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Editorial: Afraid of the big, bad wolf

Las Cruces Sun-News Editorial Criticizes NM Game Commission Decision to Back Out of Wolf Program June 12, 2011 (posted 6/13/11)

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By Walter Rubel

It appears as if members of the New Mexico State Game Commission based their decision on the
Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program on what was in the best interests of members of the New Mexico State Game Commission.

The commission voted unanimously Thursday during a meeting in Las Cruces to discontinue a
partnership with the federal government on the program that has dated back to 1999.

"We have been keeping peace between all people," Commissioner Thomas Dick Salopek said. "So, you know what, if both sides are unhappy, then let’s suspend it and let the federal government do it. I am frustrated at both sides, especially with the federal government.

To some extent, I can understand. Having spent time talking to passionate advocates on both sides  of the issue, I can attest that they can flat wear you out. But, that comes with the job of being a game commissioner.

The decision won't have any real impact on the program, said Tom Buckley, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Opponents of the reintroduction program won the battle, but as for the war ... the wolves will remain.

"The program won't change," Buckley said. "It’s unfortunate that they determined at this time to step back from the program, but we will still work toward Mexican wolf reintroduction. It's our mandate."

I can understand the economic impact wolves and other predators pose to local ranchers, and why they would oppose the reintroduction program. It's the hysteria I have a hard time with, the notion that murderous gangs of wolves are roaming western New Mexico and eastern Arizona looking for small children to kill and eat.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, fed that hysteria in a press release praising the Game Commission's decision.

"New Mexicans know that to protect the wolf, we don’t have to harm livestock and risk the lives of our children," Pearce said.

In 2007, Catron County went so far as to build wolf-proof school bus shelters. How many young children were victims of wolf attacks before they went to such extremes? Well, none.

An article at that time by the Albuquerque Journal cites a study by the Office of the Medical Investigator, which found there were 63 animal-caused deaths of humans in New Mexico from 1993 through 2004. The vast majority of those, 43, were caused by interaction with horses. None were caused by wolves. …

By contrast, about 40 people a year die from being stung by bees, wasps and other insects. I don't suppose they're raising money to construct bee-proof bus stops.

We're all familiar with the fairy tale of the homicidal wolf who "gobbles up" Granny, "lets out a satisfied burp" and then dresses in her nightgown in a ruse to deceive and then eat the innocent, young Little Red Riding Hood. It's a scary story that has given children nightmares for generations.

But it's just a fairy tale.

Walter Rubel has been a newsman for more than 25 years and is managing editor of the Sun-News. He can be reached at wrubel@lcsun-news.com.
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Click here to read the full editorial on the Las Cruces Sun-News site and submit a comment.

PLEASE SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR SUPPORTING MEXICAN WOLF RECOVERY.
In your letter, please thank the paper for this sound editorial. Talk about the tremendous importance of Mexican wolves to the Southwest and to you personally, point out that this decision does not reflect the overwhelming support of the people of New Mexico for the reintroduction program, and call on Governor Martinez and the NM Game Commission to reverse this harmful decision against a beautiful animal that has only around 50 members left in the wild.

You can submit your letter to the Las Cruces Sun-News here: letters@lcsun-news.com.