Maggie Howell is the Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center, an Endangered Species Coalition member organization. In this interview with Zoe Helene, she talks about what endangered wolves sacrifice in captivity, the threat they face from hunters and ranchers in the wild, and her love for the lobo.
Below is an excerpt from the guest post of animal rights advocate Zoe Helene.
Maggie and I talked about that as well as her particular passion for Mexican gray wolves (the smallest and most genetically distinct sub-species of the North American gray wolf, known also as the lobo) and the crucial work she and her colleagues are doing to save a species in peril. Because the sad fact is, without efforts by organizations such as WCC, both Mexican gray and red wolves would still be extinct in the wild and the remaining gray wolves would be right behind them. Before recovery efforts began, the Mexican gray wolf population was down to five: four males and one female who was pregnant with seven pups. These last remaining lobos were captured in Mexico from 1977 to 1980 and transferred to the United States to establish a certified captive breeding program.
“We advocate for wolves’ rights because they cannot speak for themselves,” Maggie told me. “It’s a toxic environment out there when it comes to wolves.”
These wolves are native to the North American West, Southwest and northern Mexico (lobo is Spanish for wolf), and they ran free from prehistoric times until the last century. Extreme predator removal efforts, sanctioned by the U.S. government from the late 1800s through the mid 1900s, exterminated the species from its wild ancestral landscapes.
Under the Endangered Species Act, reintroduction efforts have established a small population of 109 lobos, descendants of the last remaining Mexican gray wolves who were captive bred and released into their native territories. It’s a long, sad story wrought with fear, ignorance and profit, in which antiquated hunting laws and private (cattle) industry powers get in the way of real progress.
Even with an official protective “endangered” categorization, lobos face threats in the wild. Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has designated the species “experimental non-essential”—a loophole that allows extra leniency for “management”—lobos are allowed to roam only in small areas of public land also used by the livestock industry as inexpensive, subsidized grazing land. Occasionally a wolf kills a sheep or cow, and the “experimental non-essential” designation and accompanying special section 10(j) regulation allows USFWS to remove or kill the wolf.
USFWS’s rationale is that the species isn’t in danger of extinction because its genetics are represented in captivity, but adapting to captivity is weakening the species. This could result—and is resulting—in smaller litters, less successful breeding and decreased pup survival, Maggie told me. The WCC and a coalition of conservation groups have sued USFWS for failing to implement a valid recovery plan for the lobo, Maggie said, because “it’s crucial that the species be allowed to survive in the wild.”
You can read the full article and interview with Maggie Howell, Executive Director at Wolf Conservation Center HERE.
If some members of Congress have their way, wolves across some or even all of the lower 48 states will lose their Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections through stand-alone bills or riders on must-pass legislation.
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Photo credit: Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center