ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program uses 30-year-old science, according to Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. She said it defines a sustainable population as 100 wolves. Ray said current science estimates that a population should number several hundred animals to be sustainable.
"We need really to have more on the order of 750 wolves, and not in just one population like we have now," she said, "but in at least three distinct sub-populations with connectivity between them so that genetics can move."
The FWS is proposing to list the Mexican gray wolf as a separate endangered subspecies, while simultaneously proposing to remove the gray wolf nationally from protection under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal would also expand the Mexican gray wolf recovery area by five times its current size, to 31,000 square miles.
About 75 captive-bred Mexican gray wolves live in a recovery area inside the Gila National Forest in New Mexico and the Apache-Sitegraves National Forests in Arizona. Sherry Barrett, FWS Mexican gray wolf recovery coordinator, said the agency acknowledges that the 1982 Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program does call for a population of at least 100 animals. She said FWS plans to update the recovery program, which would increase the minimum population levels.
"We're focusing on trying to define what a viable, sustainable population of wolves is. That will be done by the next recovery plan that we don't have yet, but we do know that it's going to be more than 100 wolves," Barrett said.
The FWS will accept public comment on its Mexican gray wolf proposal at a hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Hon-Dah Resort-Casino and Conference Center, Pinetop, Ariz. The proposal is available at www.fws.gov.
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Photo credit: Endangered Wolf Center