PHOENIX — Federal officials have agreed not to try to capture and relocate wolves entering Arizona from Mexico.
In a deal approved Monday in federal court, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider wolves found wandering outside the current boundary areas for reintroduction to be wild. More to the point, the agency is revoking the permission it gave itself to capture and relocate the animals.
Michael Robinson of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity said the settlement is a crucial step in helping reintroduce the wolf population to its natural habitats in Arizona.
Robinson said the issue arose two years ago when Mexico began reintroducing wolves into its northern regions, a few dozen miles south of the area where Arizona and New Mexico meet.
What happened, he said, is that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on its own, then gave itself a permit — without public notice — to capture any wolf that might cross the border and cause problems with livestock.
The agency already has the power to capture and relocate those wolves being reintroduced into Arizona and New Mexico in an effort to keep them from preying on cattle. That is because the whole reintroduction program is being conducted under rules that specifically consider the wolves in the program to be a “non-essential population.”
But Robinson said there is no reason to unilaterally decide that wolves that wander into Arizona on their own should be treated in a similar fashion.
More to the point, he said it’s illegal. Robinson said the rules that govern the domestic reintroduction program, including relocation, do not apply to wolves that were not placed by the United States government but instead wandered into this country on their own.
“These wolves, under the law, are fully protected” as an endangered species,” Robinson said. “And you can’t simply sacrifice them under the law for special interests, in this case, the livestock industry.”
Robinson said it is impossible to determine whether any of the wolves released by the Mexican government have, in fact, made their way into the United States.
In essence, the lawsuit settlement recognizes that the rules require that if it finds a wolf outside the reintroduction area — or other areas where the animals have been welcome — it is required to presume it is “of wild origin with full endangered status.”
And that can be overcome only with other evidence that the wolf is of domestic and reintroduced original like a radio collar or identification mark.
Robinson said the settlement may actually help wolf reintroduction in this country.
He said the latest report shows there are 75 wolves in the program, including 37 in Arizona. But that includes only three breeding pairs.
Robinson said inbreeding results in smaller litter sizes. He said wolves released in Mexico that manage to make their way across the border could help diversify the population.
He said he has no idea of how many of the wolves released by the Mexican government have, in fact, wandered into this country.
The current wolf reintroduction area includes the Apache and Gila national forests as well as lands where the owners have said they are welcoming the animals. Robinson said that include the Fort Apache reservation as well as property owned in New Mexico by media mogul Ted Turner.
Please submit a letter to ensure the future of critically endangered Mexican gray wolves 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 and talking points 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.
- 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. 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.
- The USFWS should move forward with allowing new wolves to be released throughout the Blue Range. The Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered mammal in the U.S. with only about 75 in the wild. Additional wolves must be released into the wild now to increase the genetic health of the species. Numerous wolves are in captive breeding facilities around the country, prepared for, and awaiting, release.
- Scientific experts have long said that the Grand Canyon region, which extends from southern Utah to the Mogollon Rim, contains some of the last best places for wolves.
- Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and played a critical role in keeping the balance of nature in place. We need to restore this important animal that has been missing for too long.
- Mexican wolves have been on the ground in Arizona for 15 years, and are struggling because of artificial boundaries and political interference.
- Wolves need freedom from boundaries. Given room to roam, the wolves will establish themselves in suitable areas with adequate game. The problem with the USFWS proposal is not that it lets wolves roam in the wrong place (it doesn’t) but that it does not allow wolves to establish new packs and populations in additional areas that are essential to their recovery.
- Wolves will bring ecological and economic benefits to our region. We should focus on what is necessary to recover the species.
- Prominent wolf experts have advocated restoring wolves to their natural role in the Grand Canyon region for many years.
Make sure you:
- The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with native wildlife like wolves. According to the US Dept of Agriculture, in 2010 only .23% of cattle deaths and 4% of all sheep deaths were due to any type of predator, which includes a lot more than just wolves.There are many proven-effective methods for avoiding conflict.
- Thank the paper for publishing this article.
- Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.)
- Provide your name, address, phone number and address. The paper won’t publish these, but they want to know you are who you say you are.
Please also submit comments on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal. Click here.
- Submit letters (<250 words) here.
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