In the Press: Two New Wolf Packs Established in NM
The Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, once roamed parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Hunting and government-sponsored extermination campaigns all but wiped out the predator. It was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976, and a captive-breeding program was started.
The first batch of wolves was released into the wild in May 1998, and currently at least 58 wolves remain in the wild in those two states. The most recent annual survey showed at least 18 pups among the packs at the beginning of the year.
Liz Jozwiak, the field coordinator for the Mexican gray wolf recovery program, said several packs are showing signs of denning behavior, which could mean a new batch of pups.
The possibility of pups coupled with the formation of the two new packs in June mark what Jozwiak called a “significant, positive step” for the population, which is scattered across millions of forested acres in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.
“Just seeing that there is some natural disbursal and individuals are finding each other, forming packs and having the opportunity to breed is significant,” she said. “I think that’s going to really contribute to the overall recovery of the population.”
But biologists have concerns about genetic diversity within the small population. Without new wolves, inbreeding can result in smaller litter sizes and greater pup mortality.
Last year, the recovery team observed 38 pups in the wild. Less than half survived through the end of the year.
This year, Jozwiak said the team is hoping for a higher survival rate. ...
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has criticized the management of the wolf program, argued that hope shouldn’t be used as a hedge against Mexican gray wolf extinction.
While two new packs is good news, he said the federal government needs to release more captive wolves to bolster a population that has been kept in check by poaching, a lack of new releases and past instances of trappings and lethal removals triggered by run-ins with livestock.
Ranchers have been just as critical of the program, saying managers have not done enough to protect their livelihood.
One of the new packs, dubbed the Canyon Creek pack, is in the Beaverhead area northeast of the Gila Wilderness. In the past, Robinson said the area was the “epicenter of wolf-livestock conflict.” The area is home to a sizeable elk herd.
The Elk Horn Pack is closer to Reserve, an area that hasn’t had resident wolves.
This article appeared in the Albuquerque Journal, the Las Cruces Sun-News, The Durango Herald, The Sierra Vista Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other media outlets.
Please write a letter to the editor today, thanking these papers for the story and urging more releases of captive wolves to increase the wild population’s genetic health and size.
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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to email@example.com.
- Start by thanking the paper for publishing this article.- This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
- Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health. Even with the formation of two new packs, the wild population is still extremely small and vulnerable to threats such as disease, inbreeding, or natural events.
- Tell readers why you support wolves and stress that the majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.
- Urge the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to end the freeze on more releases of captive wolves into the wild. Releases of captive wolves must happen now to prevent another extinction in the wild; the number of wild wolves must increase to reduce their vulnerability.
- Encourage the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to use all the means available to them to expedite more releases of captive wolves into the wild. The agency has been sitting on an Environmental Assessment that can end the ridiculous rule prohibiting new releases into New Mexico and letting wolves eligible for release into both Arizona and New Mexico sit in captivity. The stalling has to stop.
- Explain that there are wolves in captivity ready to be released and wolves in the wild that do not have mates. These wolves need more releases to form more new breeding pairs and families.
- Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.
- Reiterate the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife. 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.
- Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
- Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.
Submit your letter to:
The Albuquerque Journal
The Las Cruces Sun News (300 words or less)
The San Francisco Chronicle (under 200 words)
Durango Herald (350 words or less)
Sierra Vista Herald (registration required)
Please send us a copy of your letter as well, so that we can track the actions taken to save these wonderful animals. Thank you!