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In the News: Mexican wolf pelt more than 100 years old, finds home at NMSU Wildlife Museum

Las Cruces Sun-News, 5/30/15 – Please Write Letters to the Editor

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LAS CRUCES >> A Mexican wolf pelt native to the Southwest and more than 100 years old, makes its way back to New Mexico this month. It is being displayed and cared for at the Wildlife Museum of New Mexico State University.

Donated by Clydene Rowe and her sister Roberta Lewis, the pelt has been passed through the generations of her family since the early 20th century.

"We have a photo of my aunt sitting on it from 1912," Rowe said. "She was 2 years old in the photo, so we know it must be from before 1910."

Rowe's grandfather was the foreman for the Warren Family, who owned several ranches from Lordsburg, New Mexico to Muleshoe, Texas. It was on the Lordsburg ranch where he shot and killed the wolf for getting into cattle.

The donation comes during a crucial time, when rules regarding where wolves may roam have changed.

The Mexican wolf, historically, was common through most of Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. Because of issues with ranch owners, control efforts nearly eliminated the species.

"It went extinct in the wild in the 1970s and almost disappeared," said Jennifer Frey, curator of the Wildlife Museum and associate professor.

Listed on the Endangered Species Act in 1976, trappers were sent to Mexico in a binational effort to conserve what was left of the species. Five wolves were captured and put into a captive breeding program.

In 1998 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to restore Mexican wolves to areas in the Gila and Apache national forests. An introduction of 11 wolves began a program that remains controversial. Nonetheless, the population in the wild has slowly grown.

The first Mexican wolf puppy born in the wild United States in more than 50 years was spotted with its parents in 1998.

Today, there is at least 109 Mexican wolves in the wild throughout Arizona and New Mexico, with a few in Mexico.

"One of the things that has happened, is that some of the rules have changed with respect to the restoration program," Frey said. "The wolf population is expected to grow, and more people will be more directly aware of the species." Two revisions to the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of Mexican Wolves and Endangered Status for the Mexican Wolf became effective Feb. 17. These changes made to the reintroduction program, originally finalized in 1998, will allow Mexican wolves to move about freely south of Interstate 40 in Arizona and New Mexico. These changes will allow for more flexibility and increase the responsiveness to the local communities inside the wolf management zones.

"We'd like to help people understand what the wolf is and what it's not," Frey said, "and that there is this conflict with the species and livestock producers. It's important to provide education to understand the species and foster ways to lessen the conflict."

Because the wolves nearly became extinct so early, there are very few specimens that can provide details about their history in the wild.

"This donation allows us to talk about the animal and its biology, its current conservation status," Frey said. "We will use the pelt in our public education program, which we are still developing. We contact mostly elementary- and high school-aged children, conduct tours of the museum and create programs that go out to schools in the local community to talk about New Mexico wildlife."

The purpose of the Wildlife Museum is to document and preserve information about the diversity of wildlife in the borderland region, as well as to provide education and programs for students at NMSU and in the local community.

"The specimens themselves provide that tangible connection for people to see and touch the animal, and examine it up close in ways you wouldn't be able to do in any other fashion," Frey said.

This article was posted in the Las Cruces Sun-News.

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Please help endangered Mexican gray wolves 
with a letter to the editor today!

The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers.  Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don't try to include all of the points below. Your letter will be effective if you keep it brief and focus on a few key points.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
  • 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. At last official count, only 109 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild, making them one of the most endangered wolves in the world.
  • The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. Wolves are responsible for less than 1% of livestock losses and there are many tried and true methods to avoid conflicts between livestock and wolves.
  • The federal government nearly drove the Mexican gray wolf to extinction in the 1900’s. We have a moral responsibility to do all we can to ensure these wolves do not go extinct.
  • Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature.
  • Scientists 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 wild population of Mexican wolves is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics. Many more wolves should be released this year from the hundreds in captive breeding programs.
  • 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.
Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing the article.
  • Submit your letter as soon as possible. The chance of your letter being published declines after a day or two since the article was published.
  • Do not repeat any negative messages from the article, such as “so and so said that wolves kill too many cows, but…”  Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article.
  • Keep your letter brief, between 150-250 words.
  • Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a 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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