Almost 14 years after they were first reintroduced to the Southwest, there are still only around 55 Mexican gray wolves in the wild, making them the most endangered mammal in North America. More wolves are desperately needed to strengthen the wild population’s genetics and increase their numbers.
In spite of this, the AZ Game and Fish Commission recently voted to oppose any new releases of wolves into Arizona. Fortunately, the decision lies not with the state, which has long undermined Mexican wolf reintroduction, but instead with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, the federal agency lacks the necessary institutional fortitude and needs bucking up to make sure it does the right thing to pull these critically endangered wolves back from the brink of extinction. (EDITORS NOTE: On January 13, 2012 the commission unanimously voted to consider allowing new releases to replace dead wolves on a case-by-case basis. Read more here.)
First, they should start releasing eligible captive wolves into the wilds where they belong, as quickly as possible. There are nearly two dozen wolves languishing in captive facilities that could be released into New Mexico, having lived in the wild previously. The USFWS should expedite the releases of these eligible wolves.
Second, the USFWS needs to change the rule that prohibits releasing wolves into New Mexico if they have not previously lived in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has for years been sitting on the Environmental Assessment that would make changing this problematic rule possible. Allowing direct releases in New Mexico will give wildlife managers the flexibility to get more wolves on the ground, regardless of unexpected disasters like last summer’s Wallow Fire. It will give them the ability to choose the best places for releases to succeed. And it will give these important animals a much better chance at recovery.
Finally, if necessary, the USFWS should move ahead with new releases despite Arizona Game and Fish’s opposition.
It’s time for the stalling to stop.
For years, scientists have said that new releases are essential to pull the small, struggling wild population of Mexican wolves back from the brink of extinction. Now, because Fish and Wildlife Service has cow-towed to livestock industry objections and squeezed releases to a virtual halt, the wild population suffers from genetic inbreeding that is causing lower litter sizes and pup survival rates. These magnificent animals, capable of restoring the balance to our southwestern forests, cannot afford more delays or arbitrary rules that hinder their recovery.
Please contact the Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today and tell them it’s time to put more wolves into the wild where they belong.
In your message, you can include the points below, but please use your own words so that your message will be more effective:
- Mexican gray wolves need to live wild, and wild places need them.
- New releases of wolves into the wild are needed badly to bolster the population of only 50-55 wolves that remain in the wild. Newly released wolves will not only increase population numbers but will also improve the wild population’s genetics.
- The AZ Game and Fish Commission’s decision to oppose new releases makes changing the rule to allow direct releases into New Mexico even more critical than ever.
- There have been no releases of new Mexican wolves into the wild since November 2008. As the agency with ultimate authority and responsibility for restoring the Mexican wolf, the US Fish and Wildlife Service should be doing anything it can do to confirm its commitment to the wolf’s success in the wild.
- Talk about who you are and why Mexican wolf recovery is important to you, personally.
Please add your name and address at the end, because anonymous letters get little attention. Remember, too, that polite requests are more effective.
Please send us a copy as well, so that we can track the actions taken to save these wonderful animals.
Thank you for all you do.