Last month’s killing of four Mexican gray wolves in southwestern New Mexico by federal agencies has prompted outcries from wildlife groups.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on March 18 said there were 163 endangered Mexican gray wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona, a population increase for the second year in a row.
But 2019 was also the deadliest year for livestock killed by wolves, with 126 confirmed incidents in New Mexico and 58 in Arizona.
The current management plan for the animal allows agencies to “intentionally harass, implement non-lethal control measures, translocate, place in captivity, or lethally control problem wolves.”
One wolf was killed by the Interagency Field Team on March 23, and the other three were killed on March 28.
Wolves killing calves and adult cows was cited as the agency’s reason for all four lethal removals.
“These killings on behalf of the livestock industry are a shame, especially considering they happened right after the announcement of population increases,” Michael Robinson, advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Journal. “Some ranchers take efforts to protect their livestock, but some are really lackadaisical about it, so Fish and Wildlife ends up taking these measures, in one case killing an uncollared wolf pup.”
In a March 24 memo authorizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services Program to remove three wolves, Brady McGee, coordinator of the Mexican gray wolf program, said livestock depredations had continued despite agencies working to “mitigate the scenario,” and were likely to continue without additional control measures.
“I am concerned with the numerous depredations in this area over a short period of time and the toll these depredations have caused the livestock producer,” McGee wrote. “It is the service’s intent to recover the Mexican wolf in a manner that reduces economic effects on the local livestock industry.”
The Interagency Field Team and groups like Defenders of Wildlife work with ranchers in wolf-occupied areas to prevent livestock depredations. Methods include removing animal carcasses that attract wolves, changing where calving operations take place and patrolling on horseback to scare away wolves. Fish and Wildlife memos authorizing the lethal wolf removals state that area ranchers had been taking preventative measures.
The wolves belonged to the Prieto Pack and the Mangas Pack in southwestern New Mexico. Both packs are in an area that had at least 20 confirmed livestock kills by wolves on federal or private land from September 2019 to mid-March.
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.
This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal.
Show your support for Mexican wolves with a Letter to the Editor today!
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
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a legal and moral obligation to recover endangered Mexican gray wolves. Killing wolves is in direct conflict of this directive. And it perpetuates a failed policy of scapegoating wolves who occasionally prey on cattle. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should prioritize getting the livestock moved instead.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service initiated these lethal removal orders at the peak of denning season. In addition to disrupting the pack dynamics, this disturbance could cause the denning mothers additional stress or prompt them to move their dens at this critical time.
- Wolves account for less than 0.2% of all cattle losses. At last count, there were 163 wolves in the wild across Arizona and New Mexico. According to the US Dept. of Agriculture, there are 2.5 million cattle in Arizona and New Mexico.
- The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. Wolves are responsible for less than 1% of livestock losses in New Mexico and there are many tried and true methods to avoid conflicts between livestock and wolves.
- There are many solutions to conflicts between livestock and wolves. There are very few Mexican gray wolves. Livestock businesses on public lands are reimbursed for losses and can receive government and non-profit assistance for non-lethal measures to avoid depredation. They have a responsibility to do so. Deterrents to livestock conflicts are the solution, not removing more endangered Mexican wolves.
- These incidents all occurred in Catron County, New Mexico – a hotbed of wolf-livestock conflict and strong opposition to wolf recovery. In fact, the total number of incidents and depredations reported over the last 12 months shows Catron County recorded more than twice as many reports as any other County in the Recovery area. One can’t help but wonder what are the ranchers in other areas doing that Catron County ranchers aren’t doing to reduce conflicts.
- The wild population of Mexican wolves suffers from declining genetic health, resulting from too many removals and too few releases from the captive breeding population.
Make sure that you:
- Thank the paper for their coverage of this important issue. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
- Submit your letter as soon as possible. The chance of your letter being published declines after a day or two since the article was published.
- Do not repeat any negative messages from the article, such as “so and so said that wolves kill too many cows, but…” Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article.
- Keep your letter brief, under 150 words.
- Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.
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- Submit your letter to the editor of the Albuquerque Journal or any other paper that picked this up TODAY!
Thank you for speaking out for these critically endangered animals.