A List of Endangered Species of New Mexico

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

New Mexico state flag / Viktorcvetkovic via Istock

Located in the Southwestern United States, New Mexico is the fifth-largest of the fifty US states, with a total area of 121,591 sq mi (314,915 km2).

The state is one of the Mountain States of the Rocky Mountains in the south and is home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than anywhere else in the US.

Although the state is famous for being arid with many desert regions, New Mexico is one of the most geographically diverse US states.

It features snow-capped peaks, grasslands, mesas, etc.

New Mexico is home to at least 100 reptile species, 170 mammal species, and over 500 bird species.

The state’s official mammal is the New Mexico black bear, and the official bird is the chaparral bird.

Despite the state’s biodiversity and the abundance of species, some of the state’s animals face several endangerment threats.

Here are some of the endangered species in New Mexico:

Gage Beasley's In-Demand Plush Toys
Gage Beasley’s In-Demand Plush Toys

6. Mexican Gray Wolf

A captive Mexican Wolf at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
A captive Mexican Wolf at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico | Jim Clark via Wikipedia Public Domain

Otherwise called the lobo or Canis lupus baileyi, the Mexican gray wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf native to New Mexico.

As one of the most endangered wolves in the world, this species was once widespread throughout the southwestern United States and Mexico.

Less than 200 individuals remain in the wild, distributed between New Mexico and Arizona.

The Mexican gray wolf is the smallest North American gray wolf and is easily recognized by its more undersized build and narrow skull.

It has a darker pelt ranging between yellow and gray and a fluffy tail with black tips.

Mexican wolf pup howling
Mexican wolf pup howling | Dolovis via Wikimedia CC BY 2.0

In New Mexico, Mexican gray wolves inhabit several parts of the forest and are apex predators of other animals, and keep them from overgrazing on the forest vegetation.

One primary threat this species faces is habitat loss and fragmentation.

As more and more land is being developed or converted for agriculture, fewer suitable habitats exist for these wolves.

Another threat they face is genetic challenges.

There is a considerable risk of inbreeding due to the tiny size of the wild wolf population, which can result in genetic flaws and decreased fitness.

The state has designated critical habitats for the wolf, including areas in the Gila National Forest and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

5. Rio Grande Silvery Minnow

Rio Grande Silvery Minnow
Rio Grande Silvery Minnow | Image via The Aquarium Wiki CC BY-SA 3.0

Otherwise called the Rio Grande minnow, the Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus) is a small freshwater and herbivorous fish native to the Rio Grande Basin in North America, including the state of New Mexico.

However, this species faces endangerment from habitat loss, water diversion, and competition from non-native species.

This fish was first classified as endangered in 1994, and conservation efforts have been underway since.

The Rio Grande silvery minnow is a small fish, usually about 2.5-3 inches long.

The fish has a slim, streamlined body with a white belly and silvery side coloring. It also has a small dorsal fin and a tiny head and mouth.

Group of Rio Grande Silvery Minnow
Group of Rio Grande Silvery Minnow | Image via The Aquarium Wiki CC BY-SA 3.0

The most common place to find this species is in slow-moving rivers and streams with clear water and sand- or gravel-covered bottoms.

Although this fish was abundant in most of the Rio Grande Basin, its population has reduced over the years because of habitat loss, water diversion, and the introduction of non-native species.

The normal flow of water has been disrupted by the construction of dams and reservoirs on the Río Grande, diminishing the quantity of appropriate habitat for the species.

However, efforts are underway to conserve and recover the Rio Grande silvery minnow population.

4. Southwestern Willow Flycatcher 

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
Southwestern Willow Flycatcher | Jim Rorabaugh via Wikipedia Public Domain

The southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) is a small bird species native to the southwestern United States, including New Mexico.

It is one of North America’s most endangered bird species and a subspecies of the willow flycatcher.

There are at least four subspecies of the willow flycatcher, and because they are hard to differentiate, experts use their songs to tell them apart.

Adult southwestern willow flycatchers have either brown or olive upper bodies and darker wings and tails.

Their underparts are typically white, while their bills are gray at the upper part and orange at the bottom.

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher chirping
Southwestern Willow Flycatcher chirping | Andrew Weitzel via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

These birds are tiny and do not weigh more than 0.48 oz, with a wingspan of around nine inches.

The southwestern willow flycatcher is a migratory bird, and it arrives in New Mexico during the spring and summer months, where it breeds and raises its young.

These birds face threats like the loss of habitat and climate change effects.

New Mexico has implemented several conservation projects to save the southwestern willow flycatcher and its habitat.

The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Recovery Program is one such initiative, and it is a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several other conservation groups.

3. Jemez Mountains Salamander

A salamander species in the Plethodontidae family endemic to New Mexico is the Jemez Mountains salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus).

This elusive creature’s distinctive appearance has captured the attention of many biologists and ecologists.

The salamander inhabits northern New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains, specifically in the southern region of the Santa Fe National Forest.

The Jemez Mountains Salamander is a small, terrestrial amphibian between 2.5-4 inches.

It has a dark, almost black, coloration with small white or yellow spots on its sides and a pale underside.

The salamander is distinct from other salamanders in that it has external gills throughout its life.

Other salamanders lose their gills as they develop.

This species also has a slender, elongated body and a long, flat tail over half its total length.

The salamander’s diminutive stature makes it susceptible to being eaten by larger animals, including snakes, birds, and mammals.

Other primary threats to the species include habitat destruction and climate change.

The changing climate affects this animal through its internal moisture levels, making it difficult to survive.

To maintain and restore the salamander’s habitat, the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations are lessening mining and logging throughout the salamander’s habitat.

Scientists are also investigating the salamander’s biology and ecology to comprehend its requirements and how to safeguard the species.

2. Pecos Pupfish

Pecos Pupfish
Pecos Pupfish | Andrew Cannizzaro via Wikipedia CC BY 3.0

The Pecos pupfish, also known as the Cyprinodon pecosensis, is a species of fish native to the Pecos River Basin in New Mexico.

Despite having an unassuming appearance, the Pecos pupfish is a severely endangered species that faces many dangers to its existence.

One of the most significant threats to the Pecos pupfish is habitat loss and fragmentation.

This fish is small, typically growing to about two inches in length, and has a grayish-brown coloration.

Historically, the Pecos pupfish was abundant in the Pecos River Basin.

Due to various factors, like pollution and habitat destruction, the species has experienced a significant decline in population size and distribution.

Group of Pecos Pupfish darting towards each other to protect their breeding territory
Group of Pecos Pupfish darting towards each other to protect their breeding territory | milehightraveler via iStock

As such, it is one of the most endangered fishes in North America.

Introducing non-native fish species into its habitat poses another danger to the Pecos pupfish.

Many additional species can prey on the Pecos pupfish and compete with it for resources.

Moreover, non-native fish can hybridize with Pecos pupfish, diminishing the species’ genetic diversity and possibly causing its extinction.

Various conservation measures are underway, including habitat restoration, fish stocking programs, and removing non-native fish species.

1. Sonora Chub

Sonora Chub
Sonora Chub | Rob Foster via Wikipedia CC BY 4.0

The Sonora chub (Gila ditaenia), is a fish species native to the Gila River drainage in New Mexico.

Due to its dwindling populations, this fish species is recognized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a species of particular concern and as a state-threatened species in New Mexico.

The declining populations of the Sonora chub in New Mexico are primarily due to habitat degradation and loss.

The Sonora chub is a small fish that usually measures around 3-5 inches, recognized by its yellowish-brown to olive-green body color.

It has a darker stripe along its side and likes slow-moving or stagnant waters.

This fish feeds on insects and smaller invertebrates, and it prefers to inhabit backwaters, pools, and oxbows.

Another reason for the endangerment of this species is the introduction of non-native species into its habitat.

Various conservation measures are underway to address the decline of the Sonora chub populations in New Mexico.

One such measure is the protection of the fish’s habitat by removing non-native fish species and restoring their riparian vegetation.

Another conservation measure is the establishment of fishing regulations that limit the catch of the Sonora chub in New Mexico.


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