More than 300 Mexican gray wolves live in captive-breeding facilities.
Only about 42 Mexican gray wolves live in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border.
The reason? Politics.
Wolves were reintroduced to the area in 1998.
Wildlife biologists expected the population to exceed 100 animals by now.
The wolves adjusted well to the wild. They hunted. They multiplied.
But ranchers leasing public land were fiercely opposed to sharing that resource with wolves – despite programs to reimburse them for any loss of livestock.
The vocal opposition of a few had a disproportional impact – despite strong public support for wolves in the wild.
Not a single one of the hundreds of wolves in captivity was reintroduced to the Blue Range last year. In previous years, a disastrous policy, now rescinded, allowed wolves to be killed or captured if they ate cattle three times – even if there was no evidence they had actually killed the cows.
And there was poaching. At least two of eight wolf carcasses found last year had been shot.
Enough is enough.
Wolf reintroduction serves the national goals outlined in the Endangered Species Act.
Wolves are on public land. Those privileged to hold grazing leases have a duty to accommodate other public uses of the land.
Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest director for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says he’s “determined” to “see more Mexican wolves in the wild.”
He had better make that clear to the ranchers.
This article appeared in the Arizona Republic on February 11, 2010
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