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In the News: State issues wolf release permit to U.S. Fish and Wildlife

The Albuquerque Journal - May 4, 2017 - Your letters are needed!

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After a nearly two-year impasse, New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish has issued a permit for the release of two Mexican gray wolves into the wild – under the condition that the federal government remove two wild-born wolves to captivity.

The permit signed this week grants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the right to import two wolf pups fewer than 14 days old and place them into a wild den in New Mexico. The Journal obtained a copy of the document, titled “Importation Permit No. 4118.”

But the permit also requires that, for each wolf pup that is “cross-fostered” into a wild den, another wolf pup must be removed.

The permit comes just a week after a U.S. Court of Appeals reaffirmed Fish and Wildlife’s authority over the wolf program under the Endangered Species Act.

The 10th Circuit in Tucson on April 25 lifted an injunction, sought by Game and Fish, that temporarily prevented the federal government from releasing the wolves in New Mexico.


But the permit also requires that, for each wolf pup that is “cross-fostered” into a wild den, another wolf pup must be removed.

While the permit results in no net increase in the wild wolf population in New Mexico, fostering two wolves bred in captivity into a wild den could improve genetic diversity in the wild – one key goal of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf recovery program.

Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity in Silver City, called the permit “a sordid bargain.”

“Game and Fish, having just lost at the 10th circuit Court of Appeals, decided to bluff and demand things that they have no legal right to demand,” he said. “Maybe they are as surprised as I am that Fish and Wildlife actually acquiesced to this.”

A spokesman for Fish and Wildlife confirmed that a permit had been issued, but declined to comment further.

A Game and Fish spokesman did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

The permit, which expires May 31, appears to cede authority over the wolves introduced under the permit to the state, Robinson said.


While the permit results in no net increase in the wild wolf population in New Mexico, fostering two wolves bred in captivity into a wild den could improve genetic diversity in the wild — one key goal of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf recovery program.

The permit states “that the animals brought into New Mexico under its provisions, and all their subsequent progeny, will be subject to state laws and rules.”

Ranchers who live in the wolf recovery area – in New Mexico, largely in and around the Gila National Forest – vehemently oppose the reintroduction of an apex predator – one at the top of a food chain upon which no other animals prey – in the area.

Wolves have been known to prey on cattle and a federal program meant to compensate ranchers for wolf predations doesn’t cover every suspected kill, ranchers say.

“I don’t think it’s fair for us,” said Laura Schneberger, president of the Gila Livestock Growers Association. “Nothing’s been fair for ranching. That’s all they’re doing is trading one set of genes for another, hoping they’ll create differently related wolves, a little less inbred. They are spending more on genetics than what they need to spend on mitigation.”

The wolf population nearly went extinct in the 1970s. Recovery managers have been struggling with improving the genetic diversity of a population descended from just seven wolves. It’s worse in the wild than in captivity, advocates say.

Bryan Bird, a wolf advocate with Defenders of Wildlife in Santa Fe, said, “The state is imposing unreasonable conditions.”

“It’s immoral to request for these puppies to be taken out of the wild,” he said.

There were 113 Mexican wolves in the recovery area in Arizona and southwestern New Mexico in early 2017. That was up from 97 wolves in the wild the prior year.

This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal


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Show your support for Mexican 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 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.


Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points

• The condition the state of New Mexico is imposing on the federal Mexican gray wolf recovery program will tear apart fragile wild wolf families, by removing pups less than two weeks old from their mother’s care and forcing the puppies into captivity. The state of New Mexico has no right to make such a despicable request.

• The risky and difficult technique of cross-fostering is no substitution for releases of wolf families to the wild. While the technique has had some recent successes, it is not always feasible to achieve, and cannot be used to condone the removal of wild puppies. Instead, they should release the entire family of wolves from the Chicago Zoological Society to the wild.

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should not accept these terms set out by a state that has shown extreme hostility towards the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf. New Mexico is trying to drive the species to extinction, yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required by law to recover the wolf.

• New Mexico is attempting to cap the wild Mexican gray wolf population at an extremely low number and with no authority to do so. This will undermine the recovery of the small, struggling population that is slowly increasing its numbers.


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, under 350 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.

Submit your letter to the editor to the Albuquerque Journal