in the scientific literature (Young and Goldman 1944, p. 
414; Hall and Kelson, 1959, p. 849; Hall 1981, p. 932; Bogan and 
Mehlhop 1983, p. 17; Nowak 1995, p. 395; Parsons 1996, p. 106). 
Depiction of the northern extent of the Mexican wolf's historical range 
among the available descriptions varies depending on the authors' 
taxonomic treatment of several subspecies that occurred in the 
Southwest and their related treatment of intergradation zones. In any 
case, there is evidence indicating that the Mexican wolf may have 
ranged north into southern Utah and southern Colorado within zones of 
intergradation where interbreeding with other gray wolf subspecies may 
have occurred (Leonard et al. 2005, p. 11 and p. 15).
    (9) Comment: The Service does not provide cooperators and 
stakeholders with sufficient time to comprehensively analyze the 
Service's varied proposals on Mexican wolf listing. The Service expects 
stakeholders and cooperators, in a matter of months, to review and 
digest hundreds of pages of material, sort out the interconnected 
points concerning all the facets of the entirety, review the 
alternatives, formulate comments, and otherwise meaningfully 
participate in the review process.
    Our response: The Service recognizes that public involvement is an 
essential part of the rulemaking process, helping to inform both the 
agency and the affected public. That is why we requested written 
comments from the public on the proposed rule and contacted appropriate 
Federal, Tribal, State, county, and local agencies, scientific 
organizations, and other interested parties and invited them to comment 
on the proposed rule during the open comment period from June 13, 2013, 
to December 17, 2013, and the reopened comment period from February 10, 
2014, to March 27, 2014. We believe that the nearly 8-month open 
comment period was sufficient time for cooperators and stakeholders to 
comprehensively analyze the Service's proposed rule and provide 
comment.

Comments From Tribes

    (10) Comment: Any listing or delisting of the gray wolf or the 
Mexican wolf must recognize the Tribe's rights and sovereignty in 
managing wildlife on Tribal lands. The proposed rule fails in this 
respect.
    Our response: The Service recognizes the Tribe's rights and 
sovereignty in managing wildlife on Tribal lands (see Government to 
Government Relationships with Tribes section below). Under their 
sovereign authority Tribes have the option of allowing Mexican wolves 
to occupy Tribal trust land or to request their removal. Also, 
elsewhere in this Federal Register, we are finalizing revisions to the 
nonessential experimental population of the Mexican wolf, which will 
give Tribes the option to enter into voluntary agreements with the 
Service for the management of Mexican wolves on Tribal trust land.

Public Comments

    (11) Comment: We received numerous requests from diverse interest 
groups and individuals asking that we subdivide our final determination 
on listing the Mexican wolf as endangered from the final determination 
on our proposal regarding the current listing for gray wolf in all or 
portions of 42 States and Mexico.
    Our response: We are separating our determination on the listing of 
the Mexican wolf as endangered from the determination on our proposal 
regarding removing the current listing for gray wolf from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This rule finalizes our 
determination for the Mexican wolf. A subsequent decision will be made 
for the rest of the United States.
    (12) Comment: A problematic aspect of the rule is the fact that the 
Service does not designate the species as endangered over a specific 
geographic area, but instead designates the subspecies as endangered 
where found. Genetic analysis of historic Mexican wolves showed that 
the range of the Mexican wolf likely extended beyond the historic range 
initially inferred from limited record data.
    Our response: Unless we designate a Distinct Population Segment, 
which has a geographic component to the designation, a species or 
subspecies listing means that all members of the taxon are afforded the 
protections of the Act regardless of where they are found. We have 
described the historical range

[[Page 2495]]

of the Mexican wolf in the Background section of this rule.
    (13) Comment: Listing the Mexican wolf as endangered would 
negatively impact the private landowners and ranchers in the State of 
Arizona by imposing additional restrictions on those private lands, 
which is an economic and operational burden on the public.
    Our response: This final rule to list the Mexican wolf as an 
endangered subspecies will not change the protected status of the 
Mexican wolf as, to date, it has been listed as endangered within the 
broader gray wolf listing; rather, this final rule creates an 
independent listed entity for the Mexican wolf on the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, separate from the gray wolf entity. 
As previously noted, we are finalizing revisions to the nonessential 
experimental population of the Mexican wolf elsewhere in this Federal 
Register, which relaxes some of the Act's prohibitions for take of 
Mexican wolves in certain circumstances. With this final rule to list 
the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies, there are no additional 
restrictions to private landowners.
    (14) Comment: Has the Service examined the biological ramifications 
of the illegal killings? What analyses were used to estimate the level 
of impact of a 0 to 15 percent annual mortality attributed to illegal 
killing of wolves? The proposed listing stated 3 Mexican wolves died 
from disease, 3 from predation, 14 from vehicular collisions, 4 from 
other reason, 9 for unknown reasons, and 46 from illegal killing. What 
was the fate of the 13 wolves unaccounted for in this document that 
died from 1998 to 2012? The Service should show mortality graphically; 
what is the ratio of illegal kills to population size?
    Our response: We recognize that illegal killing is the number one 
source of mortality to Mexican wolves in the wild; see Factor C. 
Disease and Predation, for our discussion and assessment of this 
mortality factor. Known wolf mortality is documented annually and is 
available on our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/MWPS.cfm.
    (15) Comment: The Mexican wolf experimental population has been 
unsuccessful due to weak genetics that caused malformed jaws and other 
deformities, hybridization with dogs after releases into the wild, 
habituation to humans, dependence on human food including livestock 
regardless of abundant wild ungulate prey availability, and a variety 
of other fatal flaws.
    Our response: We describe known instances of hybridization in 
Factor E of this final rule. Based on the low number of occurrences of 
Mexican wolf-dog hybrids, we do not consider hybridization to be a 
threat to the Mexican wolf. We also discuss genetic concerns in Factor 
E, which, although not specific to physical deformities, we do 
determine inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity to be threats to the 
Mexican wolf. We have not documented Mexican wolf dependence on human 
food, including livestock; while Mexican wolves do occasionally prey on 
livestock, their primary prey in the Mexican Wolf Experimental 
Population Area is elk (see Background section).
    (16) Comment: The Service fails to present the expected outcomes of 
genetic depression (decreased fitness, negatively biased population 
growth rate, loss of adaptive potential) on the Mexican wolf. How does 
the Service quantify loss of adaptive potential? What does the Service 
propose to do to address their concerns over inbreeding? If the 
nonessential population is genetically depressed, why does the Service 
continue to release Mexican wolves that are inbred? Over what timeframe 
does the Service expect to be able to effect a change in the genetic 
depression of the Mexican gray population?
    Our response: Tracking of the genetic status of the captive and 
wild Mexican wolf populations is conducted by the Species Survival 
Plan, which tracks the mean kinship of wolves and other relevant 
metrics of the captive and wild population. We describe our concerns 
related to the genetic composition of the Mexican wolf population under 
Factor E. In a separate rule published in this Federal Register, 
Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican 
Wolf, and our associated Environmental Impact Statement, we address our 
need to increase the number of initial releases we conduct in order to 
improve the genetic composition of the nonessential population. We 
expect to substantially improve the genetic status of the nonessential 
population within several Mexican wolf generations, or about 12 to 16 
years.
    (17) Comment: Except in cases of absolute isolation, what we call 
subspecies are populations with variable rates of gene flow over time 
and space. It is time for the Service to abandon typological thinking, 
stop using subspecies for listings, and use the biologically robust 
concepts of populations with quantifiable rates of gene flow and 
phylogenetic independence.
    Our response: The Act is explicit that threatened or endangered 
subspecies are to be protected. Our Service regulations require us to 
rely on standard taxonomic distinctions and the biological expertise of 
the Department of the Interior and the scientific community concerning 
the relevant taxonomic group (50 CFR 424.11).
    (18) Comment: According to the Service, the ``nature of the 
available data does not permit the application of many traditional 
subspecies criteria'', and many experts actually reject the notion of 
wolf subspecies due to the ease with which wolves move and interbreed. 
The Service further admits that the taxonomy for wolves is complicated 
and continuously evolving. These statements clearly show the lack of 
definitive information supporting the identification of gray wolf 
subspecies.
    Our response: We recognize that wolf taxonomy is complicated and 
continuously evolving. However, the controversy in the scientific 
community has focused on wolf populations other than the Mexican wolf 
(but see Cronin et al. 2014, p. 9), which are outside the purview of 
this final rule. The best available scientific literature, and our 
Service regulations that require us to rely on standard taxonomic 
distinctions, support the recognition of the Mexican wolf as a 
subspecies of gray wolf.
    (19) Comment: Review of the literature shows that the Mexican wolf 
does not warrant subspecies status. Data for 170,000 single nucleotide 
polymorphisms (Cronin et al. in preparation) and 48,000 single 
nucleotide polymorphisms (vonHoldt et al. 2011) shows that single 
nucleotide polymorphisms allele frequency differentiation of Mexican 
wolves and other North American wolves is relatively high. However, 
Mexican wolves lack mtDNA monophyly and share haplotypes with wolves in 
other areas (Leonard et al. 2005), and mtDNA haplotypes in Mexican 
wolves have low sequence divergence from other wolf haplotypes. This 
sequence divergence is particularly low because it is for the 
hypervariable control region.
    Our response: As required by section 4(b) of the Act, we used the 
best scientific and commercial data available and continue to recognize 
the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) as a distinct gray wolf 
subspecies. Taxonomic issues related to other gray wolf populations are 
not germane to this final rule to list the Mexican wolf as an 
endangered subspecies. Specific to the Mexican wolf, the peer reviewers 
concurred that the Mexican wolf is differentiated from other gray 
wolves by multiple morphological and genetic markers

[[Page 2496]]

documented in the scientific literature. Further, Leonard et al. (2005, 
p. 10) found that haplotypes associated with the Mexican wolf formed a 
unique southern clade distinct from that of other North American 
wolves. A clade is a taxonomic group that includes all individuals that 
have descended from a common ancestor.
    (20) Comment: A science-based recovery plan has the potential to 
reduce conflict over the long term by minimizing litigation, minimizing 
resources needed by the Service for defending its actions, and speeding 
the eventual delisting of the Mexican wolf. Because lack of an updated 
recovery plan seriously hampers efforts to recover the subspecies, we 
encourage the Service to resume the recovery planning process 
immediately.
    Our response: We intend to resume the recovery planning process to 
develop a revised recovery plan for the Mexican wolf after completion 
of this final rule.
    (21) Comment: Several commenters recommended management of the 
Mexican wolf be returned to the States. Delisting of the wolf would 
automatically trigger this return of State control.
    Our response: In our final rule, published elsewhere in this 
Federal Register, Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population 
of the Mexican Wolf, we allow for States (or other agencies) to 
cooperate in the management of Mexican wolves as designated agencies. 
Due to our determination of endangered status for the Mexican wolf, we 
are not delisting the Mexican wolf at this time. When the Mexican wolf 
has been recovered and delisted, management control will be turned over 
to State and tribal agencies.
    (22) Comment: The States of Arizona and New Mexico have sufficient 
regulations and trained personnel and programs in place to protect 
Mexican wolves so that a Federal listing is unwarranted under the Act.
    Our response: We have no information to suggest that, absent the 
Act's protections, illegal killing of Mexican wolves in the United 
States would cease. Rather, illegal killing of Mexican wolves could 
increase, as State penalties (assuming wolves were granted protected 
status by the States) would be less severe than current Federal 
penalties under the Act. Thus, existing State penalties in Arizona and 
New Mexico would not serve as an adequate deterrent to illegal take. 
Also, in 2011, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish withdrew from 
the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program and has shown no intention of 
rejoining or further cooperating with the program. We address this 
issue under Factor D. Adequate Regulatory Mechanisms.
    (23) Comment: Several commenters stated that local citizens are 
fearful of Mexican wolves and noted the need to protect themselves when 
in areas occupied by wolves, psychological impacts on children, pet 
safety, and related topics. One commenter stated that he would face 
criminal charges if he defended himself against a wolf. These 
commenters stated that the Service has not adequately recognized or 
addressed these issues.
    Our response: There are no historical or recent cases of Mexican 
wolves attacking humans. If a Mexican wolf were to attack someone, the 
Act allows a person to take (including kill) a Mexican wolf in self-
defense or in defense of another person. Elsewhere in this Federal 
Register, we have published a final Revision to the Nonessential 
Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, which provides conditional 
take provisions (in addition to take for self-defense) of Mexican 
wolves by the Service, designated agencies, and individuals under 
certain circumstances.
    (24) Comment: The Service states that the status of Mexican wolves 
in Mexico is unknown. Mexican wolves should be managed through a 
coordinated effort internationally according to sound biological 
principles and with consideration to all other State, national, and 
international laws that protect the health, safety, and welfare of 
humans.
    Our response: We are fully aware of the status of Mexican wolves in 
Mexico, as we are in continual communication with the Federal agencies 
in Mexico that are responsible for the reintroduction of the Mexican 
wolf. We have clarified language in this final rule regarding the 
status of wolves in Mexico; see Current Distribution in Mexico. While 
we may at times coordinate various Mexican wolf management activities 
with Federal agencies in Mexico (such as sharing equipment or 
transferring captive wolves between captive facilities), the 
reintroduction of Mexican wolves in the United States and Mexico are 
independent efforts.
    (25) Comment: The Service should consider the negative impacts to 
our elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and javelina populations from predation 
by possible reintroduced Mexican wolves. A decrease in these game 
animals will create a significant economic and recreational loss to our 
State.
    Our response: While the Act is explicit that our listing 
determinations must be made solely on the basis of the best scientific 
and commercial data available, in a separate action published elsewhere 
in this Federal Register we have considered the impacts to ungulate 
populations from the experimental population of Mexican wolves in our 
Environmental Impact Statement, Revision to the Nonessential 
Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf, available on our Web site 
at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/NEPA_713.cfm.

Summary of Changes From the Proposed Rule

    In this final rule, we make one substantive change from the 
proposal. We are separating our determination on the listing of the 
Mexican wolf as endangered from the determination on our proposal 
regarding the delisting of the gray wolf in the United States and 
Mexico. This rule finalizes our determination for the Mexican wolf. A 
subsequent decision will be made for the gray wolf.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Mexican Wolf

    Several threats analyses have been conducted for the Mexican wolf. 
In the initial proposal to list the Mexican wolf as endangered in 1975 
and in the subsequent listing of the entire gray wolf species in the 
contiguous United States and Mexico in 1978, the Service found that 
threats from habitat loss (factor A), sport hunting (factor B), and 
inadequate regulatory protection from human targeted elimination 
(factor D) were responsible for the Mexican wolf's decline and near 
extinction (40 FR 17590, April 21, 1975; 43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978). In 
the 2003 reclassification of the gray wolf into three distinct 
population segments, threats identified for the gray wolf in the 
Southwestern Distinct Population Segment (which included Mexico, 
Arizona, New Mexico, and portions of Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and 
Texas) included illegal killing and (negative) public attitudes (68 FR 
15804, April 1, 2003). The 2010 Mexican Wolf Conservation Assessment 
(Conservation Assessment) contains the most recent five-factor analysis 
for the Mexican wolf (Service 2010, p. 60). The purpose of the 
Conservation Assessment, which was a non-regulatory document, was to 
evaluate the status of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project within 
the broader context of the subspecies' recovery. The Conservation 
Assessment found that the combined threats of illegal shooting, small 
population size, inbreeding, and inadequate regulatory protection were 
hindering the ability of the current population to reach the

[[Page 2497]]

population objective of at least 100 wolves in the BRWRA (Service 2010, 
p. 60).
    The threats we address in this five-factor analysis and our 
conclusions about a given factor may differ from previous listing 
actions due to new information, or, in the case of the Conservation 
Assessment, the difference in perspective necessitated by the listing 
process compared to that of the Conservation Assessment, which was 
focused on recovery. For example, in this five-factor analysis we 
analyze currently occupied habitat, whereas the Conservation Assessment 
included discussion of unoccupied habitat that may be important in the 
future for recovery. In this five-factor analysis, we are assessing 
which factors pose a threat to the existing population of wolves in the 
BRWRA or would pose a threat to these wolves if the protections of the 
Act were not in place.

Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range

    As previously discussed, wolves are considered habitat generalists 
with fairly broad ecological capabilities and flexibility in using 
different prey and vegetation communities (Peterson and Ciucci 2003, 
pp. 104-111). Gray wolves hunt in packs, primarily pursuing medium to 
large hooved mammals. Wolf density is positively correlated to the 
amount of ungulate biomass available and the vulnerability of ungulates 
to predation (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 170-175). These characterizations 
apply to the Mexican wolf and form our basis for defining suitable 
habitat.
    We consider suitable habitat for the Mexican wolf as forested, 
montane terrain containing adequate wild ungulate populations (elk, 
white-tailed deer, and mule deer) to support a wolf population. 
Suitable habitat has minimal roads and human development, as human 
access to areas inhabited by wolves can result in wolf mortality. 
Specifically, roads can serve as a potential source of wolf mortality 
due to vehicular collision and because they provide humans with access 
to areas inhabited by wolves, which can facilitate illegal killing of 
wolves. Although the road itself could be considered a form of habitat 
modification, the primary threat to wolves related to roads stems from 
the activities enabled by the presence of roads (i.e., vehicular 
collision and illegal killing) rather than a direct effect of the road 
on the wolf such as a boundary to dispersal. We address illegal killing 
under factor C. Disease or Predation, and vehicular collision under 
factor E. Other.
    For the Mexican wolf, we define habitat destruction, modification, 
or curtailment as a decrease or modification in the extent or quality 
of forested, montane terrain in currently occupied habitat, or a 
decrease in ungulate populations in currently occupied habitat, such 
that wolves would not persist in that area. In order to assess whether 
habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment is a threat to 
Mexican wolves, we consider information related to land status (as a 
characteristic of quality related to minimal human development) and the 
effects of catastrophic wildfire on Mexican wolves and ungulates. Our 
definitions of suitable habitat and of habitat destruction, 
modification, and curtailment are the same for the United States and 
Mexico. Implications of climate change are addressed under factor E. 
Other.
    United States--Mexican wolves currently inhabit only the BRWRA as 
identified in the January 12, 1998, final rule to designate an 
experimental population (63 FR 1752), as well as the adjacent Fort 
Apache Indian Reservation as allowed by an agreement between the White 
Mountain Apache Tribe and the Service. As noted above, we finalize 
revisions to our regulations for the experimental population of the 
Mexican wolf, which published elsewhere in this Federal Register. With 
this MWEPA revision, Mexican wolves will be allowed to inhabit the 
entire MWEPA, with the exception of any tribal areas where their 
removal is requested. In the revised MWEPA, there are 32,244 mi\2\ 
(83,512 km\2\) of suitable Mexican wolf habitat (Service 2014, p. 25). 
Of this suitable habitat, 63 percent occurs on federally owned land; of 
that, the U.S. Forest Service accounts for 91 percent, the Bureau of 
Land Management, 7 percent, and other Federal land ownership comprises 
the final 2 percent.
    We consider Federal land in the revised MWEPA to be an important 
characteristic of the quality of the reintroduction area. Federal lands 
such as National Forests are considered to have the most appropriate 
conditions for Mexican wolf reintroduction and recovery efforts because 
they typically have significantly lesser degrees of human development 
and habitat degradation than other land-ownership types (Fritts and 
Carbyn 1995, p. 26). We do not have any information or foresee any 
change in the size, status, ownership, or management of the National 
Forests in the revised MWEPA in the future. If Mexican wolves were not 
protected by the Act, we cannot foresee any changes to the status of 
these National Forests such that suitability for Mexican wolves would 
significantly diminish.
    Current and reasonably foreseeable management practices in all of 
the Apache, Gila, and Sitgreaves National Forests; the Payson, Pleasant 
Valley, and Tonto Basin Ranger Districts of the Tonto National Forest; 
and the Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest are 
expected to support ungulate populations at levels that will sustain a 
growing Mexican wolf population in the revised MWEPA. Prey populations 
throughout all of Arizona and New Mexico continue to be monitored by 
the State wildlife agencies within Game Management Units, the 
boundaries of which are defined in each State's hunting regulations. We 
do not predict any significant change to ungulate populations that 
inhabit the National Forests such that habitat suitability for Mexican 
wolves would diminish.
    On the other hand, wildfire is a type of habitat modification that 
could affect the Mexican wolf population in two primary ways--by 
killing of wolves directly or by causing changes in the abundance and 
distribution of ungulates. Two recent large wildfires, the Wallow Fire 
and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, have burned within close 
proximity to denning wolf packs. Due to their very large size and rapid 
spread, both of these fires are considered catastrophic wildfires.
    On May 29, 2011, the Wallow Fire began in Arizona and spread to 
over 538,000 ac (217,721 ha) in Arizona (Apache, Navajo, Graham, and 
Greenlee Counties; San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, Fort Apache 
Indian Reservation) and New Mexico (Catron County) by the end of June. 
The Wallow Fire was human-caused and is the largest fire in Arizona's 
recorded history to date. The Wallow Fire burned through approximately 
11 percent of the BRWRA. Three known or presumed wolf pack denning 
locations (Rim pack, Bluestem pack, Hawks Nest pack) were within the 
fire's boundaries (Service 2011). Although we had initial concern that 
denning pups (which are not as mobile as adults or may depend on adults 
to move them from the den) may not survive the fire due to their 
proximity to the rapidly spreading fire, we did not document any wolf 
mortalities as a result of the fire.
    Telemetry information indicated all radio-collared animals 
survived, and pups from two of the packs whose den areas burned 
survived through the year's end to be included in the end-of-

[[Page 2498]]

year population survey. While denning behavior was observed in the 
third pack, the presence of pups had not been confirmed prior to the 
fire, and no pups were documented with this pack at the year's end 
(Service 2011).
    In addition to possible direct negative effects of the Wallow Fire 
(i.e., mortality of wolves, which we did not document), we also 
considered whether the fire was likely to result in negative short- or 
long-term effects to ungulate populations. The Wallow Fire Rapid 
Assessment Team's postfire assessment hypothesized that elk and deer 
abundance will respond favorably as vegetation recovers, with ungulate 
abundance exceeding prefire conditions within 5 years due to decreased 
competition of forage and browse with fire-killed conifers (Dorum 2011, 
p. 3). Based on this information, we recognize and will continue to 
monitor the potential for this fire to result in beneficial (increased 
prey) effects for Mexican wolves over the next few years.
    On May 16, 2012, the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire was ignited by 
lightning strikes in New Mexico. It burned at least 297,845 ac (120,534 
ha), including an additional (to the Wallow Fire) 7 percent of the 
BRWRA. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire was contained 2 mi (3 km) from 
a denning wolf pack to the north (Dark Canyon pack) and 5 mi (8 km) 
from a denning wolf pack to the east (Middle Fork pack). We have not 
documented any adverse effects, including mortality, from the fire to 
these packs. We similarly hypothesize, as with the Wallow Fire, that 
elk and deer abundance will respond favorably as vegetation recovers in 
the burned area, with ungulate abundance exceeding pre-fire conditions 
within several years.
    Given that we have not observed any wolf mortality associated with 
the Wallow and Whitewater-Baldy Complex fires, these specific fires 
have not significantly affected the Mexican wolf population. Moreover, 
although these fires demonstrate the possibility that a catastrophic 
wildfire within the reintroduction area could result in mortality of 
less mobile, denning pups, we recognize that adult wolves are highly 
mobile animals and can move out of even a catastrophic fire's path. 
While mortality of pups would slow the growth of the population over a 
year or two, the adult, breeding animals drive the ability of the 
population to persist. We do not consider even these catastrophic fires 
to be a significant mortality risk to adult wolves given their mobility 
and, therefore, do not consider wildfire to be a significant threat to 
the Mexican wolf. Further, we predict that these fires will result in 
changes in vegetation communities and prey densities that will be 
favorable to wolves within a few years. We have no information to 
indicate there would be changes to the effects of fire on Mexican 
wolves if they were not protected by the Act.
    Mexico--The Mexican wolf appears to have been extirpated from the 
wild in Mexico for more than 30 years. Recently, researchers and 
officials in Mexico identified priority sites for reintroduction of 
Mexican wolves in the States of Sonora, Durango, Zacatecas, Chihuahua, 
Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas based on vegetation type, records 
of historical wolf occurrence, and risk factors affecting wolf 
mortality associated with proximity to human development and roads 
(Araiza et al. 2012, pp. 630-637). In October 2011, Mexico initiated a 
reintroduction program with the release of five captive-bred Mexican 
wolves into the San Luis Mountains just south of the United States-
Mexico border. Through August 2014, Mexico released a total of 14 adult 
Mexican wolves, of which 11 died or are believed dead, and 1 was 
removed for veterinary care. The remaining two adult Mexican wolves 
were documented with five pups in 2014, marking the first successful 
reproductive event in Mexico. We expect the number of Mexican wolves in 
Mexico to fluctuate from zero to several wolves or packs of wolves 
during 2015 and into the future in or around Sonora and Chihuahua or 
other Mexican States as wolves are released to the wild from captivity 
by Mexico and subsequently may survive, breed, die of natural causes, 
or be illegally killed.
    We recognize that Mexican wolves are being reintroduced in Mexico 
to areas identified as priority sites based on recent research (Araiza 
et al. 2012). However, we also note that Araiza et al.'s habitat 
assessment does not include assessment of prey availability within the 
six identified areas, which is a critical indicator of habitat 
suitability. Some information on prey availability is currently being 
collected and synthesized by Mexico for specific locations, but is not 
publicly available at this time. We also note that, due to the majority 
of land in Mexico being held in private ownership, large patches of 
secure public land are unavailable in Mexico to support reintroduction, 
which has been an important characteristic of reintroduction sites in 
the United States. We will continue to observe the status of the wolf 
reintroduction effort in Mexico. At this time, because our focus in 
this analysis is on currently occupied range, the absence of a Mexican 
wolf population in Mexico precludes analysis of habitat threats there.

Summary of Factor A

    We have no information indicating that present or threatened 
habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment is significantly 
affecting the Mexican wolf or is likely to do so in the future. Zones 1 
and 2 of the revised MWEPA provide an adequately sized area containing 
high-quality forested montane terrain with adequate ungulate 
populations (deer and elk) to support Mexican wolves in the 
experimental population. We do not foresee any changes in the status of 
the area (primarily U.S. Forest Service land). Further, we do not 
consider wildfire to be resulting in habitat destruction, modification, 
or curtailment that is threatening the Mexican wolf, although we 
recognize that future catastrophic wildfires have the potential to slow 
the growth of the population if pup mortality occurs in several packs.
    We have not conducted an analysis of threats under factor A in 
Mexico due to the lack of a Mexican wolf population there for more than 
30 years. Based on the mortality of reintroduced Mexican wolves in 
Mexico from 2011 to 2013, we do not expect a population to be 
established there for at least several years.

Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Since the inception of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project in 
1998, we have not authorized legal killing or removal of wolves from 
the wild for commercial, recreational (i.e., hunting), scientific, or 
educational purposes. We are not aware of any instances of illegal 
killing of Mexican wolves for their pelts in the Southwest, or of 
illegal trafficking in Mexican wolf pelts or parts. Mexican wolf pelts 
and parts from wolves that die in captivity or in the wild may be used 
for educational or scientific purposes, such as taxidermy mounts for 
display, when permission is granted from the Service; most wolf parts 
are sent to a curatorial facility at the University of New Mexico to be 
preserved, catalogued, and stored. A recreational season for wolf 
hunting is not currently authorized in the Southwest.
    We have authorized, through a section 10(a)(1)(A) research-and-
recovery permit under 50 CFR 17.32, as well as in accordance with the 
Mexican wolf experimental population rule and section 10(j) management 
rule under 50 CFR 17.84(k), agency personnel to take

[[Page 2499]]

any Mexican wolf in the experimental population, as well as to conduct 
activities related directly to the recovery of reintroduced 
experimental populations of Mexican wolf within Arizona and New Mexico. 
While removal of individual Mexican wolves (including lethal take) has 
occurred by the Service as a result of these measures, these actions 
are conducted within the purpose of our recovery program to contribute 
to the conservation of the Mexican gray wolf.
    Several Mexican wolf research projects occur in the BRWRA or 
adjacent tribal lands by independent researchers or project personnel, 
but these studies have utilized radio-telemetry, scat analysis, and 
other noninvasive methods that do not entail direct handling of, or 
impact to, wolves (e.g., Cariappa et al. 2008, Breck et al. 2011, 
Rinkevich 2012). Nonlethal research for the purpose of conservation is 
also conducted on Mexican wolves in the SSP captive-breeding program; 
projects include research on reproduction, artificial insemination, and 
gamete collection and preservation (see Service Mexican Wolf Recovery 
Program annual reports online at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/ 
for descriptions of past and current research projects). Research on 
disease and conditioned taste aversion is also being conducted in the 
SSP captive-breeding program. In all cases, any take authorized by the 
Service for scientific, educational, and conservation purposes must 
benefit the Mexican wolf and promote its recovery.
    Since reintroductions began in 1998 and have continued through 
December 31, 2013, we are aware of 25 incidents in which Mexican wolves 
were captured in nongovernmental (private) traps, at least 7 have been 
severely injured, and at least 3 have died as a result of injuries or 
activities associated with being captured in a leg-hold trap. While 
these seven injuries may have a significant effect on the individual 
Mexican wolf and may affect that particular animal's pack, they are 
relatively rare occurrences. We conclude that the 3 mortalities through 
2013 have not affected the Mexican wolf's population growth because 
this accounts for only 3 mortalities in 15 years, and at the end of 
2013, the minimum population size was 83 Mexican wolves.
    Absent the protection of the Act, Mexican wolves could be protected 
from overutilization in the United States by State regulations and 
programs in Arizona and New Mexico and Federal law in Mexico. The 
Arizona Revised Statutes Title 17 gives the Arizona Game and Fish 
Commission (Commission) the authority to regulate take of wildlife in 
the State of Arizona. ``Take'' (to pursue, shoot, hunt, trap, kill, 
capture, snare, or net) of wildlife in Arizona on lands under the 
authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission is prohibited, unless 
a provision (e.g., Commission Order, special rule, permit) is made to 
allow take. Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rules, Article 4, outlines 
additional restrictions that would provide further protections from 
overutilization including regulating and outlining prohibitions on 
possession and transport of illegally taken wildlife, and regulating 
and placing restrictions on scientific collection/handling of wildlife. 
Because Commission Order 14 (Other Birds and Mammals) does not open a 
hunting season on wolves, all take of Mexican wolf in Arizona is 
prohibited (except via special permit, as for science and management 
purposes; permits that in-turn require the permittee to secure all 
required Federal permits). A hunting season could be opened if the 
agency documented a harvestable surplus or identified a need for 
population reduction in a specific area. The Arizona Game and Fish 
Department, the administrative, management, and enforcement arm of the 
Commission, is charged with carrying out the Commission's programs and 
enforcing its regulations.
    Pursuant to the Wildlife Conservation Act of New Mexico, it is 
unlawful to take, possess, transport, export, process, sell, or offer 
for sale or ship any State or Federal endangered species or subspecies 
(17-2-41 New Mexico Statutes Annotated [NMSA]), thus, as a State-listed 
endangered subspecies, the Mexican wolf would be protected from take 
related to overutilization.
    Similarly, in Mexico, the General Wildlife Law (``Ley General de 
Vida Silvestre'', 2000, as amended) provides regulation against take of 
species or subspecies identified by the Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-
SEMARNAT-2010, ``Protecci[oacute]n ambiental-Especies nativas de 
M[eacute]xico de flora y fauna silvestres.'' These regulatory 
provisions are further discussed under factor D. The Inadequacy of 
Existing Regulatory Mechanisms.

Summary of Factor B

    Based on available information, overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes does not occur or is 
exceedingly rare in the United States. In addition, we have no examples 
of these forms of take occurring in Mexico since the Mexican 
reintroduction program began in 2011. Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico 
have regulatory provisions under which Mexican wolves could be 
protected against overutilization if the subspecies were not protected 
by the Act. Due to the nonexistent or very low level of overutilization 
occurring, and the ability of the States and Mexico to regulate 
overutilization, we do not consider overutilization to be affecting the 
Mexican wolf now or in the future.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    A number of viral, fungal, and bacterial diseases and endo- and 
ectoparasites have been documented in gray wolf populations (Kreeger 
2003, pp. 202-214). However, little research has been done specific to 
disease in Mexican wolves, and little documentation exists of disease 
prevalence in wild wolves in the BRWRA population. We obtain the 
majority of our information on documented mortalities (from all 
sources, including disease) in the BRWRA from animals wearing radio 
collars. We may, therefore, underestimate the number of mortalities 
resulting from disease (e.g., due to the number of uncollared wolves).
    Typically, infectious diseases (such as viruses and bacteria) are 
transmitted through direct contact (e.g., feces, urine, or saliva) with 
an infected animal, by aerosol routes, or by physical contact with 
inanimate objects (fomites). Parasites are infective through water, 
food sources, or direct contact. Wolves are able to tolerate a number 
of parasites, such as tapeworms or ticks, although occasionally such 
organisms can cause significant disease, or even be lethal (Kreeger 
2003, p. 202).
    Mexican wolves are routinely vaccinated for rabies virus, distemper 
virus, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus, and adenovirus before release 
to the wild from captive facilities. In addition, common dewormers and 
external parasite treatments are administered. Wolves captured in the 
wild are vaccinated for the same diseases and administered dewormers 
and external parasite treatments. Kreeger (2003, pp. 208-211) describes 
the transmission route and effect of these diseases on gray wolves and 
can be referenced for general information. Recent rules for the Western 
Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf populations contain 
information from studies of disease occurrences in those geographic 
regions, and can also serve as a reference for a more comprehensive 
discussion of these (and other) diseases than that provided below (72 
FR 6051, February 8, 2007; 73 FR 10513, February 27, 2008).

[[Page 2500]]

    Rabies, caused by a rhabdovirus, is an infectious disease of the 
central nervous system typically transmitted by the bite of an infected 
animal. Rabies can spread between infected wolves in a population 
(e.g., among and between packs), or between populations, resulting in 
severe population declines. Rabies is untreatable and leads to death. A 
rabies outbreak in and near the BRWRA began in 2006 in eastern Arizona 
and continued through 2009, with positive rabies diagnoses (fox 
variant) in both foxes and bobcats. No Mexican wolves in the BRWRA were 
diagnosed with rabies during this outbreak (Arizona Department of 
Health Services 2012; New Mexico Department of Health 2011) or 
throughout the history of the reintroduction.
    Canine distemper, caused by a paramyxovirus, is an infectious 
disease typically transmitted by aerosol routes or direct contact with 
urine, feces, and nasal exudates. Death from distemper is usually 
caused by neurological complications (e.g., paralysis, seizures), or 
pneumonia. Distemper can cause high fatality rates, though survivors 
are occasionally documented in canine populations. Distemper virus may 
have been a contributing factor to high levels of pup mortality in 
Yellowstone National Park during several summers (Smith and Almberg 
2007, p. 18). Although wolf populations are known to be exposed to the 
virus in the wild, mortality from distemper in wild Mexican wolves is 
uncommon. However, we expect Mexican wolf pups, in general, would be 
most susceptible to death from distemper virus at a time period prior 
to when they are captured, collared, and vaccinated. Therefore, our 
collared sample of pups may not be accurately documenting this source 
of mortality.
    Distemper has been documented in one wild litter of Mexican wolves 
in the BRWRA. Two sibling Mexican wolf pups brought to a captive-wolf-
management facility in 2000 from the wild were diagnosed with distemper 
(indicating they were exposed to the disease in the wild) and died in 
captivity (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC-12). (Note: these captive deaths 
are not included in the BRWRA mortality statistics.) These are the only 
known mortalities due to distemper documented in relation to the 
current experimental population (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC-12).
    Canine parvovirus is an infectious disease caused by a parvoviridae 
virus that results in severe gastrointestinal and myocardial (heart 
disease) symptoms. Parvovirus is persistent in the environment and can 
be spread by direct contact or viral particles in the environment. 
Symptoms of an infected adult animal may include severe vomiting and 
diarrhea, resulting in death due to dehydration or electrolyte 
imbalance. Pups may die from myocardial (heart) disease if infected 
with canine parvovirus while in utero or soon after birth from cardiac 
arrhythmias. Although canine parvovirus has been documented in wild 
wolf populations, documented mortalities due to parvovirus are few; 
researchers hypothesize that parvovirus is a survivable disease, 
although less so in pups. Parvovirus is thought to have slowed various 
stages of colonization and dispersal of wolves in the greater Minnesota 
population (Mech et al. 2008, pp. 832-834).
    Parvovirus has been documented in one wild litter of wolves in the 
BRWRA. Three sibling Mexican wolf pups were documented having, and then 
dying from, parvovirus in 1999: One pup died in an acclimation release 
pen in the BRWRA, indicating it had been exposed to the disease in the 
wild (AMOC and IFT 2005, p. TC-12). The other two pups, which also may 
have been exposed to the disease in the wild, were transferred to, and 
died at, a prerelease captive facility and are considered captive 
mortalities. Mortality from canine parvovirus has otherwise not been 
documented in the BRWRA population. However, we expect pups, in 
general, to be most susceptible to death from parvovirus prior to when 
they are captured, collared, and vaccinated. Therefore, our collared 
sample of pups may not be accurately documenting this source of 
mortality.
    Three of 100 total documented Mexican wolf deaths in the BRWRA 
population between 1998 and 2013 have been attributed to disease: 1 to 
canine parvovirus, 1 to chronic bacterial pleuritis (bacterial 
infection around the lungs), and 1 to bacterial pneumonia. The 
pleuritis and pneumonia cases, though bacterial diseases, are likely 
both secondary to other unknown natural factors, rather than 
contagious, infectious diseases. Potential pup mortality caused by 
infectious disease may be poorly documented in the free-ranging 
population because these pups are too young to radio collar and thus 
difficult to detect or monitor. In addition, collared animals are 
vaccinated, which reduces the potential for mortality to occur among 
collared wolves.
    We do not have evidence that disease was a significant factor in 
the decline of Mexican wolves prior to its protection by the Act in the 
1970's. However, we recognize that, in a general sense, disease has the 
potential to affect the size and growth rate of a wolf population and 
could have a negative impact on the experimental population if the 
active vaccination program were not in place. We also recognize that 
some diseases are more likely to spread as wolf-to-wolf contact 
increases (Kreeger 2003, pp. 202-214), thus the potential for disease 
outbreaks to occur may increase as the current population expands in 
numbers or density, although the effect on the population may be lower 
because a larger wolf population would be more likely to sustain the 
epidemic. Absent the protection of the Act, the potential for disease 
to affect the Mexican wolf population would primarily depend on whether 
State wildlife agencies or other parties provided a similar level of 
vaccination to the population as that which we currently provide.
    In addition to disease, we must also assess whether predation is 
affecting the Mexican wolf now or in the future under factor C. In our 
assessment of predation, we focus on wild predators as well as illegal 
killing of Mexican wolves.
    Wild predators do not regularly prey on wolves (Ballard et al. 
2003, pp. 259-271). Although large prey may occasionally kill wolves 
during self-defense (Mech and Peterson 2003, p. 134), this occurrence 
is rare and not considered predation on the wolf. Between 1998 and 
December 31, 2013, three documented Mexican wolf mortalities are 
attributed to predators (wolf, mountain lion, and unknown) (Service 
2013, Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Population Statistics). 
This may be an underestimate (e.g., due to the number of uncollared 
wolves), but we still consider the overall incidence to be low based on 
the occurrences we have documented. Monitoring of Northern Rocky 
Mountain wolf populations demonstrates that wolf-to-wolf conflicts may 
be the biggest source of predation among gray wolves, but this 
typically occurs from territorial conflicts and has not occurred at a 
level sufficient to affect the viability of these populations (73 FR 
10513; February 27, 2008). As the Mexican wolf population begins to 
saturate available habitat, wolf mortalities resulting from territorial 
conflicts may become more prevalent but this type of mortality is not 
currently a concern. We do not foresee any change in the occurrence of 
wild predation on Mexican wolves if the subspecies was not protected by 
the Act and, therefore, do not consider predation from wild predators 
to be affecting the Mexican wolf.

[[Page 2501]]

    Illegal mortalities have been the biggest source of Mexican wolf 
mortalities since the reintroduction began in 1998 (Service 2013: 
Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Statistics). Out of 100 
wild wolf mortalities documented between 1998 and 2013, 55 deaths are 
attributed to illegal killing (55 percent of total mortalities). 
Documented illegal shootings have ranged from zero to seven per year 
between 1998 and December 2013, with one or more occurring every year 
with the exception of 1999. Illegal shooting has varied from no impact 
to the population (e.g., in 1999 when no illegal shootings were 
documented) to resulting in the known mortality of about 15 percent of 
the population in a given year (e.g., in 2001). Documented causes of 
illegal shooting in other gray wolf populations have included 
intentional killing and mistaken identity as a coyote or dog (Fuller et 
al. 2003, p. 181). We do not know the reason for each instance of 
illegal shooting of a Mexican wolf.
    We recognize that some wolf populations can maintain themselves 
despite sustained human-caused mortality rates of 17 to 48 percent 
(Fuller et al. 2003 [+/- 8 percent], pp. 184-185; Adams et al. 2008 [29 
percent], p. 22; Creel and Rotella 2010 [22 percent], p. 5; Sparkman et 
al. 2011 [25 percent], p. 5; Gude et al. 2011 [48 percent], pp. 113-
116; Vucetich and Carroll In Review [17 percent]) and that human-caused 
mortality sometimes replaces much of the wolf mortality in a population 
that would have occurred naturally (e.g., due to intraspecific strife 
from territorial conflicts occurring in populations that have saturated 
available habitat) (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 186). Regardless, for the 
Mexican wolf experimental population, we think it is likely that the 
majority of illegal shootings function as additive mortality (that is, 
these mortalities are in addition to other mortalities that occur, 
rather than compensatory mortality where the deaths from illegal 
shooting would substitute for deaths that would occur naturally) 
(Murray et al. 2010, pp. 2515, 2522). Illegal mortalities have a 
negative effect on the size and growth rate of the experimental 
population at its current small size, but the effect of these 
mortalities on the population has likely been masked to some degree by 
the number of captive Mexican wolves released into the wild over the 
course of the reintroduction effort. Additionally, we are unable to 
document all Mexican wolf mortalities (i.e., uncollared wolves) and, 
therefore, may be underestimating the number of mortalities caused by 
illegal shooting.
    We expect that, absent the protection of the Act, killing of 
Mexican wolves would continue at current levels or, more likely, 
increase significantly because Federal penalties would not be in place 
to serve as a deterrent. Mexican wolves could be protected from take by 
State regulations in Arizona and New Mexico and Federal regulations in 
Mexico, but State penalties are less severe than Federal penalties (see 
a description and discussion of this under factor D), and Federal 
protection in Mexico does not infer protection for Mexican wolves in 
the United States. Based on the continuous occurrence of illegal 
shooting taking place while the Mexican wolf is protected by the Act 
and the likelihood of increased occurrences of wolf shooting absent the 
protection of the Act, we consider illegal killing of Mexican wolves to 
be significant to the population. We further consider the threat of 
illegal shooting to Mexican wolves in ``Combination of Factors/Focus on 
Cumulative Effects,'' which discusses this and other threats within the 
context of the small, geographically restricted and isolated 
experimental population.
    In Mexico, illegal killing of Mexican wolves released to the wild 
in between 2011 and 2013 has already been documented. Through August 
2014, Mexico released a total of 14 adult Mexican wolves, of which 11 
died or are believed dead, and 1 was removed for veterinary care. Of 
the 11 Mexican wolves that died or are believed dead, 6 were due to 
illegal killings (4 from poisoning and 2 were shot), 1 wolf was 
presumably killed by a mountain lion, 3 causes of mortality are unknown 
(presumed illegal killings because collars were found, but not the 
carcasses), and 1 disappeared (neither collar nor carcass has been 
found). The illegal killing of at least six Mexican wolves has 
significantly hindered Mexico's initial efforts to establish a 
population; continued monitoring of the wolves Mexico releases in the 
future will be necessary to document whether these initial events were 
by chance or are indicative of a significant, ongoing threat to Mexican 
wolves in Mexico.

Summary of Factor C

    Based on the low incidence of disease and mortality from wild 
predators, we do not consider these factors to be significantly 
affecting the Mexican wolf nor do we expect them to in the future. 
Illegal shooting has been a continuous source of mortality to the 
experimental population in the United States since its inception, and 
we expect that if Mexican wolves were not protected by the Act the 
number of shootings would increase substantially in the United States. 
Therefore, we consider illegal shooting to be significantly affecting 
Mexican wolves in the United States. In Mexico, four wolves released in 
2011 were illegally poisoned within months of their release to the 
wild, significantly hindering their reintroduction efforts. Illegal 
poisoning may affect the future Mexican wolf population in Mexico 
significantly if such events continue.

Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The Act requires us to examine the adequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms with respect to those existing and foreseeable threats, 
discussed under the other factors that may affect the Mexican wolf. In 
this five-factor analysis, we consider illegal shooting (factor C), 
inbreeding (factor E), and small population size (factor E) to be 
significantly affecting Mexican wolves. We address regulatory 
mechanisms related to illegal shooting, as no regulatory mechanisms are 
available to address inbreeding or small population size beyond the 
overarching protection of the Act.
    As discussed in factor C, illegal killing (or ``take,'' as it is 
referred to in the Act) of Mexican wolves currently occurs at 
significant levels in both the United States and Mexico. In the United 
States, illegal shooting of Mexican wolves has been a continuous source 
of mortality over the course of the reintroduction project. In Mexico, 
illegal killing has resulted in a setback to the reestablishment of a 
population of Mexican wolves in the State of Sonora and the Western 
Sierra Madre; we are unsure of whether this threat will continue.
    The Act provides broad protection of listed subspecies to prohibit 
and penalize illegal take but has not been sufficient to deter all 
illegal killing of Mexican wolves in the United States. Section 9 of 
the Act (Prohibited acts) prohibits the take of any federally-listed 
species, subspecies, or DPS. Section 11 (Penalties and enforcement) 
provides civil penalties up to $25,000, and criminal penalties up to 
$50,000 and/or not more than 1 year in jail for knowing violations of 
section 9. Experimental populations are treated as if they are listed 
as threatened, which limits criminal penalties to up to $25,000 and 
imprisonment for not more than 6 months.
    All cases of suspected illegal take of Mexican wolves in the United 
States are investigated by the Service's Office of Law Enforcement 
Special Agents. On-

[[Page 2502]]

the-ground personnel involved in preventing illegal take of a Mexican 
wolf and apprehending those who commit illegal take include Service 
Special Agents, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) Game Wardens, 
New Mexico Department of Fish and Game Conservation Officers, U.S. 
Forest Service special agents and Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs), San 
Carlos Apache Tribe LEOs, and White Mountain Apache Tribe LEOs. 
Specific actions to reduce illegal take include targeted patrols during 
high-traffic periods (hunting seasons and holidays); the ability to 
restrict human activities within a 1-mi (1.6-km) radius of release 
pens, active dens, and rendezvous sites; proactive removal of road 
kills to reduce the potential of wolves scavenging, which may result in 
vehicular collision or illegal take of a Mexican wolf; and monetary 
rewards for information that leads to a conviction for unlawful take of 
the subspecies. Of the 55 wolf mortalities classified as illegal 
mortalities between 1998 and 2013, only 4 individuals have been 
convicted and 1 individual has paid a civil penalty.
    If Mexican wolves were not protected by the Act, they would be 
protected by State regulations in Arizona and New Mexico, and by 
Federal law in Mexico. In Arizona, the Mexican wolf is managed as 
Wildlife of Special Concern (Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rules, 
Article 4, R12-4-401) and is identified as a Species of Greatest 
Conservation Need (Tier 1a, endangered) (Species of Greatest 
Conservation Need 2006, pending). Species with these designations are 
managed under the AGFD's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Management 
program, which seeks to protect, restore, preserve, and maintain such 
species. These provisions, i.e., the Species of Greatest Conservation 
Need list and the Wildlife of Special Concern list, are nonregulatory. 
However, Arizona Revised Statute Title 17 establishes AGFD with 
authority to regulate take of wildlife in the State of Arizona. 
``Take'' (to pursue, shoot, hunt, trap, kill, capture, snare, or net) 
of wildlife in Arizona on lands under the authority of the Arizona Game 
and Fish Commission is prohibited, unless a provision (e.g., Commission 
Order, special rule, permit) is made to allow take. Penalties for 
illegal take or possession of wildlife can include revocation of 
hunting license or civil penalties up to $8,000 depending on its 
classification as established through annual regulations.
    In New Mexico, the Mexican wolf is listed as endangered (Wildlife 
Conservation Act, pp. 17-2-37 through 17-2-46 NMSA 1978). Pursuant to 
the Wildlife Conservation Act, it is unlawful to take, possess, 
transport, export, process, sell or offer for sale, or ship any State 
or Federal endangered species or subspecies (17-2-41 NMSA). Penalties 
for violating the provisions of 17-2-41 may include fines of up to 
$1,000 or imprisonment.
    In Mexico, several legal provisions provide regulatory protection 
for the Mexican wolf. The Mexican wolf is classified as ``E'' 
(``probably extinct in the wild'') by the Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-
059-SEMARNAT-2010, ``Protecci[oacute]n ambiental-Especies nativas de 
M[eacute]xico de flora y fauna silvestres-Categor[iacute]as de riesgo y 
especificaciones para su inclusi[oacute]n, exclusi[oacute]n o cambio-
Lista de especies en riesgo'' (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010), which is a list 
of species and subspecies at risk. This regulation does not directly 
provide protection of the listed species or subspecies; rather it 
includes the criteria for downlisting, delisting, or including a 
species, subspecies, or population on the list. The General Wildlife 
Law (``Ley General de Vida Silvestre,'' 2000, as amended), however, has 
varying restrictions depending on risk status that apply only to 
species or subspecies that are listed in the NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010.
    Mexico's Federal Penal Law (``C[oacute]digo Penal Federal'' 
published originally in 1931) Article 420 assigns a fine of 300 to 
3,000 days of current wage and up to 9 years prison to those who 
threaten the viability of a species, subspecies, or population, 
transport a species at risk, or damage a specimen of a species at risk. 
Administrative fines are imposed by an administrative authority 
(PROFEPA, ``Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente,'' or the 
Attorney General for Environmental Protection) and are calculated on 
the basis of minimum wage in Mexico City ($62.33 daily Mexican pesos). 
The fines established in the General Wildlife Law range from 1,246.60 
to 311,650 Mexican pesos (approximately U.S. $98 to U.S. $24,400) for 
the four minor infractions, to a range of 3,116 to 3,116,500 Mexican 
pesos (approximately U.S. $244 to U.S. $244,400) for the other 
offenses, including the killing of a wolf. Penal fines are imposed by a 
judge and are calculated on the basis of the current daily wage of the 
offender including all their income.
    We have no information to suggest that, absent the Act's 
protections, shooting of Mexican wolves in the United States would 
cease. Rather, we believe that shooting of Mexican wolves could 
increase, as State penalties (assuming wolves were granted protected 
status by the States) would be less severe than current Federal 
penalties under the Act. Thus, existing State penalties in Arizona and 
New Mexico would not serve as an adequate deterrent to illegal take. 
The illegal killing of at least four wolves in Mexico (see factor C) 
between 2011 and 2014 suggests that Federal penalties in Mexico may not 
be an adequate deterrent to illegal take there, although Federal fines 
in Mexico are potentially higher than those available under the Act in 
the United States. The adequacy of these penalties to address 
overutilization (factor B) is not an issue, as instances of 
overutilization do not occur or are exceedingly rare and, therefore, do 
not significantly affect the Mexican wolf.

Summary of Factor D

    Regulatory mechanisms to prohibit and penalize illegal killing 
exist under the Act, but illegal shooting of wild Mexican wolves in the 
United States persists. We conclude that, absent the protection of the 
Act, killing of wolves in the United States would increase, potentially 
drastically, because State penalties are less severe than current 
Federal penalties. In regards to regulatory protection for the Mexican 
wolf in Mexico, the recent poisoning of several reintroduced wolves 
suggests that illegal killing may be a challenge for that country's 
reintroduction efforts as well. Thus, in the absence of the Act, 
existing regulatory mechanisms will not act as an effective deterrent 
to the illegal killing of Mexican wolves in the United States, and this 
inadequacy will significantly affect the Mexican wolf.

Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence

    We document sources of mortality in six categories as part of our 
ongoing monitoring of Mexican wolves in the experimental population: 
Illegal Killing, Vehicle Collision, Natural, Other, Unknown, and 
Awaiting Necropsy. In factor C, we assessed illegal shooting in the 
United States, disease, and predation (our mortality category 
``Natural'' includes disease and predation). In factor E, we assess the 
impacts to the Mexican wolf from the remaining sources of mortality--
Vehicle Collision, Natural, Other, and Unknown. As stated in our 
discussions of disease, predation, and illegal shooting, we may not be 
documenting all mortalities to the population because mortality of 
uncollared wolves is not typically detected; similarly, we may 
underestimate the number of mortalities attributed to any one cause 
discussed below. We also assess intolerance of

[[Page 2503]]

wolves by humans, land-use conflicts, hybridization, inbreeding, 
climate change, and small population size.
    Our category of ``Natural'' causes of mortality includes a number 
of mortality sources, such as predation, starvation, interspecific 
strife, lightning strikes, and disease. Because we have documented 
three or fewer natural mortalities per year since 1998, we do not 
consider natural mortalities to be occurring at a level, individually 
or collectively, that significantly affects the Mexican wolf (and see 
factor C for additional discussion of disease and predation) (Service 
2013: Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Statistics). 
Therefore, we do not further discuss these ``Natural'' causes of 
mortality. Similarly, mortalities caused by ``Other'' sources of 
mortality, which also includes several sources of mortality (capture-
related mortalities, public-trap mortality, legal public shooting, 
etc.) and ``Unknown'' causes are occurring at very low levels (5 of 100 
mortalities, and 8 of 100 mortalities, respectively) and are not 
occurring at a level that significantly affects the Mexican wolf.
    Vehicular collision has accounted for 14 percent of Mexican wolf 
mortalities from 1998 to December 31, 2013 (14 out of 100 total 
documented Mexican wolf deaths) (Service 2013: Mexican Wolf Blue Range 
Reintroduction Project Statistics). Thirteen out of 14 Mexican wolf 
mortalities attributed to vehicular collision throughout the course of 
the reintroduction (through December 31, 2013) occurred along paved 
U.S. or State highways; one wolf died on a Forest Service dirt road as 
a result of vehicle collision. The number of vehicular-related 
mortalities, which has ranged from zero to two per year, with the 
exception of a high of four vehicular-related wolf deaths in 2003, has 
not shown a trend (increasing or decreasing) over time. Given the 
occurrence of these mortalities on highways, it is likely that these 
collisions were accidental events that occurred from vehicles traveling 
at relatively high speeds. We are cognizant that different types of 
roads present different levels of threats to Mexican wolves--paved 
roads with higher speed limits present more risk of wolf mortality due 
to vehicular collision than unpaved roads with lower speed limit.
    Roads, both paved and unpaved, in currently occupied Mexican wolf 
range in the Gila and Apache National Forests primarily exist to 
support forest management, livestock grazing, recreational access, 
resource protection, and transport of forest products on the National 
Forests (Service 1996, pp. 3-13). National Forests contain various road 
types (paved, unpaved, opened, closed, etc.) and trails (motorized, 
nonmotorized), but are generally considered to be driven at relatively 
low speeds and have relatively low traffic volume. Non-Forest Service 
roads (e.g., highways and other paved roads) are limited in currently 
occupied range, and include portions of U.S Highways 191 and 180, and 
State Highways 260, 152, 90, 78, 32, and 12. U.S. highway 60 runs 
immediately to the north of this area.
    It has been recommended that areas targeted for wolf recovery have 
low road density of not more than 1 linear mile of road per square mile 
of area (1.6 linear km of road per 2.56 square kilometers; Thiel 1985, 
pp. 406-407), particularly during colonization of an area (Fritts et 
al. 2003, p. 301). Road density in the BRWRA was estimated at 0.8 mi 
road per mi\2\ (1.28 km road per km\2\) prior to the reintroduction 
(Johnson et al. 1992, p. 48). The U.S. Forest Service Southwest Region 
recently calculated road densities for the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves 
National Forests during analysis of alternatives to designate a system 
of roads, trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use in 
compliance with the Travel Management Rule. They did not assess road 
use in terms of a baseline of traffic volume or projections of traffic 
volume for the future. Both the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National 
Forests continue to have an appropriately low density of roads for the 
Mexican wolf reintroduction effort, with no plans to increase road 
density in either Forest--road density in the Apache portion of the 
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is estimated at 0.94 mi road per 
mi\2\ for all roads (1.5 km road per km\2\) (open, closed, 
decommissioned) and motorized trails, or 0.43 mi road per mi\2\ (0.69 
km road per km\2\) for open roads and motorized trails (USDA 2010a, p. 
102); road density in the Gila National Forest is estimated at 1.02 mi 
per mi\2\ (1.64 km per km\2\) for open and closed (but not 
decommissioned) roads and motorized trails (an overall average of 0.99 
mi per mi\2\ (1.59 km per km\2\) (USDA 2010b, p. 149). Therefore, these 
Forests provided Mexican wolf habitat with appropriately low road 
density for establishment (colonization) of the experimental 
population.
    The revised MWEPA includes the addition of the Sitgreaves National 
Forest, Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest, and 
Tonto, Payson, and Pleasant Valley Ranger Districts of the Tonto 
National Forest to the Gila and Apache National Forests as Zone 1, the 
area in which we will primarily conduct initial releases; these Forests 
have appropriately low road densities compared with non-Forest Service 
land to support these management activities (Service 2014, Ch 3, p. 2). 
In Zone 2, which comprises a wider matrix of habitat quality than Zone 
1, including areas of substantially higher road density of paved, high-
speed roads, we recognize that wolf morality due to vehicular collision 
may increase. However, we do not have any data to determine the degree 
to which this may occur or whether it will significantly affect the 
Mexican wolf.
    In summary, Mexican wolf mortalities from vehicular collision show 
a strong pattern of occurrence on high-speed paved State or U.S. 
Highways rather than on Forest Service roads, and are currently 
occurring at relatively low levels (two or fewer mortalities per year, 
with the exception of 1 year in which four mortalities were attributed 
to vehicular collision). We consider it possible that wolf mortalities 
due to vehicular collision may increase in the future as Mexican wolves 
will be allowed to disperse beyond the Gila and Apache National Forests 
into areas with higher road density within the MWEPA. We will continue 
to document wolf mortality due to vehicular collision to determine 
whether this becomes significant. In absence of Federal protection, we 
would not expect that incidence rate of wolf-vehicular collision to 
change, due to the accidental nature of these incidents. Therefore, 
with or without the protections of the Act, we conclude that vehicular 
collisions, considered in isolation of other sources of mortality, are 
not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. We further consider the 
significance of these mortalities in Combination of Factors/Focus on 
Cumulative Effects.
    Intolerance by Humans--Human attitudes have long been recognized as 
a significant factor in the success of gray wolf recovery efforts to 
the degree that it has been suggested that recovery may depend more on 
human tolerance than habitat restoration (see Boitani 2003, p. 339, 
Fritts et al. 2003; Mech 1995). In the Southwest, extremes of public 
opinion vary between those who strongly support or oppose the recovery 
effort. Support may stem from such feelings as an appreciation of the 
Mexican wolf as an important part of nature and an interest in 
endangered species restoration, while opposition may stem from negative 
social or economic consequences of wolf reintroduction, general fear 
and dislike of wolves, or Federal land-use conflicts.
    Public polling data in Arizona and New Mexico shows that most

[[Page 2504]]

respondents have positive feelings about wolves and support the 
reintroduction of the Mexican wolf to public land (Research and Polling 
2008a, p. 6, Research and Polling 2008b, p. 6). These polls targeted 
people statewide in locations outside of the reintroduction area, and 
thus provide an indication of regional support.
    In any case, there is no direct evidence to indicate that 
intolerance by humans of Mexican wolves will result in increased 
illegal killings. Without additional information, we are unable to 
confirm whether, or the degree to which, disregard for or opposition to 
the reintroduction project is a causative factor in illegal killings. 
Similarly, in Mexico, we do not know whether the illegal poisoning of 
four reintroduced Mexican wolves was purposeful and stemmed from 
opposition to the reintroduction or rather was targeted more generally 
at (other) predators. We recognize that humans can be very effective at 
extirpating wolf populations if human-caused mortality rates continue 
at high levels over time, as demonstrated by the complete elimination 
of Mexican wolves across the Southwest and Mexico prior to the 
protection of the Act. At this time, however, we do not have enough 
information to determine whether, or the degree to which, intolerance 
by humans may pose a threat to the Mexican wolf.
    Land-Use Conflicts--Historically, land-use conflict between Mexican 
wolves and livestock producers was a primary cause of the wolf's 
endangerment due to human killing of wolves that depredated livestock. 
At the outset of the reintroduction effort, the amount of permitted 
grazing in the recovery area was identified as a possible source of 
public conflict for the project due to the potential for wolves to 
depredate on livestock (Service 1996, p. 4-4). Since the reintroduction 
project began in 1998, 73 Mexican wolves have been removed from the 
wild due to livestock depredation, reaching a high of 16 and 19 
removals in 2006 and 2007, respectively (Service 2013 Mexican Wolf Blue 
Range Project Statistics).
    Since 2007, the Service, other State, Federal, and tribal agencies, 
private parties, and livestock producers have increased proactive 
efforts (e.g., hazing, fencing, range riders) to minimize depredations, 
resulting in fewer removals from 2008 to 2013 than in the first 10 
years of the program. Since 2007, we removed one Mexican wolf in 2012 
and two Mexican wolves in 2013 from the experimental population due to 
confirmed livestock depredation (Service 2013 Mexican Wolf Blue Range 
Project Statistics). While recognizing that management removals must be 
part of an overall management scheme that promotes the growth of the 
experimental population, the Service is committed to actively managing 
depredating Mexican wolves to improve human tolerance.
    Furthermore, the Service, in cooperation with the National Fish and 
Wildlife Foundation, established the Mexican Wolf/Livestock 
Interdiction Trust Fund (Trust Fund), which was founded on September 
23, 2009. The objective of the Trust Fund is to generate long-term 
funding for prolonged financial support to livestock operators with the 
framework of cooperative conservation and recovery of Mexican wolf 
populations in the Southwest. Funding is provided for initiatives that 
address management, monitoring, and proactive conservation needs for 
Mexican wolves related to livestock protection, measures to avoid and 
minimize depredation, habitat protection, species protection, 
scientific research, conflict resolution, compensation for damage, 
education, and outreach activities. The Trust Fund is overseen by the 
Mexican Wolf/Livestock Coexistence Council, an 11-member group of 
ranchers, Tribes, county coalitions, and environmental groups that may 
identify, recommend, and approve conservation activities, identify 
recipients, and approve the amount of the direct disbursement of Trust 
Funds to qualified recipients. It is the current policy of the 
Coexistence Council to pay 100 percent of the market value of confirmed 
depredated livestock and 50 percent market value for probable kills.
    Based on these efforts, we conclude that land-use conflicts are not 
significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. As noted above, since 2007 we 
removed three Mexican wolves from the experimental population due to 
confirmed livestock depredation (Service 2013 Mexican Wolf Blue Range 
Project Statistics). Also, when we remove Mexican wolves due to 
confirmed livestock depredation, many of the wolves are released back 
into a different part of the experimental population area where they 
are less likely to cause livestock depredations. We are able to manage 
problem Mexican wolves in a manner that does not significantly affect 
the experimental population. In the absence of protection by the Act, 
land-use conflicts would still occur in areas where Mexican wolves and 
livestock coexist. However, because the Mexican wolf is protected by 
State law in Arizona and New Mexico, we expect that livestock producers 
and State agencies would continue to employ effective practices of 
hazing or other active management measures to reduce the likelihood of 
occurrence of depredation incidents. Therefore, we conclude that land-
use conflicts are unlikely to significantly affect the Mexican wolf if 
it was not protected by the Act.
    Hybridization--Hybridization between wolves and other canids can 
pose a significant challenge to recovery programs (e.g., the red wolf 
recovery program) (Service 2007, pp. 10-11) because species in the 
Canis genus can interbreed and produce viable offspring. In the Mexican 
wolf experimental population, hybridization is a rare event. Three 
confirmed hybridization events between Mexican wolves and dogs have 
been documented since the reintroduction project began in 1998. In the 
first two cases, hybrid litters were humanely euthanized (Service 2002, 
p. 17, Service 2005:16.). In the third case, four of five pups were 
humanely euthanized; the fifth pup, previously observed by project 
personnel but not captured, has not been located and its status is 
unknown (BRWRA Monthly Project Updates, June 24, 2011, http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/CEBRWRA.cfm). No hybridization 
between Mexican wolves and coyotes has been confirmed through our 
genetic monitoring of coyotes, wolves, and dogs that are captured in 
the wild as part of regular management activities of canids in the 
wild.
    Our response to hybridization events has negated potential impacts 
to the BRWRA population from these events (e.g., effects to the genetic 
integrity of the population). Moreover, the likelihood of hybrid 
animals surviving, or having detectable impacts on wolf population 
genetics or viability, is low due to aspects of wolf sociality and 
fertility cycles (Mengel 1971, p. 334; Vila and Wayne 1999, pp. 195-
199).
    We do not foresee any change in the likelihood of hybridization 
events occurring, or the potential effect of hybridization events, if 
the Mexican wolf was not protected by the Act; that is, hybridization 
events and effects would continue to be rare. Therefore, we conclude 
that hybridization is not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf 
population now nor is it likely to do so in the future.
    Inbreeding, Loss of Heterozygosity, and Loss of Adaptive 
Potential--Mexican wolves have pronounced genetic challenges resulting 
from an ongoing and severe genetic bottleneck (that is, a reduction in 
a population's size to a small number for at least one generation) 
caused by its near

[[Page 2505]]

extirpation in the wild and the small number of founders upon which the 
captive population was established. These challenges include inbreeding 
(mating of close relatives), loss of heterozygosity (a decrease in the 
proportion of individuals in a population that have two different 
alleles for a specific gene), and loss of adaptive potential, three 
distinct but interrelated phenomena.
    When a population enters a genetic bottleneck, the strength of 
genetic drift (random changes in gene frequencies in a population) is 
increased and the effectiveness of natural selection is decreased. As a 
result, formerly uncommon alleles may drift to higher frequencies and 
become fixed (the only variant that exists), even if they have 
deleterious (negative) effects on the individuals that carry them. 
Conversely, beneficial alleles may become less common and even be lost 
entirely from the population. In general, rare alleles are lost quickly 
from populations experiencing bottlenecks. Heterozygosity is lost much 
more slowly, but the losses may continue until long after the 
population has grown to large size (Nei et al. 1975, entire). The 
extent of allele and heterozygosity loss is determined by the depth 
(the degree of population contraction) and duration of a bottleneck. 
Heterozygosity is important because it provides adaptive potential and 
can mask (prevent the negative effects of) deleterious alleles.
    Inbreeding can occur in any population, but is most likely to occur 
in small populations due to limited choice of mates. The potential for 
inbreeding to negatively affect the captive and reintroduced Mexican 
wolf populations has been a topic of concern for over a decade (Parsons 
1996, pp. 113-114; Hedrick et al. 1997, pp. 65-68). Inbreeding affects 
traits that reduce population viability, such as reproduction 
(Kalinowski et al. 1999, pp. 1371-1377; Asa et al. 2007, pp. 326-333; 
Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365-2371), survival (Allendorf and Ryman 
2002, pp. 50-85), and disease resistance (Hedrick et al. 2003, pp. 909-
913). Inbreeding is significant because it reduces heterozygosity and 
increases homozygosity (having two of the same alleles) throughout the 
genome.
    Inbreeding depression is thought to be primarily a result of the 
full expression of deleterious alleles that have become homozygous as a 
result of inbreeding (Charlesworth and Willis 2009, entire). In other 
words, rare deleterious alleles, or gene variants that have deleterious 
effects such as deformities, are more likely to be inherited and 
expressed in an offspring of two related individuals than of unrelated 
individuals (that is, the offspring may be homozygous). Theory suggests 
that, although lethal alleles (those that result in the death of 
individuals with two copies) may be purged or reduced in frequency in 
small populations (Hedrick 1994, pp. 363-372), many other mildly and 
moderately deleterious alleles are likely to become fixed in the 
population (homozygous in all individuals) with little or no reduction 
in the overall genetic load (amount of lethal alleles) (Whitlock et al. 
2000, pp. 452-457). In addition, there is little empirical evidence in 
the scientific literature that purging reduces the genetic load in 
small populations.
    As previously described, Mexican wolves experienced a rapid 
population decline during the 1900s, as predator eradication programs 
sought to eliminate wolves from the landscape. Subsequently, a captive-
breeding program was initiated. The McBride lineage was founded with 
three wolves in 1980. The Ghost Ranch and Aragon lineages were each 
founded by single pairs in 1961 and around 1976, respectively. These 
lineages were managed separately until the mid-1990s, by which time all 
three lineages had become strongly inbred. Inbreeding coefficients (f) 
(a measure of how closely related two individuals are) for McBride pups 
born in the mid-1990s averaged about 0.23--similar to inbreeding levels 
for offspring from outbred full sibling or parent-offspring pairs (f = 
0.25). Inbreeding coefficients for Aragon and Ghost Ranch lineage pups 
born in the mid-1990s were higher, averaging 0.33 for Aragon pups and 
0.64 for Ghost Ranch pups (Hedrick et al. 1997, pp. 47-69).
    Of the three lineages, only the McBride lineage was originally 
managed as a captive-breeding program to aid in the conservation of 
Mexican wolves. However, out of concern for the low number of founders 
and rapid inbreeding accumulation in the McBride lineage, the decision 
was made to merge the Aragon and Ghost Ranch lineages into the McBride 
lineage after genetic testing confirmed that this approach could 
improve the gene diversity of the captive population (Garcia-Moreno et 
al. 1996, pp. 376-389). Consequently, pairings (for mating) between 
McBride wolves and Aragon wolves and between McBride and Ghost Ranch 
wolves began in 1995 with the first generation (F1) of these pups born 
in 1997. Although the parents of these first generation wolves were 
strongly inbred, the offspring were expected to be free of inbreeding 
and free of the inbreeding depression. Forty-seven F1 wolves were 
produced from 1997 to 2002. Upon reaching maturity, the F1 wolves were 
paired among themselves, backcrossed with pure McBride wolves, and 
paired with the descendants of F1 wolves called ``cross-lineage'' 
wolves to maintain gene diversity and reduce inbreeding in the captive 
population.
    Although there was slight statistical evidence of inbreeding 
depression among captive wolves of the McBride and Ghost Ranch 
lineages, the outbred F1 wolves proved to have far greater reproductive 
fitness than contemporary McBride and Ghost Ranch wolves (which were 
strongly inbred) as well as minimally inbred wolves from early in the 
McBride and Ghost Ranch pedigrees. Pairings between F1 wolves were 89 
percent more likely to produce at least one live pup, and mean litter 
sizes for F1 x F1 pairs were more than twice as large as contemporary 
McBride pairings (7.5 vs 3.6 pups per litter; Fredrickson et al. 2007, 
pp. 2365-2371). The large increases in reproductive fitness among F1 
wolves suggested that the McBride and Ghost Ranch lineages were 
suffering from a large fixed genetic load of deleterious alleles. In 
other words, McBride and Ghost Ranch wolves had accumulated identical 
copies of gene variants that had negative effects on their health or 
reproductive success at many locations (loci) throughout their genome. 
In addition, pups born to cross-lineage dams (mother wolves) had up to 
21 percent higher survival rates to 180 days than contemporary McBride 
lineage pups (Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365-2371).
    Although the F1 wolves had high reproductive fitness, strong 
inbreeding depression among cross-lineage wolves in captivity has been 
documented. Inbreeding levels of both dams and sires (mother and father 
wolves, respectively) were found to negatively affect the probability 
that a pair would produce at least one live pup. For example, the 
estimated probabilities of a pair producing at least one live pup 
dropped from 0.96 for F1 x F1 pairs (with no inbreeding in the dam and 
sire) to 0.40 for pairs with a mean inbreeding coefficient of 0.15 
(Fredrickson et al. 2007, pp. 2365-2371). Consistent with the finding 
that inbreeding levels of sires affected the probability of producing 
at least one live pup, Asa et al. (2007, pp. 326-333) found that two 
measures of semen quality, sperm cell morphology and motility of sperm 
cells, declined significantly as inbreeding levels increased. Among 
pairs that produced at least one live pup, increases of 0.1 in the 
inbreeding coefficients of both the dam and pups

[[Page 2506]]

was estimated to reduce litter size by 2.8 pups. Inbreeding levels of 
the pups were found to have about twice the detrimental effect as 
inbreeding in the dam, suggesting that inbreeding accumulation in pups 
was causing pups to die prior to being born (Fredrickson et al. 2007, 
pp. 2365-2371).
    As of July 2014, the captive population of Mexican wolves consisted 
of 258 wolves, of which 33 are reproductively compromised or have very 
high inbreeding coefficients, leaving 225 wolves as the managed 
population (Siminski and Spevak 2014). The age structure of the 
population, however, is heavily skewed, with wolves 7 years old and 
older comprising about 62 percent of the population--meaning that most 
of the population is composed of old wolves who will die within a few 
years. This age structure, which has resulted from the high 
reproductive output of the F1 wolves and their descendants in 
captivity, the combination of few releases of captive-born wolves to 
the wild in recent years, removal of wolves from the wild population to 
captivity, and limited pen space for pairings, means that additional 
gene diversity will be lost as the captive population continues to age 
(R. Fredrickson, pers. comm., 2014).
    The SSP strives to minimize and slow the loss of gene diversity of 
the captive population but (due to the limited number of founders) 
cannot increase it. As of 2014, the gene diversity of the captive 
program was 83.36 percent of the founding population, which falls below 
the average mammal SSP (93 percent) and below the recognized SSP 
standard to maintain 90 percent of the founding population diversity. 
Below 90 percent, the SSP states that reproduction may be compromised 
by low birth weight, smaller litter sizes, and related issues.
    Representation of the Aragon and Ghost Range lineages in 2014 was 
17.94 percent and 20.07 percent, respectively (Siminski and Spevak 
2014, p. 8). More specifically, the representation of the seven 
founders is very unequal in the captive population, ranging from about 
30 percent for the McBride founding female to 4 percent for the Ghost 
Ranch founding male. Unequal founder contributions lead to faster 
inbreeding accumulation and loss of founder alleles. The captive 
population is estimated to retain only 3.00 founder genome equivalents, 
suggesting that more than half of the alleles (gene variants) from the 
seven founders have been lost from the population.
    With the current gene diversity of 83.36 percent and current space 
limitations of 300 captive Mexican wolves, retaining 75 percent gene 
diversity for only 41 years from present is possible with the current 
generation length of 5.8 years in the captive population, population 
growth rate of [lambda] = 1.065, effective population size (Ne) of 
26.96, and a ratio of effective to census size (Ne / N; that is, the 
number of breeding animals as a percentage of the overall population 
size) of 0.1266 (Siminski and Spevak 2014, p. 7). The genetically 
effective population size is defined as the size of an ideal population 
that would result in the rate of inbreeding accumulation or 
heterozygosity loss as the population being considered. The effective 
sizes of populations are almost always smaller than census sizes of 
populations. A rule of thumb for conservation of small populations 
holds Ne should be maintained above 50 to prevent substantial 
inbreeding accumulation, and that small populations should be grown 
quickly to much larger sizes (Ne = 500) to maintain 
evolutionary potential (Franklin 1980, entire). The low ratio of 
effective to census population sizes in the captive population reflects 
the limitations on breeding (due to a lack of cage space) over the last 
several years, while the low effective population size is another 
indicator of the potential for inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity.
    The gene diversity of the experimental population of Mexican wolves 
can only be as good as the diversity of the captive population from 
which it is established. Based on information available in July 11, 
2014, the genetic diversity of the wild population was 74.52 percent of 
the founding population (Siminski and Spevak 2014, pp. 9), with 5.36 
percent and 14.56 percent representation of Aragon and Ghost Range 
lineages, respectively. At the end of 2013, the minimum population in 
the Mexican wolf experimental population was 83 Mexican wolves, but the 
experimental population is a poor representative of the genetic 
variation remaining in the captive population. Founder representation 
in the experimental population is more strongly skewed than in the 
captive population. Mean inbreeding levels are 65 percent greater, and 
founder genome equivalents are 35 percent lower than in the captive 
population. In addition, the estimated relatedness of the Mexican wolf 
experimental population is on average 65 percent greater than that in 
the captive population (population mean kinship: 0.2548 versus 0.1664; 
Siminski & Spevak 2014, p. 9). Without substantial management action to 
improve the genetic composition of the population, inbreeding will 
accumulate and heterozygosity and alleles will be lost much faster than 
in the captive population.
    There is evidence of strong inbreeding depression in the Mexican 
wolf experimental population. Fredrickson et al. (2007, pp. 2365-2371) 
estimated that the mean observed litter size (4.8 pups for pairs 
producing pups with no inbreeding) was reduced on average by 0.8 pups 
for each 0.1 increase in the inbreeding coefficient of the pups. For 
pairs producing pups with inbreeding coefficients of 0.20, the mean 
litter size was estimated to be 3.2 pups. Computer simulations of the 
experimental population incorporating the Mexican wolf pedigree suggest 
that this level of inbreeding depression may substantially reduce the 
viability of the experimental population (Carroll et al. 2014, p. 82).
    The recent history of Mexican wolves can be characterized as a 
severe genetic bottleneck that began no later than the founding of the 
Ghost Ranch lineage in 1960. The founding of the three lineages along 
with their initial isolation likely resulted in the loss of most rare 
alleles and perhaps even some moderately common alleles. Heterozygosity 
loss was accelerated as a result of rapid inbreeding accumulation. The 
merging of the captive lineages likely slowed the loss of alleles and 
heterozygosity, but did not end it. The consequences to Mexican wolves 
of the current genetic bottleneck will be future populations that have 
reduced fitness (for example, smaller litter sizes, lower pup survival) 
due to inbreeding accumulation and the full expression of deleterious 
alleles. The loss of alleles will limit the ability of future Mexican 
wolf populations to adapt to environmental challenges.
    Based on data from the SSP documenting loss of genetic variation, 
research documenting viability-related inbreeding effects in Mexican 
wolves, and our awareness that the wild population is at risk of 
inbreeding due to its small size, we conclude that inbreeding, and loss 
of heterozygosity, and loss of adaptive potential are significantly 
affecting Mexican wolves and are likely to continue to do so in the 
future. If the Mexican wolf was not protected by the Act, these risks 
would remain, and may increase if States or other parties did not 
actively promote genetic diversity in the experimental population by 
releasing wolves with appropriate genetic ancestry to the population.
    Small Population Size--Rarity may affect the viability (likelihood 
of extinction or persistence over a given time period) of a subspecies 
depending

[[Page 2507]]

on the subspecies' biological characteristics and threats acting upon 
it. We consider several types of information to determine whether small 
population size is affecting the Mexican wolf, including historical 
conditions, consideration of stochastic (or, chance) events, 
theoretical recommendations of population viability, and applied 
population-viability models specific to Mexican wolves. We discuss 
three types of stochastic events--demographic, environmental, and 
catastrophic--as the fourth type of stochastic event--genetic--is 
addressed under the subheading of Inbreeding. We further discuss the 
significance of small population size in Combination of Factors/Focus 
on Cumulative Effects, below.
    Historical abundance and distribution serve as a qualitative 
reference point against which to assess the size of the current 
population. Prior to European colonization of North America, Mexican 
wolves were geographically widespread throughout numerous populations 
across the southwestern United States and Mexico. Although we do not 
have definitive estimates of historical abundance, we can deduce from 
gray wolf population estimates (Leonard et al. 2005, p. 15), trapping 
records, and anecdotal information that Mexican wolves numbered in the 
thousands across its range in the United States and Mexico. We, 
therefore, recognize that the current size and geographic distribution 
of the Mexican wolf represents a substantial contraction from its 
historical (pre-1900s) abundance and distribution.
    Scientific theory and practice generally agree that a subspecies 
represented by a small population faces a higher risk of extinction (or 
a lower probability of population persistence) than a subspecies that 
is widely and abundantly distributed (Goodman 1987, pp. 11-31; Pimm et 
al. 1988, p. 757). One of the primary causes of this susceptibility to 
extinction is the sensitivity of small populations to random 
demographic events (Shaffer 1987, pp. 69-86, Caughley 1994, p. 217). In 
small populations, even those that are growing, random changes in 
average birth or survival rates could cause a population decline that 
would result in extinction. This phenomenon is referred to as 
demographic stochasticity. As a population grows larger and individual 
events tend to average out, the population becomes less susceptible to 
extinction from demographic stochasticity and is more likely to 
persist.
    Two Mexican wolf population-viability analyses were initiated 
subsequent to the development of the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan 
but prior to the reintroduction of Mexican wolves into the experimental 
population in 1998 (Seal 1990 entire, IUCN 1996 entire, Service 2010, 
p. 66), although neither was completed. Population-viability modeling 
will be conducted as part of the development of draft recovery 
criteria; these results will be available to the public when the draft 
recovery plan is published. In the meantime, Carroll et al. (2014, p. 
81) conducted a population viability model for Mexican wolves and found 
that the risk of extinction varied by both population size and the 
number of effective migrants per generation. The risk of extinction for 
population sizes below 200 was affected by the number of migrants, such 
that populations of 100 had a greater than 5 percent extinction risk, 
even with 3 effective migrants per generation, while populations of 125 
were more secure with 2.5 to 3.0 effective migrants per generation, and 
populations of 150 were secure with greater than 0.5 effective migrants 
per generation (Carroll et al. 2014, p. 81). Given our understanding of 
the high extinction risk of the current size of the experimental 
population and our awareness that this rarity is not the typical 
abundance and distribution pattern for Mexican wolves, we consider the 
small population size of the Mexican wolf.
    At the end of 2013, the minimum population size was 83 Mexican 
wolves, meaning the experimental population is, by demographic 
measures, considered small and has a low probability of persistence 
(Shaffer 1987, p. 73; Boyce 1992, p. 487; Mills 2007, p. 101; Service 
2010, pp. 63-68). Absent the protection of the Act, the extinction 
risks associated with small population size would remain, and may 
increase if Arizona or New Mexico does not actively support the 
experimental population through appropriate management measures. The 
vulnerability of a small population to extinction can also be driven by 
the population's vulnerability to decline or extinction due to 
stochastic environmental or catastrophic events (Goodman 1987, pp. 11-
31; Pimm et al. 1988, p. 757). While we consider these types of events 
to be critically important considerations in our recovery efforts for 
the subspecies, we have not identified any single environmental event 
(i.e., disease, climate change (below)) or catastrophic event 
(wildfire) to be significantly affecting Mexican wolf based on our 
current information and management practices (e.g., vaccinations, 
monitoring). However, we reconsider the concept of vulnerability to 
these events below, in Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative 
Effects.
    Climate Change--Our analyses under the Act include consideration of 
ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and 
``climate change'' are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on 
Climate Change (IPCC). ``Climate'' refers to the mean and variability 
of different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being 
a typical period for such measurements, although shorter or longer 
periods also may be used (IPCC 2013, p. 1450). The term ``climate 
change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or 
more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that 
persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether 
the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 
2013, p. 1450). Various types of changes in climate can have direct or 
indirect effects on the Mexican wolf. These effects may be positive, 
neutral, or negative, and they may change over time, such as the 
effects of interactions of climate with other variables (e.g., habitat 
fragmentation). In our analysis, we use our expert judgment to weigh 
relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of 
various aspects of climate change. Research to investigate the possible 
impacts of climate change specifically on the Mexican wolf has not been 
conducted. Therefore, we base our analysis on pertinent information 
from the scientific literature related to Mexican wolf habitat and 
prey.
    Throughout their circumpolar distribution, gray wolves persist in a 
variety of ecosystems with temperatures ranging from -70 to 120 degrees 
Fahrenheit (-56 to 48 degrees Celsius) with wide-ranging prey type and 
availability (Mech and Boitani 2003, p. xv). Mexican wolves 
historically inhabited, and still inhabit, a range of southwestern 
ecotypes subsisting on large ungulate prey as well as small mammals 
Mexican wolves did not historically, (nor currently), inhabit extreme 
desert areas or semi-desert grasslands except potentially during 
dispersal movements (Service 2010, p. 39). Due to their plasticity and 
lack of reliance on microhabitat, we generally do not consider Mexican 
wolves to be highly vulnerable or sensitive to climate change (Dawson 
et al. 2011, p. 53). However, we recognize that climate change is 
already having detectable impacts on the ecosystems of the Southwest, 
and future changes could affect Mexican wolves or their prey. For

[[Page 2508]]

example, warmer temperatures, more frequent and severe drought, and 
reductions in snowpack, streamflows and water availability are 
projected across the southwestern US (Garfin et al. 2014, pp. 464-466). 
To the degree that warmer temperatures and increased aridity or 
decreased water availability (Dai 2011, p. 58) or any of these other 
conditions, limit prey abundance, we would also expect decreased 
Mexican wolf densities. Information suggests that ungulate prey 
populations in more xeric ecoregions in the Southwest may be impacted 
more negatively than those in wetter areas due to decreased forage 
quality and availability (deVoss and McKinney 2012, p. 19). However, 
Mexican wolves are associated with mid-to high-elevation montane 
forests and adjacent grasslands rather than areas with more xeric 
conditions. Reduced water in the system, due to reduced summer base 
flow in streams, and the earlier onset of summer low-flow conditions, 
may reduce or localize big game populations in the summer months; such 
changes have the potential to adversely affect the wolf within the next 
50 to 100 years through reductions or distributional shifts in wild 
ungulate populations. Information also suggests that mule deer may be 
more susceptible to climate change impacts that alter vegetation 
patterns than elk (deVoss and McKinney 2012, pp. 16-19), but elk are 
currently a much more important source of prey for Mexican wolves than 
mule deer.
    Both Mexican wolves and their primary prey (elk) may exhibit 
reasonable adaptive capacity (Dawson et al. 2011, p. 53), such that 
they could shift habitats in response to changing climatic conditions 
or potentially persist in place. Elk, which make up approximately 77 to 
80 percent of the Mexican wolf's diet in the experimental population, 
are known to be habitat generalists due to their association with wide 
variation in environmental conditions (Kuck 1999, p. 1). Both positive 
and negative impacts to elk from climate change have been hypothesized 
in the literature, although no specific regional research has been 
conducted (deVoss and McKinney 2012, p. 18). For example, if climate 
change results in decreased winter snow pack in the Colorado Plateau 
Region (which includes central Arizona and New Mexico), elk populations 
could expand in number due to milder winters and increased forage 
availability (National Wildlife Federation 2013, p. 14). Conversely, if 
migratory elk herds stop migrating in response to milder winters, 
increased elk densities in some areas could lead to higher levels of 
disease transmission between elk, which may increase mortality (ibid). 
With these types of positive and negative considerations in mind, 
several sources tentatively suggest that overall elk may respond 
favorably in range and population size to climate change (National 
Wildlife Federation 2013, p. 14, deVoss and McKinney 2012, p. 19).
    In Mexico, elk are not present as a source of prey for Mexican 
wolves. Therefore, the effects of climate change on deer populations 
could be important for the establishment and maintenance of a wolf 
population there. Seasonal decreases in precipitation and resulting 
changes in vegetation quality and availability could lead to the same 
type of impacts to ungulates as hypothesized in the United States, such 
as range contraction or decreasing populations. However, as with 
Factors A-D and because our focus in this analysis is on currently 
occupied range, the absence of a Mexican wolf population in Mexico 
precludes analysis of climate change there.
    Therefore, based on the relatively low vulnerability and 
sensitivity of the Mexican wolf to changes in climate, and the 
potential for elk to respond favorably to climate change in this 
region, we conclude that climate change is not substantially affecting 
the Mexican wolf at the current time nor do we expect it to do so in 
the future.

Summary of Factor E

    Inbreeding, loss of adaptive potential, loss of heterozygosity, and 
small population size are significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. 
Inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity have the potential to affect 
viability-related fitness traits in Mexican wolves and, therefore, to 
affect the persistence of the subspecies in the wild in the near term; 
loss of genetic variation (adaptive potential) significantly affects 
the likelihood of persistence of the Mexican wolf over longer 
timeframes. Absent the protection of the Act, inbreeding, loss of 
heterozygosity, and loss of adaptive potential would persist and 
possibly increase depending on whether the States or other parties 
undertook active promotion of the maintenance of gene diversity.
    The small size of the Mexican wolf experimental population results 
in a high risk of extinction due to the susceptibility of the 
population to stochastic demographic events. The minimum estimated 
population of 83 Mexican wolves at the end of 2013 is not a sufficient 
size to ensure persistence into the future. Absent the protection of 
the Act, small population size would continue to significantly affect 
the Mexican wolf, or may increase if States or other parties did not 
actively support the experimental population through appropriate 
management measures. Intolerance by humans, land-use conflicts, 
hybridization, and climate change are not significantly affecting the 
Mexican wolf, nor are they expected to do so in the future. Vehicular 
collision is not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf; however, we 
expect that this source of mortality may increase in the future due to 
wolf dispersal and occupancy in areas of higher road density than 
currently occupied habitat. We do not have data to estimate how 
significant this may become.

Combination of Factors/Focus on Cumulative Effects

    In the preceding review of the five factors, we found that the 
Mexican wolf is most significantly affected by illegal killing, 
inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, and 
small population size. In absence of the Act's protections, these 
issues would continue to affect the Mexican wolf, and would likely 
increase in frequency or severity. We also identify several potential 
sources of mortality or risk (disease, vehicular collision, wildfire, 
hybridization, etc.) that we do not currently consider to be 
significantly affecting the Mexican wolf due to their low occurrence, 
minimal impact on the population, or lack of information. However, we 
recognize that multiple sources of mortality or risk acting in 
combination have greater potential to affect the Mexican wolf than each 
factor alone. Thus, we consider how factors that, by themselves may not 
have a significant effect on the Mexican wolf, may affect the 
subspecies when considered in combination.
    The small population size of the Mexican wolf exacerbates the 
potential for all other factors to disproportionately affect the 
Mexican wolf. The combined effects of demographic, genetic, 
environmental, and catastrophic events to a small population can create 
an extinction vortex--an unrecoverable population decline--that results 
in extinction. Small population size directly and significantly 
increases the likelihood of inbreeding depression, which has been 
documented to decrease individual fitness, hinder population growth, 
and decrease the population's probability of persistence. Small 
population size also increases the likelihood that concurrent 
mortalities from multiple causes that individually may not be resulting 
in a population decline (e.g., vehicular collisions, natural sources of 
mortality)

[[Page 2509]]

could collectively do so, depending on the population's productivity, 
especially when additive to an already significant source of mortality, 
such as illegal shooting. Effects from disease, catastrophe, 
environmental conditions, or loss of heterozygosity that normally could 
be sustained by a larger, more resilient population have the potential 
to rapidly affect the size, growth rate, and genetic integrity of the 
small experimental population when they act in combination. Therefore 
we consider the combination of factors C, D, and E to be significantly 
affecting the Mexican wolf.

Summary of Five-Factor Analysis

    We do not find habitat destruction, curtailment, or modification to 
be significantly affecting the Mexican wolf now, nor do we find that 
these factors are likely to do so in the future regardless of whether 
the subspecies is protected by the Act. The size and federally 
protected status of the National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico are 
adequate and appropriate for the reintroduction project. These National 
Forests provide secure habitat with an adequate prey base and habitat 
characteristics to support the current wolf population. The Wallow Fire 
and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, while catastrophic, were not 
sources of habitat modification, destruction, or curtailment that 
affected the Mexican wolf because there were no documented wolf 
mortalities during the fires, and prey populations are expected to 
increase in response to post-fire positive effects on vegetation.
    We do not find overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes to be significantly affecting the 
Mexican wolf because we have no evidence to indicate that legal killing 
or removal of wolves from the wild for commercial, recreational (i.e., 
hunting), scientific, or educational purposes is occurring. The killing 
of wolves for their pelts is not known to occur, and Mexican wolf 
research-related mortalities are minimal or nonexistent. Incidents of 
injuries and mortalities from trapping (for other animals) have been 
low. In absence of Federal protection, State regulations in Arizona and 
New Mexico, and Federal regulations in Mexico, could provide 
regulations to protect Mexican wolves from overutilization. 
Overutilization of Mexican wolves would not likely increase if they 
were not listed under the Act due to the protected status they would be 
afforded by the States and Mexico.
    Based on known disease occurrences in the current population and 
the active vaccination program, we do not consider disease to be 
significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. Absent the protection of the 
Act, a similar vaccination program would need to be implemented by the 
States or other parties, or the potential for disease to significantly 
affect the Mexican wolf could increase.
    Predation (by nonhuman predators) is not significantly affecting 
the Mexican wolf. No wild predator regularly preys on wolves, and only 
a small number of predator-related wolf mortalities have been 
documented in the current Mexican wolf experimental population. We do 
not consider predation likely to significantly affect the Mexican wolf 
in the future or if the subspecies was not protected by the Act.
    Illegal shooting is identified as significantly affecting the 
Mexican wolf and is a significant threat. Adequate regulatory 
protections are not available to protect Mexican wolves from illegal 
shooting without the protection of the Act. We would expect shooting of 
Mexican wolves to increase if they were not federally protected, as 
State penalties (assuming Mexican wolves were maintained as State-
protected) are less than Federal penalties.
    Inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, and 
small population size are significantly affecting the Mexican wolf. We 
recognize the importance of the captive management program and the 
active reintroduction project and recovery program in addressing these 
issues. Absent the protection of the Act, their effects on Mexican wolf 
would continue, or possibly increase depending on the degree of active 
management provided by the States or other parties.
    Vehicular collisions, intolerance by humans, land-use conflicts, 
hybridization, and climate change are not significantly affecting the 
Mexican wolf, nor are they expected to do so in the near future or if 
the Mexican wolf was not protected by the Act.
    Climate change is not significantly affecting the Mexican wolf nor 
would it do so in the absence of the Act's protections. The effects of 
climate change may become more pronounced in the future, but as is the 
case with all stressors that we assess, even if we conclude that a 
species or subspecies is currently affected or is likely to be affected 
in a negative way by one or more climate-related impacts, it does not 
necessarily follow that these effects are significant to the species or 
subspecies. The habitat generalist characteristics of the wolf and 
their primary prey, elk, lead us to conclude that climate change will 
not significantly affect the Mexican wolf in the future.
    The cumulative effects of factors that increase mortality and 
decrease genetic diversity are significantly affecting the Mexican 
wolf, particularly within the context of its small population size (a 
characteristic that significantly decreases the probability of a 
population's persistence). The cumulative effects of these threats are 
significantly affecting the Mexican wolf at the current time and likely 
will continue to do so in the future. Absent the protection of the Act, 
the cumulative effects of these threats may increase due to the 
potential for more killing of Mexican wolves, increased risk of 
inbreeding, and other sources of mortality, all exacerbated by the 
Mexican wolf's small population size.

Determination

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding 
species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species, 
subspecies, or DPS based on (A) The present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) The inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) Other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted 
based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the 
Mexican wolf and have determined that the subspecies warrants listing 
as endangered throughout its range. As required by the Act, we 
considered the five potential threat factors to assess whether the 
Mexican wolf is endangered or threatened throughout its range. Based on 
our analysis, we find that the Mexican wolf is in danger of extinction 
throughout all of its range due to small population size, illegal 
killing, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity and adaptive potential, and 
the cumulative effect of all threats. Also, existing regulatory 
mechanisms are not adequate to ensure the survival of the Mexican wolf.
    Our finding that the Mexican wolf is in danger of extinction 
throughout all of its range is consistent with our administrative 
approach to determining which subspecies are on the brink of extinction 
and, therefore, warrant listing

[[Page 2510]]

as endangered. Prior to the early 1900s, the Mexican wolf was 
distributed over a large geographic area that included portions of the 
Southwest and much of Mexico. The Mexican wolf was nearly eliminated in 
the wild by the mid-1900's due to predator eradication efforts, which 
led to its listing as an endangered subspecies in 1976 and again as 
part of the species-level gray wolf listing in 1978. Therefore, the 
Mexican wolf is a subspecies that was formerly widespread but was 
reduced to such critically low numbers and restricted range (i.e., 
eliminated in the wild) that it is at high risk of extinction due to 
threats that would not otherwise imperil it.
    At the time of its initial listing, no robust populations of 
Mexican wolves remained in the wild. The establishment and success of 
the captive-breeding program temporarily prevented immediate absolute 
extinction of the Mexican wolf and, by producing surplus animals, has 
enabled us to undertake the reestablishment of Mexican wolves in the 
wild by releasing captive animals into the experimental population. In 
the context of our current proposal to list the Mexican wolf as an 
endangered subspecies, we recognize that, even with these significant 
improvements in the Mexican wolf's status, its current geographic 
distribution is a very small portion of its former range. Moreover, 
within this reduced and restricted range, the Mexican wolf faces 
significant threats that are intensified by its small population size. 
The Mexican wolf is highly susceptible to inbreeding, loss of 
heterozygosity, and loss of adaptive potential due to the bottleneck 
created during its extreme population decline prior to protection by 
the Act, the limited number of and relatedness of the founders of the 
captive population, and the loss of some genetic material from the 
founders. The effects of inbreeding have been documented in Mexican 
wolves and require active, ongoing management to minimize.
    Mexican wolf mortality from illegal killing, as well as all other 
sources of mortality or removal from the wild experimental population, 
is occurring within the context of a small population. Smaller 
populations have low probabilities of persistence compared to larger, 
more geographically widespread populations. Absent the protection of 
the Act, illegal killing would likely increase dramatically, further 
reducing the population's size and increasing its vulnerability to 
genetic and demographic factors, putting the Mexican wolf at imminent 
risk of extinction. These factors are occurring throughout the Mexican 
wolf's range in the wild, resulting in our determination that the 
subspecies warrants listing as endangered throughout its range.
    After a thorough review of all available information and an 
evaluation of the five factors specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, 
as well as consideration of the definitions of ``threatened species'' 
and ``endangered species'' contained in the Act and the reasons for 
delisting as specified in 50 CFR 424.11(d), we revise the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (50 CFR 17.11) by listing the 
Mexican wolf subspecies (Canis lupus baileyi) as endangered. The 
Mexican wolf is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range and 
thus warrants the protections of the Act. Listing the entire Mexican 
wolf subspecies means that all members of the taxon are afforded the 
protections of the Act regardless of where they are found.
    The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range'' and a threatened species as any species ``that is likely to 
become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.'' We find that the Mexican wolf is in 
danger of extinction throughout all of its range due to illegal 
killing, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive 
potential, small population size, and the cumulative effects of factors 
C, D, and E. Historically, the Mexican wolf was distributed across 
portions of the southwestern United States and northern and central 
Mexico. The subspecies may have also ranged north into southern Utah 
and southern Colorado within zones of intergradation where 
interbreeding with other gray wolf subspecies may have occurred 
(Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 15-16). The Mexican wolf was near extinction 
prior to protection by the Act in the 1970's, such that the captive-
breeding program was founded with only seven wolves. Although our 
recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf, which are still under way, have 
led to the reestablishment of a wild population in the United States, 
the single, small population of Mexican wolves would face an imminent 
risk of extinction from the cumulative effects of small population 
size, inbreeding, and illegal shooting, without the protection of the 
Act. Absent protection by the Act, regulatory protection, especially 
against illegal killing, would not be adequate to ensure the survival 
of the Mexican wolf. Therefore, on the basis of the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we list the Mexican wolf as 
endangered in accordance with sections 3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act. We 
find that a threatened subspecies status is not appropriate for the 
Mexican wolf because of the contracted range, because the threats are 
occurring rangewide and are not localized, and because the threats are 
ongoing and expected to continue into the future.
    Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a subspecies may 
warrant listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. The threats to the survival of the 
Mexican wolf occur throughout its range and are not restricted to any 
particular significant portion of that range. Accordingly, our 
assessment and proposed determination applies to the Mexican wolf 
throughout its entire range.

Effects of the Rule

    This final rule lists the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. 
As a matter of procedure, in a separate but concurrent rulemaking 
published in this Federal Register, we also finalize the revision to 
the regulations for the nonessential experimental population of the 
Mexican wolf to ensure appropriate association of the experimental 
population with this Mexican wolf subspecies listing.

Required Determinations

National Environmental Policy Act

    We determined that an environmental assessment or an environmental 
impact statement, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in connection 
with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We 
published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the 
Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR part 
1320, which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), require that Federal agencies obtain approval 
from OMB before collecting information from the public. This rule does 
not contain any new collections of information that require approval by 
OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. This rule will not impose 
recordkeeping or reporting requirements on state or local governments, 
individuals, businesses, or organizations. An agency may not conduct or 
sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of 
information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

[[Page 2511]]

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to Tribes. We have coordinated with affected 
Tribes through correspondence and meetings in order to both (1) provide 
them with an understanding of the changes, and (2) to understand their 
concerns with those changes. We fully considered all of the comments on 
the proposed rule that were submitted by Tribes and Tribal members 
during the public comment period, and we addressed those concerns, new 
data, and new information where appropriate.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this document is posted 
on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073 and 
available upon request from the New Mexico Ecological Services Field 
Office, Albuquerque, NM (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Data Quality Act

    In developing this rule we did not conduct or use a study, 
experiment, or survey requiring peer review under the Data Quality Act 
(Pub. L. 106-554).

Authors

    The primary authors of this rule are the staff members of the 
Mexican Wolf Recovery Program (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Service amends 50 
CFR part 17 as follows:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245, unless 
otherwise noted.


0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) in the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife under Mammals by:
0
a. Revising the entry for ``Wolf, gray (Canis lupus)''; and
0
b. Adding two entries for ``Wolf, Mexican (Canis lupus baileyi)'' in 
alphabetic order.
    The revision and additions read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Species                                               Vertebrate population
------------------------------------------------------    Historic range      where endangered or       Status       When listed     Critical   Special
           Common name              Scientific name                                threatened                                        habitat     rules
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Mammals
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Wolf, gray......................  Canis lupus........  Holartic...........  U.S.A.: All of AL, AR,   E               1, 6, 13, 15,         NA         NA
                                                                             CA, CO, CT, DE, FL,                                35
                                                                             GA, KS, KY, LA, MA,
                                                                             MD, ME, MO, MS, NC,
                                                                             NE, NH, NJ, NV, NY,
                                                                             OK, PA, RI, SC, TN,
                                                                             TX, VA, VT and WV; and
                                                                             portions of AZ, IA,
                                                                             IN, IL, ND, NM, OH,
                                                                             OR, SD, UT, and WA as
                                                                             follows: (1) Northern
                                                                             AZ (that portion north
                                                                             of the centerline of
                                                                             Interstate Highway
                                                                             40); (2) Southern IA,
                                                                             (that portion south of
                                                                             the centerline of
                                                                             Highway 80); (3) Most
                                                                             of IN (that portion
                                                                             south of the
                                                                             centerline of Highway
                                                                             80); (4) Most of IL
                                                                             (that portion south of
                                                                             the centerline of
                                                                             Highway 80); (5)
                                                                             Western ND (that
                                                                             portion south and west
                                                                             of the Missouri River
                                                                             upstream to Lake
                                                                             Sakakawea and west of
                                                                             the centerline of
                                                                             Highway 83 from Lake
                                                                             Sakakawea to the
                                                                             Canadian border); (6)
                                                                             Northern NM (that
                                                                             portion north of the
                                                                             centerline of
                                                                             Interstate Highway
                                                                             40); (7) Most of OH
                                                                             (that portion south of
                                                                             the centerline of
                                                                             Highway 80 and east of
                                                                             the Maumee River at
                                                                             Toledo); (8) Western
                                                                             OR (that portion of OR
                                                                             west of the centerline
                                                                             of Highway 395 and
                                                                             Highway 78 north of
                                                                             Burns Junction and
                                                                             that portion of OR
                                                                             west of the centerline
                                                                             of Highway 95 south of
                                                                             Burns Junction); (9)
                                                                             Western SD (that
                                                                             portion south and west
                                                                             of the Missouri
                                                                             River); (10) Most of
                                                                             Utah (that portion of
                                                                             UT south and west of
                                                                             the centerline of

[[Page 2512]]

 
                                                                             Highway 84 and that
                                                                             portion of UT south of
                                                                             Highway 80 from Echo
                                                                             to the UT/WY
                                                                             Stateline); and (11)
                                                                             Western WA (that
                                                                             portion of WA west of
                                                                             the centerline of
                                                                             Highway 97 and Highway
                                                                             17 north of Mesa and
                                                                             that portion of WA
                                                                             west of the centerline
                                                                             of Highway 395 south
                                                                             of Mesa). Mexico
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Wolf, Mexican...................  Canis lupus baileyi  Southwestern United  Entire, except where     E             ...............         NA         NA
                                                        States and Mexico.   included in an
                                                                             experimental
                                                                             population as set
                                                                             forth in 17.84(k).
Wolf, Mexican...................  Canis lupus baileyi  Southwestern United  U.S.A. (portions of AZ   XN            ...............         NA   17.84(k)
                                                        States and Mexico.   and NM)--see 17.84(k).
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

    Dated: January 7, 2015.
 Stephen Guertin,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-00441 Filed 1-15-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P