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Wolf Population Grows in N.M., Arizona

Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press, February 20, 2012 (posted 02/27/12)

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The number of endangered Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico and Arizona continues to rise. State and federal biologists found at least 58 wolves in their latest count, up from 50 the previous year and 42 in 2009.

Arizona State University biology professor Philip Hedrick calls the increase good news, but says the best news is that the number of breeding pairs has risen from two to six.

“If you think about it, that’s only 12 animals that are contributing to the next generation for this year, so that’s not a huge number – even though it’s a lot better than just two, last year.”

The total wolf count needs to be much larger in order to produce a long-term stable and sustainable population – perhaps four times as many wolves, Hedrick explains. That increase would not sit well with ranchers in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona, who have long complained that the wolves kill cattle and sheep.

Kim McCreery is a staff scientist for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. She says a few pairs of breeding wolves are not enough for genetic diversity, which means reduced litter size and an increase in pup mortality. McCreery adds that what is needed for a healthier population is more wolves on the ground. She suspects that politics may be getting in the way.

“We need a rule change. We need U.S. Fish and Wildlife to change a rule saying that captive-bred wolves can only be released in the primary recovery zone, which is in Arizona.”

While seeking changes in regulations that limit wolf releases in New Mexico, McCreery says scientists are conducting an experimental program: training wolves to reject the taste of livestock.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has worked with ranchers to keep the wolves away from livestock, noting that only one problem wolf has had to be permanently removed in the past five years.


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Read the full article here.



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

SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL, 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.

Photo courtesy of Amber Legras