The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writers.
We couldn’t be happier that there are 12 new lobo puppies in the wildlands of Arizona and New Mexico (“Pup fostering gives genetic boost to wild Mexican wolves”) and we’re glad that cross-fostering is a successful tool for improving the genetic diversity of the current population.
Maggie Howell, the executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center, sent one of the pups, a female born on April 26, to Arizona where the pup joined the Saffel pack. We’re happy to report the pup is thriving with her new family.
Though cross-fostering on its own will not save this species and it is essential to release family groups, this year’s litters of wolves are going to be healthier and stronger as a result of the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery team and the Species Survival Program captive-breeding facilities around the country that provide these valuable puppies. We’re grateful for this hard work.
However, we must not lose sight of what these wolf puppies are up against on public lands. In addition to grave threats of illegal killings, lobo families are subject to intense conflict caused by incompatible livestock grazing practices in their habitat.
The captive-breeding facilities and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do what they can to get genetic diversity into the wild, carefully matching whelping dates of pups and making sure human scents don’t cause the wild mothers to abandon their dens. Unfortunately, the Forest Service hasn’t been quite as willing to ensure that grazing in wolf habitat is managed for success.
Earlier this year, our organizations and allies asked national forests in the region to impose a few rules about livestock on public-lands grazing allotments within wolf habitat. These commonsense measures included removing dead, sick or injured livestock from the forests, increasing range riders to reduce wolf-livestock interactions and keeping livestock out of active denning areas. This would prevent ranchers from blaming wolves for preying on cattle at critical times when the wolves have hungry pups to feed.
It would also eliminate the economic losses of those deceased livestock to the grazing permittees. It seems like a win-win, but the agency said, “No.” The unwillingness to ensure that wolf habitat is proactively managed on our public lands in Arizona and New Mexico is in stark contrast to Forest Service offices elsewhere in the country who are readily imposing such protections.
For all the concern about how wolf recovery affects livestock, it is time we started thinking about how livestock management affects wolves, too. Managing the land for the benefit of native wildlife makes sense. Setting up some ground rules for ranching before sending these precious wolf puppies out into the wild would benefit everyone. We’re hoping the agency and the ranchers will come around.
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
- Cross fostering is one tool for improving the wild population’s genetic health, but it’s not enough. Cross fostered pups will not contribute genetically to the wild population until they reach breeding age (2 years). The release of bonded family groups from the captive breeding program would result in a faster infusion of new genetics into the wild population.
- If captive pups were to be released with their parents, that would immediately put more genetically diverse, breeding wolves into the wild, instead of having to wait for the pups to reach breeding age and mate, which would take two or more years.
- The wild population of Mexican wolves is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics. There are hundreds of wolves in the captive breeding program whose genes are not represented in the wild population.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must get serious about curbing illegal killings of endangered Mexican gray wolves by increasing public acceptance of wolves, increasing penalties to dissuade wolf killers, and by accepting contemporary research on negative impacts of removing wolves who depredate.
- Livestock producers living in areas where wolves live have many proven legal non-lethal deterrents available to them to reduce livestock losses. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should require ranchers to implement these practices before any lethal control measures are taken.
- The Arizona Game and Fish Department must do more to educate hunters on why endangered wolves are important to healthy ecosystems and the punishments that come with unnecessary, illegal killings.
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.
- Submit your letter to the editor of the Arizona Daily Star or any other paper that picked this up TODAY!
Thank you for giving a voice to Mexican gray wolves!