Las Cruces, N.M.— A new analysis by conservation groups finds that the number of wolf depredations on livestock in the Southwest decreased in 2008, 2009 and 2010 after authorities made clear that no more wolves would be removed from the wild for depredations. The analysis was part of a letter sent to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez this week asking her to continue state support for endangered Mexican gray wolves in the wild.
In the previous five years, 2003 through 2007, depredations had increased each year during the same span that federal agents shot or trapped increasing numbers of wolves in retaliation. The removals ended, at least temporarily, because they harmed the population of endangered Mexican gray wolves along the New Mexico/Arizona border and prevented its growth. Last year only 50 Mexican wolves, including two breeding pairs, could be counted in the wild.
Thirteen national and New Mexico conservation organizations cited this encouraging trend in requesting that Gov. Martinez and her appointees: (1) continue to support the successful preventive measures that have keep stock losses to a minimum (just nine deaths due to wolves in all of New Mexico and Arizona last year); (2) maintain state opposition to removing wolves from the wild; (3) resume state support for additional releases of wolves into New Mexico; and also (4) oppose premature congressional removal of Mexican wolves from the endangered species list just as scientists are developing, for the first time, criteria for recovery and subsequent state and tribal authority and management of the Mexican wolf.
The governor’s New Mexico State Game Commission may make changes to wolf policy at tomorrow’s game commission meeting in Las Cruces.
“The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has helped keep the Mexican wolf from extinction over the past three-and-a-half years by prevailing on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to remove any more wolves from the wild,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The data show that when government removal of wolves ceased, depredations went down as well. That may be because livestock owners, who are reimbursed for losses to wolves, have greater incentive to prevent losses through practicing sound animal husbandry when the possibility of wolf removal is taken off the table.”
Successful measures used to promote coexistence include moving calving operations away from wolf den sites and disposing of the carcasses of livestock that die of non-wolf causes such as disease, accidents, birthing complications, poisonous weeds or starvation. Carcasses can be rendered inedible through lime and other means, thereby preventing wolves from being attracted to areas of vulnerable stock.
“New Mexico has a critical role in Mexican wolf survival,” said Daniel Patterson, Southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “We encourage Gov. Martinez to follow facts and continue state leadership to keep wolves in the wild.”
The conservationists’ letter to the governor concludes: “Your leadership can help ensure the survival and recovery of the Mexican gray wolf, and thereby also improve the health of the entire vast and wild Gila ecosystem — which would in turn benefit our own species, now and for future generations.”
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017
Daniel Patterson, PEER, (520) 906-2159