By Susan Montoya Bryan / The Associated Press
A female Mexican gray wolf that was released into the wild earlier this year in hopes that she would become a mate for another lone wolf has been shot by federal wildlife managers, marking the latest blow to the government’s troubled effort to return the endangered wolves to their former range in the Southwest.
The shooting happened late Wednesday on private land near the mountain community of Beaverhead, officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed Thursday. The wolf had been hanging around a ranch at the northeastern edge of the Gila National Forest and was starting to lose her fear of humans.
She had also been socializing with domestic dogs.
Numerous attempts were made to dart the wolf so she could be returned to captivity, but wildlife managers were not able to get close enough, said agency spokesman Tom Buckley. The decision was made to shoot the wolf.
“It’s a very, very unfortunate and very sad circumstance. We’re still trying to wrap our heads around it and what it means to the program,” he told The Associated Press.
There are only about 50 Mexican wolves in the wild in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. “¦
In the last five years, federal officials relocated more than a dozen wolves in the recovery area within the two states. However, only one new captive-bred wolf has been released into the wild during that time. “¦
Officials with the U.S. wolf recovery program had planned to release a pack of wolves this winter, but those plans are on hold indefinitely.
The Arizona Game Commission voted earlier this month to not support any new releases until the federal government revamps its recovery plan for the species. New Mexico also pulled out of the wolf program last summer.
Federal officials have said they would prefer the cooperation of partners in both states to ensure the success of the program.
Some environmentalists blame the lack of releases over the years for the latest wolf death. Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity contended the female wolf — known as F1105 — might not have resorted to domestic dogs if there been other suitable wolf mates for her to choose from.
“This could have been avoided,” Robinson said. “It’s disturbing, and it speaks to the underlying problem of not having a big enough pool of wolves in the wild.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service said the female wolf, which was raised in captivity after being captured in the wild as a pup, had been on the agency’s radar for several months.
She had been implicated in a pair of cattle depredations earlier this year and had a litter of hybrid pups with a domestic dog last spring. The pups had to be captured and euthanized.
The agency said concerns for public safety became an issue after the wolf continued to frequent the ranch near Beaverhead, so the order was given to kill it. “¦
PLEASE WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR TODAY, thanking the paper for this article and promoting more releases of Mexican wolves into the wild. This article ran in several newspapers.
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.
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 their coverage of this important issue-this makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
- Stress that only about 50 Mexican gray wolves remain in the wild, making them the most endangered mammal in North America.
- Encourage the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to use all the means available to them to expedite releases of captive wolves into the wild.
- Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health-new releases are essential to pull the wild population away from the brink of extinction.
- Explain that there are wolves in captivity ready to be released and wolves in the wild that do not have mates; these wolves can’t wait two or more years for the new Recovery Plan to be completed.
- 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.
- Reiterate the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife.
- Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
- Provide your name, address and phone number; your full address and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.
Letters can be submitted to these papers that published the article (click on the paper’s title to see the article as they published it):
Las Cruces Sun-News Submit letters here (300-word limit).
Sierra Vista Herald Submit letters here.
East Valley Tribune Submit letters here (250-word limit).
The Republic (Indiana) Submit letters here (600-word limit).
Thank you for all you do to support Mexican gray wolves and their recovery in the wild!
Photo: Mexican gray wolf at Sevilleta, courtesy of USFWS