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In the News: AG&F Reports 48 Wolves in Blue Range Recovery Area

The Copper Era, April 30, 2014  (posted 05/04/14)

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The Arizona Game & Fish Department on April 25 released a summary for the month of March on Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project activities in local national forests.

The current population status for March shows the radio-collared population consisted of 48 wolves, with functional radio collars dispersed among 14 packs and two single wolves.

The animals inhabit the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, or BRWRA. In Arizona, it includes the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and in New Mexico, the Apache National Forest and Gila National Forest. The recovery area also includes the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. However, only nontribal lands involved in the project are collectively known as the BRWRA.

The wolf project has drawn strong opposition from boards of supervisors in Greenlee and Apache counties since the program’s inception in 1998. Supervisors in Greenlee have taken the approach of a reluctant acceptance of the wolf project with the realization that, as Greenlee Supervisor Ron Campbell put it, “Whether we like it or not, they (wolves) are here to stay. It’s not 'if' we are going to have wolves in our backyard, but 'how' we are going to deal with them.

“We (Greenlee County) continue to have a seat at the table with the other federal, state and county governmental entities involved in this, and we do make ourselves heard.”

He said, “This is an extremely critical time for the wolf reintroduction program and for the proposed changes to the current rules that we have historically been operating under. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have heard our opinions and comments, and have received our supported alternative to their plan.”

He added, “If you are not at the table, you might find yourself on the menu.”

Campbell represents District 2, in which most of the Apache National Forest and the Blue Wilderness Recovery Area are located. The Apache covers about two-thirds of Greenlee.

Greenlee is Arizona’s second-smallest county in land mass and has the smallest population of the state’s 15 counties. It and Apache County are located in remote areas of southeastern Arizona, and both counties border western New Mexico.

The agency most involved in the wolf program is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which uses the term “reintroduction” in reference to the wolf program. However, besides Greenlee’s and Apache’s boards of supervisors, there is deep skepticism among many of the counties’ residents that the wolves ever existed or at one time established a long-term foothold in the area now designated as critical habitat for the wolf.

Project critics argue the wolves may have occasionally roamed the area but say they have yet to see any documentation or other proof that the BRWRA was a permanent wolf habitat.

Federal and state agencies involved in the wolf project, besides the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Arizona Game & Fish, are the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, and Wildlife Services. The White Mountain Apache Tribe is also included as part of the wolf program’s multi-agency cooperative effort.

The AG&F news release involving the March wolf project summary does not mention either Greenlee or Apache counties, nor Catron County, N.M., which is part of the wolf project area, as being among the project’s cooperative agencies.

Wolf bill vetoed

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently vetoed a bill sponsored by State Sen. Gail Griffin, who represents Greenlee, that would have given a great deal of leeway for ranchers to shoot wolves on sight if they appeared to pose a threat to livestock on ranchers’ property or grazing allotments.

A recent statewide poll showed that a majority of Arizonans polled favor the wolf program. The response from wolf project opponents was that a great majority of those polled are highly likely to be urbanites and others will not be affected directly or even indirectly by the wolves’ presence.

Yet another interesting development has occurred regarding compensation for wolf depredation of livestock. The National Wildlife Federation brokered an agreement that would reimburse ranchers more than the market price for any livestock killed by wolves.

There were seven confirmed incidents of livestock depredations occurring in March in the BRWRA. All but one occurred in New Mexico. The one Arizona incident happened in the Apache National Forest near Strayhorse, north of Clifton-Morenci.

The AG&F reported a wolf was found dead March 31. The cause of death is under investigation.
Rewards for (information about illegal) killing wolves

Wolf project officials have said the project has experienced setbacks by the illegal shooting of wolves. They issued a reminder that killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000, and/or not more than one year in jail, and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.

Rewards totaling up to $58,000 are being offered by Fish & Wildlife, Arizona Game & Fish, New Mexico Game & Fish, nongovernmental organization and private individuals for information leading to the conviction of anyone involved in the shooting deaths of Mexican wolves.

Individuals with information they believe may be helpful are urged to call AG&F’s Operation Game Thief at (800) 352-0700.

Additional project information can be obtained by calling (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653, or by visiting the Arizona Game & Fish website at http://www.azgfd.gov/wolf or by visiting the U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service Web site at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf.

This article was published in the Copper Era on April 30, 2014.

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PLEASE TAKE ACTION FOR MEXICAN WOLVES

Please submit a letter to the Editor to ensure the future of critically endangered Mexican gray wolves today!

One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers.


Tips and talking points are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don’t try to include all the talking points in your letter.

Talking points

Start by thanking the paper for this article.

The USFWS should move forward with allowing new wolves to be released throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. The Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered mammal in the U.S. with only about 83 in the wild.  Additional populations of Mexican wolves are necessary to their recovery and genetic health, as is the ability for wolves to move between populations.  Numerous wolves are in captive breeding facilities around the country, prepared for, and awaiting, release.

The alternative endorsed by AZ Game and Fish shows why wolves need federal protections.
Scientists have said that far more wolves are needed for the Mexican gray wolf to achieve recovery. AZ Game and Fish’s proposal would keep the number artificially low, and allow endangered wolves to be killed for a much broader range of reasons than is currently allowed.

Wolves need freedom from boundaries. Given room to roam, the wolves will establish themselves in suitable areas with adequate game. The USFWS proposal does not allow wolves to establish new packs and populations in additional areas that are essential to their recovery. Capturing and moving wolves because they roam beyond an artificial boundary is always a risky business that can result in death or trauma to the wolf.

Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and New Mexico and played a critical role in keeping the balance of nature in place. We need to restore this important animal that has been missing for too long. 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.

The USFWS should designate Mexican gray wolves as essential. The 83 wolves in the wild have up to four generations of experience in establishing packs and raising pups and are over 22% of all of the Mexican wolves in the world. The fourth generation wild lobos are not expendable and are essential to recovering this unique subspecies of wolf. By labeling all of the wild wolves as “nonessential” the USFWS ignores science and the reality of 16 years of experience with reintroducing wolves.

The USFWS needs to quit stalling and complete a comprehensive recovery plan
. USFWS admits that their 1982 recovery plan is not scientifically sound and does not meet current legal requirements – yet in its proposed rule USFWS continues to emphasize a woefully inadequate population of only 100 wolves in the wild.

Arizona Game and Fish is once again trying to obstruct Mexican wolf recovery with this “alternative".
AZ Game and Fish should honor its responsibility to all of Arizona’s wildlife and citizens by supporting rule changes that promote Mexican wolf recovery instead of hindering it.

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

Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing this article.
  • Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.)
  • Provide your name, address, phone number and address.  The paper won’t publish these, but they want to know you are who you say you are.
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Would you like to do more to help?

Click here to contact decision makers to influence US Fish and Wildlife to include in the rule change only the things that will contribute to the long-term recovery of Mexican gray wolves.

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Submit your letter to the Editor here.
editor@eacourier.com