ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two Mexican gray wolves have been released in southeastern Arizona, but another pair has been removed in New Mexico after roaming too far north, sparking more criticism from environmentalists about the way the wild population is being managed.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed expanding the area where the predators are allowed to roam, but it could be months before a final decision is reached. Until then, the agency is required to capture those wolves found outside the nearly 7,000-square-mile wolf-recovery area that straddles the Arizona-New Mexico border.
That was the case with a pair that had traveled north to the El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area near Grants. They had been in the area since February before wildlife managers darted and captured them last Friday.
This was the farthest north a pair of Mexican gray wolves had been documented, said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“This is excellent habitat. It’s remote country, and filled with deer,” he said. “This would have been an opportunity for the population to expand naturally.”
Ranchers and community leaders in rural areas have opposed any plans that would expand the program and the locations where the wolves could be released. They say the wolves threaten the livelihoods and safety of residents who live in areas that border the reintroduction zone.
The Mexican wolf was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976. The 15-year effort to reintroduce the animals in New Mexico and Arizona has stumbled because of legal battles, illegal shootings, politics and other problems.
A survey in January showed there were at least 83 Mexican wolves in the wild in the two states. That’s up from 75 last year.
The two wolves captured at El Malpais are being held at Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in New Mexico while federal officials weigh options for releasing them back into the wild.
To bolster wolf numbers, officials on Wednesday released the first of two breeding pairs in Arizona’s Apache National Forest. The pair included a pregnant female and a wild male captured during the annual wolf population survey in January.
Another pair being held at a breeding center in New Mexico will be released next week.
Eva Lee Sargent, director of Defenders of Wildlife’s Southwest Program, said the releases are good news. If the pairs succeed, she said their offspring will add to the genetic diversity of the struggling population.
Still, Sargent and others said the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to release more wolves and implement a recovery plan if the species has any chance of survival in the wild.
Without new wolves being released, Robinson said inbreeding will continue and the wild population will have a more difficult time finding mates that are not related.
This story has been covered in several news sources. (see below)
These releases are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to ensure recovery of this critically endangered species.
Please write letters to the Editors expressing your support for Mexican wolf recovery.
The Republic (Indiana)
PLEASE TAKE ACTION FOR MEXICAN WOLVES!
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 decision-makers. Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don’t try to include all the talking points in your letter.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
Express your support of wolves and stress that the majority of Arizona residents support wolves and understand their importance. Polling done by Research and Polling, Inc. found 77 percent of Arizona respondents support the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves. The poll also showed strong majority support for giving wolves greater protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The Fish and Wildlife Service should increase protections for these wolves, and expedite the Mexican gray wolf recovery planning process. The current recovery plan was developed in 1982 and is extremely outdated. The 1982 plan does not discuss genetics, which has proven to be a critical element in population health. A draft recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan has been developed but politics has stalled the recovery planning process. The draft recovery plan should be put out for public comment.
Additional populations of Mexican wolves are necessary to their recovery and genetic health, as is the ability for wolves to move between populations. More Mexican wolves are desperately needed to strengthen the wild population’s genetics and increase their numbers. There are many more Mexican wolves languishing in captive facilities right now that could be released. The USFWS should expedite the releases of these eligible wolves.
Wolves need freedom from boundaries. Given room to roam, the wolves will establish themselves in suitable areas with adequate game. The most recent USFWS proposal does not allow wolves to establish new packs and populations in additional areas that are essential to their recovery. Capturing and moving wolves is always a risky business that can result in death or trauma to the wolf.
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. Science has repeatedly demonstrated that wolves are keystone carnivores who help to keep wildlife like elk and deer healthy and bring balance to the lands they inhabit.
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.
Keep your letter brief, between 150-200 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 your letter to the Editor:
Arizona Daily Sun
The Albuquerque Journal
The Republic (Indiana)
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You can also call on US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, and NM Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, to ensure development of a science based recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf. CLICK HERE for more background information, talking points, and contact info.
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Photo credit: Scott Denny