EL PASO, Texas - In early June, Federal officials declared a victory following a four-decade campaign to rescue the gray wolf.
It has been a long journey for the gray wolf. One considered a dangerous predator by the government there were attempts to exterminate the wolves.
This month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the animal's remaining protections as an endangered species across the Lower 48 states. The exception would be in the Southwest, where the recovery effort for the related Mexican gray wolf is lagging.
Dan Ashe, the agency's director, said the wolf can thrive without further protection.
"Taking this step fulfills the commitment we've made to the American people -- to set biologically sound recovery goals and return wolves to state management when those goals have been met and threats to the species' future have been addressed," said Ashe.
Right now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking at efforts with the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies that exists in Arizona and New Mexico.
"It's still pretty bleak out there, so we need to get more people involved," said Rick Lobello an El Paso zoo education curator.
Lobello works with two Mexican gray wolves, Ash and Ivy, which belong to the El Paso Zoo. A third wolf was removed from their exhibit in 2010 to allow for breeding.
"It's really important that these animals return to the wild because they're part of the ecosystem," said Lobello. "They hold it all together."
Right now, only 75 Mexican gray wolves exist in the wild.
Work is being done to reintroduce them. However Michael Robinson, the author of a book focusing on gray wolves "Predatory Bureaucracy," says there are only three breeding pairs of Mexican gray wolves in the wild.
"The U.S. government has frozen releases of wolves, they've only released one wolf to the wild in about five years since 2008," said Robinson.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the agency is calling for tenfold increase in the territory where biologists are working to rebuild that population. Law enforcement efforts to ward off poaching in the region would be bolstered.