In the News: Alpha Female Will Be Put Into Captivity
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has changed its mind about the fate of a female alpha wolf thought to be behind the deaths of several cattle, opting to send the animal into captivity rather than shooting it.
The Service’s regional director Joy Nicholopoulos said in a letter Friday that the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., volunteered to take the wolf and assume costs for capture and care. That means the wolf will no longer be a threat to cattle.
“The conservation center acknowledges that this wolf will never be released,” Nicholopoulos said in the letter. “… I am authorizing the removal of female 1188 to be captured and placed in captivity for the remainder of her life.”
The last time the Service shot and killed a wolf was in July 2007. It later made its policy on “problem” wolves more flexible.
The Fox Mountain pack is blamed for killing at least four cattle since late March, three of which were on private land outside of a 4.4-million acre wolf recovery area. The alpha female of the Fox Mountain pack has four pups.
Service employees will offer supplemental food and nutrition to the pups, who will remain in the wild.
Despite the Service’s change of heart, one conservation group says the wolf should be allowed back into the wild to care for her pups and lead the Fox Mountain pack, which includes seven adult wolves.
“This very critical wolf basically gets life in prison without parole,” said Daniel Patterson, Southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “It’s a very big setback for conservation and recovery.”
There are six breeding wolf pairs in the wild, so Patterson said the species’ last hope of recovery is an increased population.
“There have to be more releases of lobos into the wild,” he said.
Calls to Service spokesmen were not returned, but officials have said the wolf is of low genetic value to its species and constitutes a risk to cattle owners.
Linda Searles, director of the conservation center, said the group keeps 15 wolves at a cost of about $20 a day per wolf. Searles said the center opted to take the alpha female to preserve its genetic material and to save a life.
“She’s an endangered species,” she said. “Her genetics are important to the program.”
Searles said the center adopted one such “problem” wolf years ago, and she has “adapted beautifully.”
Please make calls today to keep this Mexican gray wolf mother in the wild with her family-more info here.
When you've made your calls, please write a letter to the editor, thanking the paper for this article and urging the USFWS to keep the Fox Mountain alpha female with her pups and to release many more wolves into the wild.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
- Inform readers that wolves are social animals who rely on family members in hunting and pup rearing. Trapping or darting this wolf, and removing her forever, would disrupt the pack.
- Remind them that, at last count, just 58 wolves, including six breeding pairs, survived in the wild. This is no time to bring back the policy of scapegoating wolves who occasionally prey on livestock.
- Explain that the USFWS is using the Fox Mountain alpha wolves’ genetics as an excuse for removing the female, and point out that the reason these pups’ parents are so closely related may be due to the fact that not a single new wolf has been released from the captive-breeding pool since November 2008.
- Assert that the way to improve the wild populations’ genetics is to release many new wolves into the wild, so that when the Fox Mountain pups, when they grow up, will be able to find unrelated mates. The wild population is extremely small and vulnerable to threats such as disease, inbreeding, or natural events. The USFWS should end the freeze on new releases of captive wolves into the wild
- Let people know that by removing this wolf, the USFWS is depriving four pups born this summer of their mother, harming this family of wolves, and breaking apart one of only a few breeding pairs in the wild.
- Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health, especially now. .
- 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.
- 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.
- Describe 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.
You can submit your letter to the Albuquerque Journal here.
You can also submit letters to the following papers who ran articles on the same topic.
El Paso Times article
Submit your letter here.
San Francisco Chronicle article
Submit your letter here. (200 word limit)
Photo of Mexican gray wolf in the wild courtesy of Jean Ossorio