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PRESS RELEASE: Rally-goers Tell US Fish and Wildlife to End the Freeze on Mexican Wolf Releases

Friday the 13th Event Aims to Change Luck for Endangered Lobos at Risk from Inbreeding

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Lobos of the Southwest-mexicanwolves.org

For Immediate Release: April 13, 2012

Contacts:
Steve Capra, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
505-843-8696 c: 505-301-4558  stephen@nmwild.org

Phil Carter, Animal Protection of New Mexico
505-463-0125 phil@apnm.org

Bryan Bird, WildEarth Guardians
505.988.9126x1157 bbird@wildearthguardians.org

Albuquerque, NM --- Supporters of the world’s most endangered wolf gathered Friday, April 13 at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional office to press the agency to release more Mexican gray wolves into the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.

Participants carrying larger than life wolf silhouettes, banners, and signs with slogans like “Keep Your Promise-End the Freeze” lined the street and listened to conservationists, biologists, and community advocates for the wolves talk about the need for new releases to help the at-risk wild population of less than 60 Mexican wolves.

Bryan Bird, Wild Places Program Director for WildEarth Guardians, said;

“Animals like the Mexican gray wolf have to live in the wild to achieve recovery. With a wild population this small, these wolves are at risk of a second extinction from inbreeding, disease, and natural disturbances. The Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges the need but has inexplicably frozen releases for over three years. They need to respond to urgent recommendations from scientists and get more wolves into the wild now.”

Retired teacher Jean Ossorio, who has spent numerous days camping in the Blue Range Wolf Reintroduction Area in the hopes of seeing and hearing wolves, told the crowd “If we fail to increase the wild population, it will eventually wink out. That day will only be hastened if no new wolves are released to replace those poached and to enhance the genetic composition of the packs in the wild. It's time to release more wolves!”

Rally organizers thanked the crowd for coming out on a weekday, saying it was necessary to get USFWS southwest regional director Ben Tuggle’s attention. Steve Capra, Executive Director for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance called on Dr. Tuggle to keep a year old promise to ramp up releases.

Capra added that the agency is stalling on a rule change to expedite getting wolves on the ground in New Mexico.

“Releasing wolves directly into New Mexico--where the best remaining unoccupied habitat exists--is critical to quickly boosting numbers and gene diversity in the wild population, but an outdated rule prevents direct releases into New Mexico. Dr. Tuggle could easily change this rule by issuing an Environmental Assessment that’s been sitting on his desk for years and putting it out for public review, but instead he’s ignoring it, and the members of congress, the scientific community, and the vast majority of people in New Mexico who have asked him to get it done.”

Polling* of voters in 2008 demonstrated strong public support for the Mexican wolf in the Southwest, with 69% of New Mexicans and 77% of Arizonans saying they supported the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Almost two thirds of New Mexico voters believe the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should manage Mexican gray wolves to ensure their recovery and not risk extinction again.

“Interior Secretary Salazar and Director Tuggle are playing politics with these wolves’ lives and ignoring their public trust responsibility to these magnificent, important animals and to the people of New Mexico” said Phil Carter of Animal Protection of New Mexico. “It’s already been over 1,100 days since a new wolf was released on the ground and only one new wolf was released in the last 2 years before that-the stalling has to stop before there is a second extinction of Mexican gray wolves in the wild.”

The rally was organized by:
Lobos of the Southwest/mexicanwolves.org · New Mexico Wilderness Alliance · WildEarth Guardians
Animal Protection of New Mexico · Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter · Center for Biological Diversity
Southwest Environmental Center

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*Arizona and New Mexico Mexican Wolf Recovery Surveys –June 2008, Research & Polling, Inc.

Photo: Mexican gray wolf at Sevilleta, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service