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In the News: Center calls for government to release more Mexican gray wolves into the wild

Silver City Daily Press, November 23, 2012 (posted 11/25/12)

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The federal government should “ dramatically increase the number of wolves in the wild,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Michael Robinson of Silver City, a wolf specialist for the center, said releases are “ needed to stave off genetic inbreeding, which scientists say may be limiting the size and health of some wolf litters.”

He noted it has been four years since the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service released wolves in the recovery area, which consists of portions of southwest New Mexico and southeast Arizona.

The lack of releases is a result of “pressure from the livestock industry,” according to Robinson.

“By starving the wild wolf population of new animals, the Fish & Wildlife Service is stacking the odds against their recovery,” he wrote in a news release. “Resuming the release of wolves into the wild is absolutely essential to overcoming inbreeding and ensuring the success of this wolf-recovery program.”

The news release explained: “All Mexican wolves in the world today stem from just seven animals captured alive from the wild in Mexico and the United States, the last one in 1980. After reintroduction of the wolves to Arizona and New Mexico began in 1998, the Fish & Wildlife Service had many of the most genetically valuable wolves shot or trapped on behalf of the livestock industry. Consequently, the captive population will have to jumpstart the wild population again.' Robinson added: “Too many wolves have been taken out of the wild, by the government and by poachers. That’s a tragedy, and it puts the Mexican wolf’s future in jeopardy.”

Ranchers and other groups have opposed the program since its inception.

“The New Mexico Cattle Growers Association does not support reintroduction of wolves because the program has been a complete failure from its beginning because the plan did not take ranchers into consideration,” Caren Cowan, the organization’s executive director, said in a Borderzine article earlier this year.

The main objection to the recovery effort has been losses incurred by ranchers because of livestock depredations.

Those on either side of the issue disagree on the extent of the problem.

“It’s impossible to come up with a number of lost cattle,' Cowan said in the article. “You hear everything from hundreds to tens of thousands; it’s somewhere in between that.”

Wolf supporters say the number of cattle deaths has been much lower than that.

In 2010, the National Agriculture Statistics Services reported that predators in New Mexico had killed 9,900 head of cattle, a $ 5.3 million loss. Wolves, which were blamed for nine depredations that year, accounted for 2.4 percent of the losses. …

At the end of October, the number of wolves with functioning radio- telemetry collars living in the wild was 42, including 26 in the New Mexico portion of the recovery area, according to the government’s Interagency Field Team.

The total compares with 36 wild wolves in September and 58 at the end of 2011.

The agency acknowledges that the numbers do not include “some other, uncollared wolves.”

During October, the IFT “continued fall trapping efforts to document pack status and pup recruitment in several packs,” according to the latest government report. The packs in New Mexico reportedly gave birth to at least six pups this year.

The team investigated three reports of livestock depredation within the recovery area in October.

Personnel determined that an uncollared wolf killed a yearling heifer near Carnero Creek in Arizona.

A bull calf in Arizona was killed by coyotes, and the cause of death of a cow in New Mexico has not been determined, according to the IFT.

No wolf mortalities were reported last month.

Personnel removed from the wild the adult female member of the Fox Mountain Pack, which roams the northern portion of the Gila National Forest.

The wolf, which had been blamed for several cattle deaths, was taken to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Officials at the center told The Associated Press last week that the wolf was “in good health, eating well and settling into her new surroundings.”

— JIMOWEN

This article was published in the Silver City Daily Press.

PLEASE SUBMIT LETTERS TO THE EDITOR THANKING THE PAPER FOR THIS ARTICLE AND CALLING ON THE US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO RELEASE MORE WOLVES INTO THE WILD.

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 publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.

Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health, especially now.

Remind readers that, at last count, just 58 wolves, including six breeding pairs, survived in the wild.  It’s time to release many more wolves into the wild, not to bring back the policy of scapegoating wolves who occasionally prey on livestock.

Protest the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s removal of the Fox Mountain Loba. Wolves are social animals who rely on family members in hunting and pup rearing.  By removing this wolf, the USFWS deprived four pups born this summer of their mother, harmed this family of wolves, and broke apart one of only a few breeding pairs in the wild. Now it appears that the evidence used to support this terrible action is highly questionable.

Assert that the way to improve the wild populations’ genetics is to release many new wolves into the wild. The USFWS used the Fox Mountain alpha wolves’ genetics as an excuse for removing the female, but the reason these two wolves were so closely related may be due to the fact that not a single new wolf has been released from the captive-breeding pool since November 2008. The wild population is extremely small and vulnerable to threats such as disease, inbreeding, or natural events. The USFWS should end the freeze on new releases of captive wolves into the wild

Tell readers why you support wolves and stress that the majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction.  Polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.

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.

Describe 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.

Submit letters to dthompson@silvercitydailypress.net