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In the News: Mexican Wolf Numbers On The Rise in Arizona

The White Mountain Independent, February 11, 2012 (posted 02/15/12)

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department and other partners in the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project announced on Feb. 3 that the endangered Mexican wolf population count increased to a minimum of 58 wolves compared to last year's count of 50.

The increase is encouraging news for the multi-agency program, especially considering that the state's largest wildfire, the Wallow, burned through three packs' denning areas within weeks of pups being born.

The wolf project stimulates high public interest, and the public often asks Game and Fish how wolf population surveys are conducted and what the department's role in the project is.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department dedicates five staff to the Interagency Field Team (IFT), the multi-agency group that oversees on-the-ground wolf conservation activities. Game and Fish's IFT staff are responsible for the day-to-day management of wolves; coordinating and conducting the annual population counts; and, any helicopter-associated wolf captures in Arizona on public lands and on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

In addition, the department provides pilots and fixed-wing planes to assist in locating wolves via telemetry signals prior to the helicopter counts and any capture efforts throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA), which encompasses parts of Arizona and New Mexico. This year the department conducted the surveys in Arizona, while FWS conducted them in New Mexico.

Other specially-trained Game and Fish personnel that are not part of the IFT assist with capture operations in Arizona to ensure darting and net-gunning activities are conducted in the safest and most proficient manner possible.

Even before aerial operations begin, Game and Fish's IFT staff are involved in estimating the number of uncollared wolves present in Arizona. They begin surveying for uncollared wolves months earlier through howling surveys, track surveys, use of trail cameras and other methods. They also contact stakeholders, such as landowners and grazing permittees, in the wolf reintroduction area to advise them of upcoming surveys and collect any wolf activity information from them.

"Developing partnerships with these critical stakeholders and implementing proactive management efforts to reduce wolf-livestock interactions on public and private lands is, we believe, the key to the long-term survival of the wolves in the Southwest," said Director Larry Voyles of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "Building public tolerance by those who live on the land and must coexist with the wolf is crucial to the success of the Mexican wolf program in Arizona.


"Even though these numbers are below the target levels specified in the environmental impact statement developed when the program began, these elements exhibit a cornerstone achievement in Mexican wolf conservation," continued Voyles, "and this year's count gives credence to the fact that we are moving in a positive direction."

The IFT estimates the Mexican wolf population at a minimum count level because it is impossible to find and verify every uncollared animal that may exist in the wild. However, the 2011 population count is considered one of the most inclusive because the IFT trapped and collared 16 wolves this fall, allowing biologists to more accurately track and estimate the population than in years when fewer animals were collared.

Population survey and management activities conducted by Game and Fish's IFT staff are funded by contracts and grants from FWS; no sportsmen-generated funds are used for these count efforts.

The project's other cooperative partners include FWS, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Wildlife Services, and Graham, Greenlee and Navajo Counties.

For more information on the Mexican wolf in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/wolf.

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Read the full article here.


This increase is wonderful news, but these numbers are still perilously low.  PLEASE WRITE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR TODAY!

SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE WHITE MOUNTAIN INDEPENDENT, thanking them for this article.  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 the welcome increase in numbers and breeding pairs, in spite of the deaths of nine wolves and more than half the pups born last year, shows that the wolves are amazingly resilient and able to thrive in the wild. They’ve done their part to succeed in the wild in the face of political opposition, killings, and removals; Director Tuggle needs to make sure the Fish and Wildlife Service does its part.

* Point out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to keep more wolves in the wild by emphasizing tactics that help ranching and wolves coexist instead of removing wolves is starting to pay off.

* Emphasize that when packs are more stable they’re able to be better parents, and pups have a better chance at reaching adulthood and reproducing themselves.

* Point out that, while this is a positive step forward, this number is still dangerously low; Director Tuggle must keep his promise to release more wolves into the wild.

* Encourage the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to use all the means available to them to expedite more releases of captive wolves into the wild. The agency has been sitting on an Environmental Assessment that can end the ridiculous rule prohibiting new releases into New Mexico and letting wolves eligible for release into both Arizona and New Mexico sit in captivity. The stalling has to stop.

* Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health - A population of 58 wolves is still extremely small and at risk from threats such as disease, inbreeding, or catastrophic events like the Wallow Fire, which burned through Mexican wolf habitat last year.

* Explain that there are wolves in captivity ready to be released and wolves in the wild that do not have mates; these wolves need more releases to form new breeding pairs and families.

* 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. 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.

* Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.

* Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.

You can submit your letters to other regional papers here:

ARIZONA NEWSPAPERS:

* The Arizona Republic - 200 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

Arizona Daily Star - 150 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* Arizona Daily Sun - 250 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* The White Mountain Independent – 300 word limit.  Submit your letter here.


NEW MEXICO NEWSPAPERS:

* Albuquerque Journal - Submit your letter here.

* Santa Fe New Mexican - 150 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* Las Cruces Sun-News - 300 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* Alamogordo News - Submit your letter here.

Thank you for taking the time to submit a letter. The many letters to the editor expressing support for Mexican gray wolves published in the last year have made a real difference!

Please send any letters you submit to us – info@mexicanwolves.org - so that we can track what's being published.