Shrouded in secrecy in mid-November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured alive and removed another Mexican gray wolf from the wild in response to the killing of cattle on national forest and state lands in east-central Arizona. The removal of the male wolf accelerates the extinction threat of the unique southwestern subspecies that has already seen at least 11 deaths and one other removal this year and declined 13 percent last year, leaving only 97 animals in Arizona and New Mexico. The captured wolf had a mate who is still in the wild.
“The Mexican gray wolf simply can’t afford more animals being removed from the wild or even killed because of the occasional cattle loss,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The research shows that non-lethal efforts to protect livestock are far more effective than removing or killing wolves. Yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has steadfastly refused to require ranchers to do anything to protect their livestock prior to removing or killing wolves.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has long flouted the recommendations of scientists in the management of the Mexican gray wolf. For example in 2008 the Association of Zoos and Aquariums requested a moratorium on permanent removals of Mexican wolves “until an expert taskforce on genetic issues can be convened to provide guidance to these actions.” The Service has yet to convene such a taskforce and had no knowledge of the latest captured wolf’s genetic composition before removing him because he was born in the wild and had never previously been captured. The Service rarely re-releases wolves once they’ve been taken into captivity.
Similarly in 2007 the American Society of Mammalogists, the leading association of scientists who study mammals, opposed removing Mexican wolves “at least until the interim 100-wolf goal of the current reintroduction program has been achieved,” and urged the Service to “protect wolves from the consequences of scavenging on livestock carcasses” — a frequent precursor to depredations.
The latest removal of a wolf follows removals of other wolves in past years on behalf of the same livestock owner. It is not known whether carcasses of non-wolf-killed stock contributed to the recent depredations. But documents received by the Center under the Freedom of Information Act show that the last Mexican wolf removed by the government – a male from the Luna Pack trapped in May in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico — was drawn to vulnerable cattle through scavenging on carcasses of cows that had died due to birthing complications.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that it can recover wolves through traps and bullets — some of the same tools that the same agency used decades ago in exterminating them,” said Robinson. “But appeasing the public-lands livestock industry in this manner has led to repeated population downturns and consistent failure to meet the Service’s own metrics for progress. Every trapped wolf is not just an individual animal suffering, along with a mate wandering the wild forlorn, but represents another step toward extinction.”
Associated Press - A conservation group says the federal government hasn’t been transparent about its removal of a Mexican gray wolf from the wild this month.
The wolf is an endangered species and there are only 97 of them in Arizona and New Mexico, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The organization says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured a gray wolf in east-central Arizona in response to the killing of cattle on nearby land.
The government is under court order to update its decades-old recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, which has struggled to regain a foothold in the Southwest, by November 2017.
Show your support for Mexican wolves with a Letter to the Editor 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 for writing your letter 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.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
• Every removal of a wolf from the wild negatively impacts the ability of the species to recover. Only 97 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild at last official count, making them one of the most endangered wolves in the world. The wild population declined 12% since last year’s count.
• The US Fish and Wildlife Service should not remove wolves from the wild until ranchers are required to remove livestock carcasses from the landscape.
• The US Fish and Wildlife Service has a legal obligation to recover the Mexican gray wolf, yet they have removed a wolf from the wild at the very time more releases are needed for the species to survive.
• It has now been 40 years since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first listed the Mexican gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act, yet the species is still struggling to remain viable.
• The wild lobo population is in desperate need of genetic improvement that can only be obtained with the release of more wolves from captivity. The captive population harbors genetic diversity not present in the wild population and we are seeing negative impacts to wild wolves as a result, including smaller litters, lower pup survival rates, and a population that is less able to adapt to changing conditions.
• In a 2013 poll of registered voters, 87% of both Arizonans and New Mexicans agreed that “wolves are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage.” 83% of Arizonans and 80% of New Mexicans agreed that “the US Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction.”
• In a 2008 poll of registered voters, 77 % of Arizonans and 69% of New Mexicans supported “the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf into these public lands in Arizona and New Mexico.”
• Scientists 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.
• 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.
• We have a moral, economic and scientific responsibility to restore endangered species like the Mexican gray wolf.
Make sure you:
• Thank the paper for publishing the article
• Submit your letter as soon as possible. The chance of your letter being published declines after a day or two since the article was published
• Do not repeat any negative messages from the article, such as “so and so said that wolves kill too many cows, but…” Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article
• Keep your letter brief, under 150 words
• Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a 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.