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In the Press: Gray wolf killed while lurking near NM ranch

AZ Daily Star December 17, 2011 (posted 12/19/11)

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Tim Steller 

Federal wildlife officials killed a female wolf Wednesday night after she hung around a ranch house in western New Mexico, even spending time on the front porch.

Members of the Interagency Field Team tried to dart the wolf, tranquilize her and move her to another area, said Tom Buckley, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman. But those efforts failed and officials shot the wolf, which had mated with a dog and had pups earlier this year.

The killing is just the latest blow to the 13-year-old program to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in Eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. Last year, a Fish and Wildlife Service report said the project was "at risk of failure."

The report said shooting had been the top cause of death in the wolf population. At that point, 31 wolves had been shot to death.

The events leading to the latest shooting began Tuesday afternoon, when Crystal Diamond and her two young daughters, ages 2 and 3, returned home to the Beaverhead Ranch. In a written statement, Diamond said she was unloading her pickup truck after several days away with her kids, and the dogs were playing in the yard.

Then a neighbor came speeding up the driveway, shouting out the window, she wrote.

"He yelled for me to take the girls inside while pointing to the dogs who were roughhousing with a collared wolf no farther than 35 feet from my 2-year-old daughter. I grabbed my girls and ran inside, slamming the door behind us."

The neighbor fired a rifle to scare the wolf away, and Diamond locked her dogs and children inside, she wrote. But after the sun set, the wolf came back to the house.

As Diamond sat in her house, about 6:30 p.m., she looked over her shoulder at a window a few feet away and saw the wolf pressing its nose against the glass, she wrote. Tracks showed the wolf had been walking around the porch and yard.

"Throughout the evening my male border collie whimpered at the front door aggressively trying to get out," she wrote.

Wildlife officials came to the home the next day, Diamond wrote, and that evening they shot the wolf about 150 yards from her house.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity attributed the wolf's death to officials' failure to increase the wolf population in the reintroduction area. He said the same wolf mated with a dog from elsewhere earlier this year, and gave birth to five hybrid pups, four of which were captured and killed.

In the statement, Robinson said: "This very sad episode is a result of the Fish and Wildlife Service's refusal to release enough wolves into the wild to allow this single female to find a mate of her own kind."

The service wanted this wolf to become the mate of a male whose mate had died, Robinson said. In fact, the female who had died was this wolf's sister, he said, but the male and this wolf didn't pair up.

"After her pups were taken from her and euthanized, she ended up drawn to dogs at this residence," Robinson said.

On Dec. 2, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted to oppose any new Mexican gray wolf releases until the service completes several planning measures: revising the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan; revising the nonessential, experimental population rule; and writing an environmental impact statement.

Their decision came despite a request by the regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Benjamin Tuggle, for the commission to approve of new introductions. New releases are necessary, he told the commission in a letter, to raise the population and increase the genetic diversity of the approximately 50 wolves in Eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
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PLEASE WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR TODAY, thanking the paper for this article and promoting more releases of Mexican wolves into the wild. Similar articles ran in several newspapers.

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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to info@mexicanwolves.org:

  • Start by thanking paper for their coverage of this important issue-this makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
  • Stress that only about 50 Mexican gray wolves remain in the wild, making them the most endangered mammal in North America.
  • Encourage the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to use all the means available to them to expedite releases of captive wolves into the wild.
  • Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health-new releases are essential to pull the wild population away from the brink of extinction.
  • Explain that there are wolves in captivity ready to be released and wolves in the wild that do not have mates; these wolves can’t wait two or more years for the new Recovery Plan to be completed.
  • Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.
  • Reiterate the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife.
  • Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
  • Provide your name, address and phone number; your full address and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.

Letters can be submitted to these papers that published similar articles (click on the paper's title to see the article as they published it):

Arizona Daily Star, December 16, December 17 Submit letters here (150-word limit).

Albuquerque Journal December 15, December 16 Submit letters here.

Las Cruces Sun-News
Submit letters here (300-word limit).

LA Times Submit letters here.

Sierra Vista Herald
Submit letters here.

East Valley Tribune
Submit letters here (250-word limit).

Santa Fe New Mexican
Submit letters here (150-word limit)

The Republic (Indiana)
Submit letters here (600-word limit).

Thank you for all you do to support Mexican gray wolves and their recovery in the wild!