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In the News: Mexican Gray Wolves May Get More Area To Live In

Rule Change Proposed. Arizona Republic, Brandon Loomis, June 10, 2013 (posted 06/11/13)

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Mexican gray wolves could get more room to roam in Arizona and New Mexico under proposed federal rule changes, and the government would protect them with a new classification as an endangered subspecies of the larger gray-wolf population.

That reclassification is crucial to restoration efforts in the Southwest because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday also proposed removing Endangered Species Act protections from the broader gray-wolf population of the northern Rockies and Great Lakes.

The continuing protections for Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico would include new tolerance for wolves to populate forests as far north as Interstate 40 and as far south as Interstate 10. Their current recovery area is restricted to the Blue Range straddling both states.

“After 15 years of experimenting with Mexican wolf reintroduction, we are now proposing modifications that we believe improve growth and the genetic health of the overall population,” said Benjamin Tuggle, a regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

If approved later this year, the plan also would allow release of captive wolves into New Mexico’s Gila National Forest for the first time. Previously, all releases from captive breeding programs were in Arizona’s Apache National Forest, compressing the zone of new blood and of conflicts. At least 46 wolves have been shot illegally, and most shootings are unsolved.

There were 75 Mexican gray wolves in the wild as of the last census at the end of 2012. They are a smaller relative of the gray wolf, whose numbers have soared into the thousands in the northern United States. In both the northern Rockies and the Southwest, conflicts with livestock led ranchers and government trappers to target the predators during the 20th century.

National conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, condemned the move to delist wolves elsewhere, though wolf advocates have both hopes and fears for what the planned changes mean for Mexican wolves.

“This is a very sad day for wolves nationwide,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “For the Mexican wolves, it’s really a mixed bag.”

Expanding the zone of tolerance will help wolves multiply, he said. But the proposal also extends the “experimental” tag to wolves all the way to the Mexican border, opening wolves there to legal shootings or trappings if they chase livestock. Previously, wolves south of I-10 — outside the experimental reintroduction zone — enjoyed full protection, and Robinson thinks they still need it in case any wolves from Mexico migrate north.

Biologists rounded up the last wild Mexican wolves for breeding during the 1980s and started releasing their offspring into eastern Arizona in 1998. The ground available for releases was limited to about a million acres in the Apache National Forest, but the rule change would add about triple that acreage for reintroduction in New Mexico.

Because the government classified these wolves as experimental and restricted them to a core recovery zone, wildlife agents have rounded up wolves that previously established home territories beyond the Blue Range. The new rule, now available for public comment, would tolerate packs between the state’s two major east-west freeways. Theoretically, it means wolves could spread across the Mogollon Rim, for instance.

That’s a maddening thought to hunters, including John Koleszar, vice president of the Arizona Deer Association. There already are too few hunting opportunities, he said, and big-game groups like his donate habitat-enhancement funds to boost herds, not to feed wolves.

“For elk,” he said, “I put in for archery (permits) every year, and I get drawn about every eight years. You’re telling me you want to put another top-line predator all along the Mogollon Rim? It’s wrong.”

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials said Friday that it was premature to respond to the proposal. They work with the Fish and Wildlife Service on wolf restoration. Larry Riley, the department’s assistant director for wildlife management, said that, in general, the state has hoped for more flexibility in both release sites and in removing problem wolves.

“We’re definitely going to be studying on this,” Riley said of the proposed rules. “There are going to be some pluses and minuses.”

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This article was published in the Arizona Republic.

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How to comment

Click here to read the proposed rule.

Click here to submit your comments to Fish and Wildlife Service online.

To comment by mail: “Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R2–ES–2013–0056; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.”


Please submit a letter to the editor expressing
support for Mexican gray wolves!

Some suggested points to include are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.

Start by thanking the paper for the story.

A change that allows new Mexican wolves to be released directly into New Mexico instead of limiting new releases to Arizona is long overdue.  This will remove obstacles to getting new wolves and healthier genetics in the wild, where they are desperately needed.

Wolves don’t read maps. Mexican gray wolves should have the freedom to roam and boundaries on their movement should be eliminated.

The Fish and Wildlife Service should give critically endangered Mexican wolves greater protections, including full endangered species protections, rather than extending the zone in which they can be killed or removed over livestock.

Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature.

Polling showed 77% of Arizona voters and 69% of New Mexico voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction.

Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.

Mexican gray wolves are unique native animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America and the most endangered wolf in the world.

Wolves generate economic benefits - a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy.


This article and similar ones appeared in multiple newspapers. You can revise your letter slightly and send it to all of the papers below.

Arizona Republic
Submit your letter to the Editor here.


Las Cruces Sun-News
Submit your letter to the Editor here.


San Francisco Chronicle
Submit your letter to the Editor here.


Thank you!

For more information, contact us at info@mexicanwolves.org.
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Photo credit: Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center