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Editorial: More Mexican gray wolves needed in wild

By The Arizona Republic Editorial board, February 11, 2013

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The number of Mexican gray wolves in the wild is increasing, which reflects welcome progress in the effort to reintroduce this endangered species. These magnificent creatures are living and breeding in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.

The successful return of this top predator will benefit the entire ecosystem.

But wolves are far from plentiful, and their survival faces challenges. The success of this program is not assured.

When wolves were reintroduced in 1998, it was expected that the population would exceed 100 by 2006. Recapture, poaching and misguided lethal “management” techniques kept wolf numbers low. Instead, there were only 50 animals in the recovery area at the beginning of 2011. Two successful breeding years brought the number to 75 at the end of 2012.

That’s a healthy trajectory.

But only three breeding pairs remain in the wild, according to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. That’s down from six pairs in 2011, and it creates concerns about genetic diversity that can only be solved with the reintroduction of breeding animals now in captivity.

It’s time for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put more wolves in the wild.
This important reintroduction effort deserves every opportunity to succeed.
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You can help these wolves succeed. Please write a letter to the editor thanking the Arizona Republic for this editorial.

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 and talking points 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.
  • The overall population increase reported is good news, but still too small, and the decline in breeding pairs of Mexican gray wolves in the wild shows that much more needs to be done, and soon.
  • Geneticists have warned for years that the wild population needs greater diversity, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service has only released one new wolf into the wild in the past five years and removed a successful breeding alpha female last year over livestock.
  • The increase in population shows the resiliency and tenacity of these special wolves, but more pups from the same few breeding pairs will not solve the genetic issue. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must implement an emergency genetic rescue plan and release many more wolves into the wild.
  • Almost 15 years after the first Mexican wolves were reintroduced, there are still only 75 wolves in the wild, and only 3 pairs whose pups survived this year. More wolves to form more breeding pairs are needed to stop inbreeding that researchers suggest may be lowering litter sizes and depressing pup-survival rates.
  • The window is closing on fixing the genetic issue, and one of the easiest steps the US Fish and Wildlife Service can take is to release more wolves from captivity, and do it now.
  • Since August, 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has only released two new Mexican gray wolves into the wild, in spite of warnings about genetics from scientists.
  • This population increase is because of the wolves’ amazing ability to survive and breed pups. It is in spite of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to make needed changes and release more wolves.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service also needs to make changes to allow Mexican wolves to recolonize a larger area of their former range and serve their important role in shaping the Southwest’s ecosystems.
  • There is plenty of room for many more wolves to be released. The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area comprises 4.4 million acres (twice the size of Yellowstone National Park), which support an extraordinary array of wildlife and vegetation types.  The Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to change the rule that arbitrarily excludes new wolves from being released outside a small portion of the recovery area in Arizona, and is using the mere presence of livestock as a justification not to release wolves into a wider range of the available area in Arizona.
General:
  • Mexican gray wolves are unique animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America and the most endangered wolf in the world.
  • The wolf is a benefit to the West and helps maintain the balance of nature.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service should manage Mexican gray wolves to ensure their recovery and not risk extinction again.
  • Mexican gray wolves are intelligent, beautiful, family-oriented animals.
  • Mexican gray wolves are an essential part of the balance of nature. They keep elk and deer herds healthy by ensuring the most fit animals survive.
  • Wolves are part of God’s creation. We have a responsibility to take care of them.
Submit your letter to the Editor of the Arizona Republic here.

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Photo courtesy of Amber Legras