Which is Worse? The Death Penalty or Life in Prison?
For a wild animal, either is pretty grim when you’re used to running free with the pack. Trouble is, when wild predators bump up against humans, the wild animals usually get the short end of the stick.
Taking an endangered Mexican gray wolf out of the wild by killing it isn’t a decision the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes lightly — or often. Killing over cattle depredation was last done in 2007.
It looked like 2012 was going to be a repeat. After the service on Wednesday issued a lethal removal order for wolf F11-88 over depredations by the Fox Mountain pack, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center stepped up and said it could take the female.
Fish and Wildlife quickly rescinded its kill order. Agents are now in the field looking for F11-88 to take her to her new home in Arizona. Her weaned pups will remain in the wild.
The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program, which has brought the Mexican gray wolf back from the brink of extinction, has been on a very slow path to re-establishing the species in the desert Southwest. The reintroduction plan was put in place in 1982, captive breeding in the early ‘90s and releases into the wild in 1998. Starting with five wolves from Mexico, as of January the program had at least 58 wolves in the wild and about 300 in captive breeding programs.
Cattle killing by wolves in New Mexico statistically is low — 2.4 percent of all the cattle lost to predators in 2010 — but if it’s your calf or heifer, it’s a substantial loss, although there is compensation for wolf kills.
The federal government spent about $1.8 million in 2011 on the wolf program. As the program continues to struggle, questions have been raised about its viability. In 2011, the state of New Mexico pulled out, leaving the state of Arizona and the White Mountain Apaches still working with the federal government on the program. Many New Mexicans love their lobos— 69 percent either strongly supported or somewhat supported the program in a 2008 Research & Polling survey.
This wolf-human standoff has ended — for now — but the future of the lobo and this government program remain uncertain.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.
Click here to make calls urging decision-makers to keep the Fox Mountain alpha female in the wild with her family.
Once you've made your calls, please write a letter to the editor, thanking the paper for this article and urging the USFWS to keep this wolf mother 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 a letter to the Editor of the Albuquerque Journal here
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