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In the News: Wild Mexican wolf population drops 12%

Albuquerque Journal – February 18, 2016

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The population of endangered Mexican wolves in the wild decreased last year due to adult deaths and a steep drop in the pup survival rate, according to an annual count by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The service reported finding 97 wolves in the wild, compared with 110 this time last year. The 12 percent decline comes after five straight years of population increases.

“We cannot be certain if this abrupt decline is an anomaly, as our trends since 2010 had been more encouraging prior to this year, including a 30 percent growth in 2014,” said Sherry Barrett, the agency’s Mexican wolf recovery coordinator.

Barrett said that there are “many dynamics” that could have led to the population drop and that Fish and Wildlife will “carefully analyze the contributing factors to try to actively reverse this decline.”

The census was conducted using on-the-ground surveys during the last two months of 2015 and aerial surveys during the first two months of this year. The resulting count is considered a minimum of wolves in the wild.

Thirteen adult wolves were found dead in the 2015 census, compared with 11 in 2014. Another 11 radio-collared wolves have disappeared, Fish and Wildlife said.

Additionally, far fewer wolf pups survived through December last year: 55 percent, compared with 86 percent in 2014. Last year, 23 wild-born pups survived through the end of the year.

“If past is prologue, then a high percentage of those reported to be dead will eventually be reported to have been illegally shot, and a high proportion of those disappeared will never be seen again,” said Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “I hope that’s not the case.”

The federal government first began releasing captive-bred, endangered Mexican wolves to the wild in 1998 in an attempt to establish a wild population of the apex predator in Arizona and New Mexico. The program has faced stiff opposition from farmers and ranchers who fear their cattle will fall prey to wolves, as has happened.

Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Law Enforcement is investigating the wolf mortalities to determine cause of death; necropsies will be performed on the recovered carcasses.

Robinson said wolves face a range of dangers in the wild. Mountain lions have been known to attack lone wolves that have strayed from their packs. An elk’s powerful kick can mortally injure a wolf. Wolves have also been illegally shot, he said.

Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, which represents more than 16,500 hunters and anglers statewide, said the reintroduction of wolves is a “tricky issue.”

“We don’t want wolf populations to have a deleterious impact on other native species,” he said. “But it’s so important to restore a native species. They are an important part of ecosystem health.”


This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal.

This story was covered by several news sources.  See below for links and contacts for letter submissions.

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Please help Mexican wolves with a letter to the editor!

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 for writing your letter 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.

This story was covered by several news sources.  
See below for links and contacts for letter submissions.

Letter to the Editor Talking Points and Tips

  • With just 97 Mexican gray wolves remain in the wild today in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, this unique sub-species is teetering on the brink of a second extinction.
  • Geneticists have warned for years that the wild population needs greater diversity, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to release new wolves into the wild to improve the wolves’ genetic health.
  • For over 3 decades, captive breeding programs in the U.S. and Mexico have worked to maximize genetic diversity so that captive wolves could be released to increase the wild population’s genetic health. But USFWS has released very few of these wolves.  The wild population of Mexican gray wolves remains critically endangered and in need of additional populations, new releases to improve the population’s genetics, and a scientifically valid recovery plan.
  • Almost 18 years after the first Mexican wolves were reintroduced, there are only 97 wolves in the wild. More wolves are needed to stop inbreeding that researchers suggest may be lowering litter sizes and depressing pup-survival rates.
  • The window is closing on fixing the genetic issue, and one of the easiest steps the US Fish and Wildlife Service can take is to release more wolves from captivity, and do it now.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to do more – and do it fast – to save the lobo from extinction. In order for Mexican gray wolves to recover fully, they need more wolf releases, a science-based recovery plan and more wolf populations in suitable habitats.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service should stop letting anti-wolf state officials obstruct wolf recovery.  The last effort to create a Mexican wolf recovery plan stalled precisely because the states were given opportunities to weigh in before the work of the scientific experts was released for public comment. The most recent recovery planning process, which began in 2011, ended amidst allegations of political interference by these same states with the science.
  • 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.
  • States have failed to manage wildlife as a public trust for current and future citizens.  State wildlife policies, which kill off predators to supposedly support game populations, are rooted in the 1800s. Fortunately, our national policy is to restore and preserve all forms of wildlife, including predators.  Until the states get serious about balancing conservation vs. consumption, they should recuse themselves from decisions about endangered species.
  • Enough is enough. The Service needs to assert its authority and recover the Mexican gray wolf.
  • 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.
  • Polling shows that the majority of voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction.
  • 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.
Letter Writing Tips

Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing this article and make sure to reference it in your letter.
  • 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, 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, no more than 200 words. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.
  • Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.” Don’t be afraid to be personal and creative.
  • 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.
Where to submit your letter:

The Arizona Republic - Arizona
After rising to a record 110, count of Mexican wolves has dropped to 97 in Southwest
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.

Arizona Daily Sun - Arizona
After years of growth, Mexican gray wolf population declines
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.

Arizona Daily Star - Arizona
After years of growth, Mexican gray wolf population declines
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.

Albuquerque Journal - New Mexico
Wild Mexican wolf population drops 12%
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.

Las Cruces Sun-News - New Mexico
After years of growth, Mexican gray wolf population declines
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.

Santa Fe New Mexican - New Mexico
After years of growth, Mexican gray wolf population declines
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.

The Durango Herald - Colorado
Mexican gray wolf population declines after steady growth
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.


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Don't stop now - Do MORE for Mexican wolves
Tell US Fish and Wildlife Service-Lobos need a science based recovery plan!

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Learn More ...

Obstructionist policies that ignore scientific facts have been interfering with Mexican wolf recovery for many years.  Here are some past articles that highlight some of the history of the struggle to support a recovery plan based on science and not politics.

Press Release: Coalition to Sue Fish and Wildlife Service for Failure to Produce Mandatory Recovery Plan for Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf - 9/10/14

Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves Need a Modern Recovery Plan - 1/11/14

Political Mudwrestling on Mexican Wolf Science (PEER) - 9/4/12

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