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In the News: Two newborn wolf pups released into a wild den

Albuquerque Journal – April 29, 2016 – Speak Out For Wolves

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has successfully placed two wolf pups born in captivity in Missouri into a wild wolf den in New Mexico – a milestone achieved over the state’s opposition to such releases.

A wild wolf in Catron County with her own, young litter of five adopted the 9-day-old pups last Saturday, according to Fish and Wildlife. The adoption marked the first time the agency successfully fostered endangered Mexican wolf pups born in captivity into a wild den.

Fish and Wildlife has been monitoring breeding pairs in New Mexico and Arizona in hopes of pairing pups born in captivity with a wild litter. The surrogate mother wolf was being tracked by radio collar.

With this “cross-fostering” effort, Fish and Wildlife has made good on its promise to carry out wolf releases despite the state having refused the agency a permit to do so. When New Mexico Game and Fish last year denied the federal government permits to release wolves, Fish and Wildlife vowed it would pursue its recovery program under federal mandate.

The Endangered Species Act requires the federal government to recover the Mexican wolf. Fish and Wildlife this week agreed in a court settlement to develop a long-overdue recovery plan by 2017 that will define what “recovery” means in terms of wolf numbers and habitat.

New Mexico recently put the Fish and Wildlife on notice that it will sue unless the agency backs off its wolf release plan, which it calls “unpermitted and illegal.” Fish and Wildlife’s plan includes cross-fostering pups and also the release of a pack of wolves to the wild in New Mexico this year.

The federal agency “blatantly disregarded state’s rights when they released Mexican wolves into New Mexico without obtaining the necessary state permits,” Game and Fish said in a statement, adding the department must “remain the primary authority in all matters involving wildlife management in New Mexico for the benefit and best interest of our citizens.”

Historically, Game and Fish often approved permits for wolf releases in New Mexico since the reintroduction program began in 1998 but that stopped last year after the Game Commission began voicing concerns about the program’s management, particularly the Fish and Wildlife’s inability to put forth a recovery plan. The current, badly outdated recovery plan dates to 1982.

“I’m really glad the state is putting their foot down because so many people have been irreparably harmed by this program,” said Laura Schneberger, president of the Gila Livestock Growers Association, which represents dozens of Catron and Sierra county ranchers who oppose the wolf reintroduction program.

Wolves have been known to prey on cattle.

“Two nine-day-old Mexican wolf pups were moved from the more genetically diverse captive population and placed into a den with a similarly aged litter in the wild,” Fish and Wildlife said in its own statement. “The intent is for these newly released pups to be raised in the wild by experienced wolves and ultimately contribute to the gene diversity of the wild population by becoming successful, breeding adults.”

The St. Louis-based Endangered Wolf Center flew the just-born wolf pups – a male named Lindbergh and a female named Vida – to New Mexico to be placed with a new litter here. Regina Mossotti, director of animal care and conservation at the center, called cross-fostering “a unique and innovative tool.”

“It increases the population size but it also increases genetics,” she said. “With less than 100 animals in the wild, genetics is a really important thing.”

When cross-fostering is successful, the surrogate mother will adopt and raise the pups as her own. Fish and Wildlife has said that the technique is one way to improve the genetic diversity of the wild wolf population.

There were 97 wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona at last count in early 2016, down from 110 wolves the prior year, according to Fish and Wildlife. According to the census, 47 of the wolves counted were found in New Mexico, largely in the Gila National Forest.

This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal.


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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.

This story was covered by multiple news sources (see below).  You can write one letter and modify it slightly for each Editor.  Also be sure to leave your comments on the websites of the articles provided below.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points

  • The wild population of Mexican wolves is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics. Cross fostering is one tool for improving the wild population’s genetic health, but it’s not enough.  Many more wolves should be released this year from the hundreds in captive breeding programs.
  • Cross-fostering of pups is a risky and complex experimental technique. Opportunities for doing this successfully are extremely rare. At best, the Fish and Wildlife Service may be able to get a few new pups into wild packs. At worst, pups introduced into packs they were not born into may be killed or abandoned. A scientific genetic rescue plan will involve releasing many more adult wolves, not just cross-fostering.
  • At last official count, only 97 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild. The wild population declined 12% since last year’s count. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to release only one family in 2016 is sadly inadequate to the need to increase the numbers and genetic health of endangered lobos in the wild.
  • Time is running out for the Mexican gray wolf. The Service must immediately release multiple families of wolves from captivity to beat the clock of lobo extinction.
  • The wild population of Mexican wolves is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to release only one new family from the hundreds of wolves in captive breeding programs is entirely inadequate to the need for genetic rescue. At least five new families should be released this year.
  • The captive population still has genes not represented in the wild population. Therefore, releases from this population would help increase the genetic diversity in the wild population. Wolf releases from captivity are necessary to improve the all-around health of the wild Mexican gray wolf population, in terms of both their genetics and their numbers.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is allowing politics to override science based recommendations for wolf recovery. Right now, the Service has a plan to trap and remove a father wolf over livestock as soon as his mate has pups, without any requirement for livestock owners to actively protect their livestock from depredations.
  • 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.
  • Since the lobo reintroduction program began in the late 1990s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has never released enough wolves from captivity, not only impeding a steady increase in the lobos’ numbers but also triggering a continual loss of genetic diversity in the wild lobo population over the past 18 years.
  • During the entire Obama administration (2009 to present), only four new wolves have been released from captivity. Of these, three are dead and one has been returned to captivity. The longer the wild population goes without new releases, the worse the problems will become, requiring even more wolf releases in the future.
  • No matter how you measure it, there are clear, concrete repercussions to the dwindling genetic diversity in the wild. We are seeing smaller litters, lower pup survival and the population is less able to adapt over time to changing conditions.
Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing the editorial.
  • 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, 150 words or less.
  • 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.



Two newborn wolf pups released into a wild den
Albuquerque Journal
Submit your letter to the Editor here.

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

Gray wolf pups released into N.M. wild
Santa Fe New Mexican
Submit your letter to the Editor here.


Captive-born wolf pups released into wild den in New Mexico
San Francisco Gate
Submit your letter to the Editor here.

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EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to trap an endangered Mexican gray wolf living in the wild in New Mexico and put him in a pen, likely forever, as soon as his mate gives birth to their first litter of pups together.  She could whelp any day now, and trapping would immediately be underway.

Take action to keep wolf father from being trapped and removed by the Government here.