By Brandon Loomis
A pregnant Mexican gray wolf and her mate, relocated to eastern Arizona from captivity this spring in hopes of establishing a new pack, has lost her pups.
Without them, it’s unclear whether the government will open their pen as planned to release the wolves into the wilds of the Apache National Forest, or return them to captivity. The wolves have been in a fenced enclosure since being trucked from New Mexico to an area south of Alpine, giving them a chance to get comfortable in the woods and bond as a family before release.
Officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service had said it appeared from the wolves’ behavior that the mother whelped pups and was keeping them in a wooden den box provided for them. Now, though, they confirm that those pups died.
Past releases of the endangered species have had mixed results, with the pairs sometimes breaking up or traveling beyond the designated recovery zone in the Blue Mountains.
“The idea of having a bonded pair of wolves that had whelped pups — that was a pretty good experiment to see if those pups would anchor those wolves to that specific area,” said Larry Riley, assistant director for wildlife management at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Well, without those pups, that experiment doesn’t fit together.”
Riley, whose department collaborates on the federal program, said the state is negotiating with federal officials about what to do with the so-called “Coronado Pack.” Tom Buckley, regional spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in an email, “A management decision has not yet been made.
Conservationists and wolf backers who have long called for more releases from captivity fear that the state will pressure federal officials to take the wolves back. There’s little genetic diversity among the dozens of Mexican wolves living in the wild, and every new pair from captivity helps, said Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“These things happen,” Robinson said, adding that moving a pregnant animal can cause stress. “It doesn’t mean necessarily that they won’t be successful the following year.”
“The best thing at this point,” he said, “is to open the gate and let them go.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service said all of the pups died. Officials did not respond to questions about how many there were, or how they died. The team that captured the adult pair from a holding pen at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge on April 25 sought to calm and comfort them, first by covering their eyes and then by pouring alcohol on their feet to help cool them.
The pair were loaded into canine crates and trucked a few hours to their would-be home at Corduroy Creek, near the ignition point for the 2011 Wallow Fire. The site was thought fruitful because the burned forest has yielded grasses and shrubs that can feed the deer and elk that the pack would need. At the acclimation pen, biologists have fed them road-killed wildlife.
Prior to the move a veterinarian vaccinated the pair but withheld certain shots that might upset the pregnancy.
The wolves would be the first pair released in Arizona since November 2008. Since returning the first wolves to the wild in 1998, the government has released nearly 100 from captive breeding programs into Arizona, also allowing them to move into western New Mexico. At last count at the end of 2012, 75 Mexican wolves roamed the Blue Range.
Hunting and extermination programs nearly wiped out the subspecies of gray wolves before the last were captured in Mexico for breeding in the 1980s. The current program grew from just seven genetically distinct wolves.
This article was published by the AZ Republic.
The Coronado Pack would be the first pair of Mexican wolves released in Arizona since November 2008 and AZ Game and Fish is urging their removal back to captivity, ignoring the desperate need for new genetics and breeding pairs in 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 decision-makers. 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
The Coronado Pack and many more Mexican gray wolves must be released to the wild.
- At last official count, only 75 Mexican gray wolves, including only 3 breeding pairs were found in the wild.
- This pair of wolves is the first to be released in Arizona in over four years and should not be put back into captivity just because their first litter of pups did not survive.
- The wild population of Mexican wolves is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should manage Mexican gray wolves to ensure their recovery and not risk extinction again.
- Even though Mexican gray wolves were released to their native lands in Arizona and New Mexico 15 years ago, the wild population continues to struggle, not because of any lack on the part of the wolves, but because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to make the changes needed for these wolves to succeed.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service should address the genetic issues by ending the boundary rule that limit the wolves’ movement and by allowing new releases throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, not just in Arizona where releases are continually obstructed by AZ Game and Fish.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service should increase protections for these wolves, and expedite the Mexican gray wolf recovery planning process to replace the outdated 1982 plan with a scientifically valid plan to guide recovery.
Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you
- Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature.
- Polling showed 77% of Arizona voters and 69% of New Mexico voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction.
- 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.
- Mexican gray wolves are unique native animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America and the most endangered wolf in the world.
- Wolves generate economic benefits- a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy.
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.
You can also call the US Fish and Wildlife Service and urge them to release the Coronado wolves and many more into the wild:
Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator (505) 761-4748
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Office (505) 248-6920
For more information, contact us at email@example.com.
Click here to join our email list for Mexican gray wolf updates and action alerts.
Visit us on Facebook here.