Archive for the ‘New Mexico’ Tag

Wolves at the “back door”   Leave a comment

November 6, 2015

Source D.C. Chieftain

Hearing set about county effort to halt release

Mexican Wolf at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge Wolf facility. Courtesy photo

Protecting livestock and human lives are among the reasons some are opposed to the release of Mexican Wolves in Socorro County.

Helping the wolves fight off extinction is the reason others support the federal governments’ intention to release the wolves despite opposition from local and state officials.

There seems to be no middle ground heading into a public hearing and possible vote by the Socorro county Board of Commissioners to bar the release of the wolves as part of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.

“It seems to be an inflammatory effort to get the federal government to back off its decision to release the wolves into Socorro County,” said Michael Robinson, of the Center of Biological Diversity, about the proposed ordinance the commissioners could vote on at their meeting Tuesday.

A commissioner from a neighboring county doesn’t quite see the issue the same way.

“It’s easy to be for the release when it’s not happening at your back door,” said Catron County Commissioner Anita Hand.

Socorro County Commissioner Martha Salas will be among officials making a decision after residents are given the opportunity to make their opinions known at the 10 a.m. meeting.

County Manager Deliliah Walsh said the ordinance is on the agenda to be voted on.

But it’s possible they could table it, Walsh said.

Should the commissioners approve the ordinance, it would go in effect 60 days after the vote, Walsh said.

The feedback Salas has received so far has been overwhelmingly against the release.

She recently attended a chapter meeting at the Alamo Navajo Reservation where reservation leaders voted against allowing the release in the county.

“They say the presence of the wolves has already pushed bears and cougars more toward the reservation,” Salas said. “Now they fear the wolves are going to be coming to the reservation.”

Robinson said the proposed release point in the San Mateos is far from the reservation, but acknowledged wolves could roam a good distance if their food source was scarce. He said the wolves generally stayed confined if food sources were plentiful.

Catron County Attacks

Hand cites attack on livestock as a primary reason she is opposed to the release. So far in 2015, she said there have been 36 confirmed wolf kills on livestock, with four other possible kills.

The county also records two cows being injured in wolf attacks, as well as 5 pets.

Hand also cited 10 sightings of wolves by county residents, including five up close in which a wolf charged two adults, a wolf followed a 12-year old on horseback and one that came within 30 feet of a 2 ½-year old.

“Imagine seeing a cat with no head, a dog ripped apart or calves chewed up,” Hand said.

New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce, who represents Socorro County, cites the attacks in Catron County as a reason for his opposition to the wolf recovery program. He said he would continue to back efforts to defund the program in Congress.

“Most of Catron County is federal land,” Pearce said. “They have a small tax base. They depend heavily on the cattle industry.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Public Affairs Specialist Jeff Humphrey said the organization understands concerns about the potential for attacks on livestock or people.

“Human safety remains of utmost concern to the Service,” Humphrey said. We advise the public to always take the necessary steps and precautions to remain safe when in nature. We have not documented any cases of Mexican wolf attacks on a person.”

Robinson and Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chairwoman of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, agreed with Humphrey that attacks on humans were rare and even said that attacks on livestock were not as common as portrayed.

Ray, who lives in the San Mateos, saw wolves near her home.

“And they ran away as soon as they saw me,” Ray said.

She said the pack has since been relocated to Arizona.

Robinson cited federal statistics kept each year in wolf recovery program in the Blue Range recovery area. The statistics showed the most livestock kills in a year by the wolves was 36 in 2007. A total of 30 kills were recorded in 2014.

The statistics can be found at:

http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/pdf/Wolf_livestock_domestic_pet_conflict.pdf

and also reveals action by the Fish and Wildlife Services in response to attacks.

“Cattle is not really on their menu,” Ray said.

Elk is among the main sources of food for the wolves, Robinson and Ray said.

Ray and Humphrey both emphasize that rules are now set up to allow residents to “take” or kill wolves in case of such attacks. or if they feel they are in danger. Ray said residents can obtain permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do so.

“The Endangered Species Act, as well as our regulations for the MWEPA, allow for the take (including injuring or killing) of a Mexican wolf in self-defense or the defense of others,” Humphrey said. “Our regulations also provide for opportunistic harassment and intentional harassment of Mexican wolves. The regulations also allow for the take of a Mexican wolf under various circumstances to protect pet dogs and livestock.”

The ordinance, however, makes the Socorro Sheriff’s Office the agency the public should use in dealing with wolf interactions if U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services are not available. County Attorney Adren Nance said the ordinance does not give the Sheriff’s Office new authority, but recognizes the authority the Sheriff’s Office already has.

The Socorro County Sheriff’s Office serves as animal control in the county.

Needed for survival

Ray feels the wolf relief program is necessary because “we destroyed the species.”

Both Robinson and Humphrey said the release was necessary to introduce diversity into genes of the Mexican wolves already in the wild. Robinson said inbreeding has made the wolves more vulnerable to disease and lowered their reproduction rate, cutting their chances of survival.

“The wild population does not have adequate gene diversity, which compromises the health of individual wolves (inbreeding) and the overall health of the population,” Humphrey said. “We can improve the gene diversity of the wild population by releasing wolves from captivity with genes not already represented in the wild population. In other words, our releases from captivity at this time will be aimed at improving the genetic situation rather than increasing the size of the population, which is growing naturally without the aid of initial releases.”

Supporters of the wolf release program question whether Socorro County has the authority to enforce the ordinance on federal land.

Nance acknowledges that case law conflicts on whether the ordinance would be enforceable.

“But it would address the release on private land and would prevent a ranch owner such as Ted Turner from doing so, ” Nance said.

Turner owns the Armendaris Ranch in southern New Mexico that is home to several wildlife research projects. Endangered species have been released on the ranch.

The U.S. Department of the Interior granted permission for the release of the wolves into the state a couple of weeks ago despite a decision by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in September to refuse the request by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to do so.

“I don’t like the federal government going against the wishes of the state of New Mexico, ” Pearce said. “Why don’t they release the wolves in Central Park? Wolves used to roam there too.”

Release not determined

Even with permission from DOI, the release of the wolves by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may not come for quite some time, Humphrey said.

“For 2016, our process is a bit more complicated, and potentially delayed, because we are still working with the Forest Service and the public to identify new initial release sites in the recently expanded Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA),” Humphrey said.

The number of wolves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to release into areas of Arizona and New Mexico has not been determined. The delay in the release has caused the service to shelve its previous plan.

“Last spring, we’d requested permits for up to 10 pups (for cross-fostering) and a pair of adults and their progeny,” Humphrey said. “The window/season for such releases has passed, so these releases aren’t imminent.”

The Mexican wolf population has grown for several years in a row, reaching its highest population size to date as of the 2014 end of year count, at a minimum of 110 wolves.

“We wil conduct our 2015 annual count in January 2016,” Humphrey said

At the 2014 end of year count, the wolves were approximately equally spread between the two states, with Arizona having several more than New Mexico.

Currently, the location of the population can best be tracked using the “Occupied Range” map, available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/TADC.cfm . People can click on the map for a larger version of it. This map also indicates the most recent aerial locations of the radio-collared wolves.

By Scott Turner El Defensor Chieftain managing editor editorial@dchieftain.com

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Wolf advocates push for more releases in Gila Wilderness   Leave a comment

October 12, 2015

Source

More releases of wolves are needed to genetically bolster the population in the wild. Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS

Letter to feds points out dangers of ‘genetic bottleneck’

Staff Report

Political resistance at the state level shouldn’t deter federal biologists from releasing more Mexican gray wolves into the wild, according to conservation activists, who say that such releases are needed to prevent the wild population from becoming genetically crippled.

In a letter to federal officials, biologists and wildlife advocates urged Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to release at least five more packs of wolves into  the Gila National Forest in New Mexico through the end of this year and into 2016.

The “perilously low” number of breeding pairs makes the wolf population vulnerable to inbreeding depression that could send the population into a downward spiral, more than 40 biologists and conservation groups warned in the Oct. 8 letter.

“Federal biologists know they must release more Mexican wolves from captivity, but the Obama administration has permitted the release of just four,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Then the government recaptured one and shot another, and the remaining two also died, which argues not only for stricter protections but also for many more releases to ensure that some wolves actually add to the gene pool.”

Conservation advocates said in the letter that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is underestimating the number of wolf releases needed to nudge wolf populations toward recovery and long-term stability:

“What worries us, in addition to the absence of releases in the seven and a half months since the rule went into effect, is that the Service’s final numbers –– 35 to 50 wolves to be released over the course of 20 years, with more at the outset and fewer later on – seem not to take into account evidence that far more releases will be required to address the crisis of inbreeding.”

“The longer we delay in introducing new wolves to increase genetic variation in the wild Mexican gray wolf populations, the greater our future challenge will be to ensure that this distinctive wolf survives,” said Joseph Cook, of the American Society of Mammalogists. “Small populations with limited genetic variability often suffer from the consequences of inbreeding depression, Small populations with limited genetic variability also are generally less resilient to changing environmental conditions and less resistant to the introduction of novel pathogens.”

According to the latest census number, 110 wolves, including just eight breeding pairs, live in the combined Gila National Forest in New Mexico and Apache National Forest and Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. Fewer than 15 wolves live in the wild in Mexico.

“Mexican wolves are part of the natural heritage of all Americans,” said Mary Katherine Ray of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande chapter. “The Endangered Species Act, which requires the protection and recovery of imperiled animals, continues to be a very popular national law. Though a vocal minority at the state level is attempting to obstruct the return of wolves to the Southwest, the Fish and Wildlife Service should proceed to release more wolves to safeguard their still fragile population.”

Conservation activists say there’s plenty of room for wolves to roam in the Gila Wilderness, and that more hesitation will simply delay the targeted recovery of the species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife early this year expanded the area where captive-bred wolves could be released to include the 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest. The Gila is the fourth-largest national forest in the country and encompasses the world’s first official wilderness area, designated in 1924, that was protected from construction of roads. The Gila also supports thousands of deer, elk and other animals on which wolves prey, thereby overall strengthening such animals’ herds and preventing overgrazing. Yet more than half of this national forest has no wolves.

By Bob Berwyn

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In the News: NM game panel delays decision on Mexican wolf permit appeal   Leave a comment

New Plan Gives Mexican Wolves More Room in New Mexico, Arizona — But Also Subjects Them to More Traps, Bullets   1 comment

From:  Center for Biological Diversity

SILVER CITY, N.M.— A new federal plan for managing endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest would expand the areas where wolves could be released and roam, including farther south, east and west in both Arizona and New Mexico. But the plan, released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, makes clear that wolves will not be allowed north of Interstate 40. As documented in a report recently issued by the Center for Biological Diversity, this runs directly counter to a draft recovery plan developed by a team of expert scientists in 2012, which determined that establishing additional populations in Grand Canyon National Park and northern New Mexico is critical to the ultimate recovery of Mexican wolves.

“We’re particularly glad that Mexican gray wolves will now be able to be released directly into the excellent habitat in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, hopefully providing a needed infusion of new animals into the population,” said Michael Robinson of the Center. “But the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to listen to the science and get Mexican gray wolves into the Grand Canyon and northern New Mexico.”

Unfortunately the new plan, released as “final environmental impact statement,” will also give the Service great latitude to issue permits to private landowners or their agents, state agencies — as well as federal agents from Wildlife Services — to harass or kill wolves, including even for eating too many of their natural prey of deer and elk.

“We’re disappointed that despite the fact that killings of Mexican wolves — both legal and illegal — have hampered recovery, Fish and Wildlife is still handing out permits to kill more,” said Robinson. “This appears to be more about appeasing those who fear and abhor wolves than it is about rational, science-based management, underscoring the fact that despite three recovery teams being formed over nearly 20 years, the Service still doesn’t have a valid Mexican wolf recovery plan.”

The environmental impact statement was developed in the absence of a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf that could have provided recovery goals and a scientific foundation for decision making. The Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this month to compel finalization of a recovery plan; a 2012 draft recovery plan calls for growth of the wolf population to more than 750 wolves that would live in three connected subpopulations, including in areas north of Interstate 40, where wolves would be banned under the new rule.

The new rule, subject to a final one-month comment period, is the first revision in management of Mexican wolves since 2000, two years after their reintroduction began in 1998, when the Service authorized releases of wolves captured from the wild into the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. The new rule would allow releases of captive-bred wolves into the Gila and portions of the Cibola (New Mexico) and Sitgreaves (Arizona) national forests, and would allow wolves to roam from the border with Mexico north to Interstate 40 in New Mexico and Arizona, but no farther.

“We’re relieved that Mexican wolves will be allowed to roam more widely and will be introduced directly into New Mexico,” said Robinson. “But increasing the authority to kill them will undo all the good in this new rule and further imperil them.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service also proposes to grant broad authority to state agencies to kill wolves, including for “unacceptable impacts” to herds of elk or deer.

“Wolves are the engine of evolution, honing the alertness of deer and the strength of elk that evolved with them over thousands of years,” said Robinson. “Trapping and shooting wolves to protect their prey harkens back to a prescientific world view, and it is disturbing to see in our government in 2014.”

Background
At last count in January, only 83 Mexican wolves survived in the Southwest, including a mere five breeding pairs. Scientists have shown that inbreeding caused by a lack of wolf releases to the wild, coupled with too many killings and removals of wolves, is causing smaller litter sizes and lower pup-survival rates in the wild population. Expanding wolf releases to New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, in particular, would enable managers to diversify the population through new releases and diminish inbreeding.

 

Lawsuit Fights 38 Years of Delay in Recovering Southwest’s Mexican Gray Wolves   1 comment

From:  Center for Biological Diversity

TUCSON, Ariz.— A coalition of wolf conservation groups, environmental organizations and a retired federal wolf biologist sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for repeated failures over the last 38 years to develop a valid recovery plan for the imperiled Mexican gray wolf, one of the most endangered mammals in North America. With only 83 individuals and five breeding pairs in the wild at last report, Mexican gray wolves remain at serious risk of extinction. The recovery plan, a blueprint for rebuilding an endangered species’ population to sustainable levels, is necessary to ensure the lobos’ survival and is legally required under the Endangered Species Act.

“The opportunity to recover the Mexican gray wolf is slipping away due to genetic problems and inadequate management policies, but the government still hasn’t created the basic recovery blueprint that the law requires,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, who is representing the groups. “We are asking a judge to order federal officials to develop a scientifically-grounded recovery plan before it is too late.”

Earthjustice is representing Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, retired Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, the Endangered Wolf Center and the Wolf Conservation Center.

“For three decades now, Fish and  Wildlife officials have been dragging their feet on completing a recovery plan simply to appease state leaders and special interest groups opposed to sharing the landscape with wolves,” said Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s shameful that the very people charged with recovering our wildlife have turned their backs on these beautiful creatures, leaving them to battle inbreeding and a host of other threats pushing them to the brink of extinction.”

The Service developed a document it labeled a “Recovery Plan” in 1982, but the agency admits the document was incomplete, intended for only short-term application, and “did not contain objective and measurable recovery criteria for delisting as required by [the Endangered Species Act].” Most importantly, the 32-year-old document did not provide the necessary science-based roadmap to move the Mexican gray wolf toward recovery. Without a recovery plan in place, the Service’s Mexican gray wolf conservation efforts have fallen short of even meeting the agency’s stop-gap goals. The Service in 2010 admitted that the wild Mexican gray wolf population “is not thriving” and remains “at risk of failure.”

“In the spring of 2012, the Service cancelled the next meeting of the recovery team,” said Eva Sargent, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the team, “and we haven’t heard a word since. The majority of Arizonans and New Mexicans support recovery of the lobo, and they deserve more than decades of stalling on the most basic task – a scientific blueprint that moves the wolves from endangered to secure.”

Service-appointed recovery scientists drafted a plan in 2012 that called for establishing three interconnected Mexican gray wolf populations totaling at least 750 animals as criteria for delisting, but the plan has never been finalized. The abandonment of the 2012 recovery planning process leaves Mexican wolf recovery guided by the legally and scientifically deficient 1982 plan, which did not even set a population recovery goal.

A new analysis of the Service’s failed efforts to develop a recovery plan released today by the Center for Biological Diversity reveals an agency that over three decades convened three different teams of expert scientists to prepare the much-needed plan only, in each case, to pull the plug once the plans neared completion.

As detailed in the report, Deadly Wait: How the Government’s 30-year Delay in Producing a Recovery Plan is Hurting Recovery of Mexican Gray Wolves, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act demonstrate the most recent effort to develop a recovery plan was quashed by the Service in 2012 at the behest of the states of Arizona, Colorado and Utah, which did not want to see Mexican wolves recovered within their borders.

“The Endangered Species Act is unequivocal in its requirement of a recovery plan based solely on the best available science regardless of politics and the level of controversy. That certain interests invited to the recovery planning table don’t respect federal law or reject the validity of the best science is no excuse for shutting down the recovery planning process and further endangering the extinction of the Mexican gray wolf” said David Parsons, former Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed today include two environmental education organizations that operate captive-breeding facilities providing Mexican gray wolves for release into the wild. Despite their efforts, Mexican gray wolf survival continues to be threatened by the lack of a recovery plan to ensure that wolf releases are sufficient to establish a viable population.

“Recovery cannot take place in captivity alone,” said Virginia Busch, executive director of the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Mo. “Only by developing and implementing a comprehensive and legally compliant recovery plan reflecting the best available scientific information can Fish and Wildlife Service secure the future of the Mexican wolf, and establish management sufficient to restore this irreplaceable part of our wild natural heritage to the American landscape.”

Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y., added:  “The captive-breeding program that we operate aims to release wolves into their ancestral homes in the wild, but the success of our efforts requires a recovery plan that will ensure the survival of these iconic and imperiled wolves.”

BACKGROUND
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) — the “lobo” of Southwestern lore — is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 83 individuals, all descendants of just seven wild founders of a captive breeding program. These wolves are threatened by illegal killings, legal removals due to conflicts with livestock, and a lack of genetic diversity.

The Service has never written or implemented a legally sufficient Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. The Service’s most recent recovery team has done extensive, rigorous work to determine what needs to be done to save the Mexican gray wolf. Recovery team scientists agree that, in order to survive, lobos require the establishment of at least three linked populations. The habitats capable of supporting the two additional populations are in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico/southern Colorado.

In July 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed revision of the rules governing management of Mexican gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal includes provisions that would allow for increased take — or killing — of the critically endangered animals, and proposes to recapture wolves dispersing north of Interstate 40, which would prohibit the establishment of additional populations called for by recovery planners. The proposal is not based on a legitimate recovery plan.

ONLINE VERSION: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2014/lawsuit-fights-38-years-of-delay-in-recovering-southwest-s-mexican-gray-wolves

LEGAL DOCUMENT:http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Mexican_gray_wolf/pdfs/Mexican_wolf_recovery_plan_complaint_11-2014.pdf

Center for Biological Diversity Report:http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Mexican_gray_wolf/pdfs/Deadly_Wait_Mexican_Gray_Wolf_Recovery_Web.pdf

 

To protect wolves’ future is to protect our future   6 comments

By
PUBLISHED: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 12:02 am

My family lives in Mexican gray wolf country along the banks of the upper Gila River in the Cliff-Gila Valley, three miles from the southern edge of the Gila Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico. We live simply, on a small milk-goat farm, growing most of our own food and selling, what we can, to our neighbors.

Our orchards and gardens are filled with free-ranging chickens, turkeys and ducks; and our hearts are filled with gratitude both for the lives we lead and the larger complex of life that surrounds and sustains us.

My son, Hawk, is home-schooled and we spend a lot of time outdoors.

When Hawk was 4, we went camping in the Gila wilderness. We got lucky.

Lying in our sleeping bags after dark, we both heard our first wolf.

“What’s that mama?” he asked, a little nervously.

“That’s life,” I thought. “That is life howling at the moon at the cutting edge of time. That, my dear child, is the opposite of nothingness. That is the antithesis of death. That is the deep past and the unknowable future held together by muscle and sinew and desire.”

“It’s a wolf,” I finally said, “and you are very lucky to hear one.”

“But aren’t you afraid,” he asked?

“No,” I said. “I’m not afraid of the wolf, or of mountain lions, or bears, or lightning, or poison ivy. But what I am afraid of is that the wolf that we just heard could be shot. I’m afraid that I will never hear that sound again. I’m afraid that the rivers will be dammed and the soil will be lost and that too many species of birds will disappear forever.

“I’m afraid that my neighbor’s hearts are too small. I’m afraid that most people have forgotten who and what they are. I’m afraid that you will grow up without knowing beauty or wonder.”

Well, OK, maybe I didn’t say all that, but he got the message.

He’s not afraid of wolves. Sweet boy, at 10 years old, he’s not even afraid of the future – at least not yet.

“The great terror of our age,” wrote Loren Eiseley, “is our own conception of ourselves.” Yes, I care about wolves, but I care about my son even more, and I want him to know that the human heart is large, that our species is special because we get to choose who and what we are, that narrow self-interest, hatred and fear doesn’t have to define the human character, that the Endangered Species Act is not only about recovering the Mexican gray wolf, it’s also about recovering ourselves.

I understand that it’s hard sometimes to give the wolf or other listed species a free pass, especially when livelihoods are believed to be at stake.

But for me, the Endangered Species Act remains a sacred trust between my family and my government guaranteeing us that the diversity of life contained within our national boundaries will not be diminished by human agency.

The protections that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could and should and must provide the Mexican gray wolf on its long road to full recovery is the people’s business. It’s my business.

They are working for me, and for Hawk, and for millions of other Americans who not only want a future filled with wolf song, but demand it under the law.

The Endangered Species Act is not the jack boot of big government. The Endangered Species Act is me. The jack boots are mine. I’m one who wants the world to stay alive.

I want Hawk to know beauty and wonder.

I am not afraid of wolves. But I am so very afraid of a future without them.

Going to the wolves: Strong views aired on expanding wolf recovery area in Arizona – Arizona Range News: News   1 comment

Going to the wolves: Strong views aired on expanding wolf recovery area in Arizona – Arizona Range News: News.

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 12:00 pm

BISBEE — Wolves. Just mention the word and depending on how one views predatory American animals, there are bound to be those who are in awe of the stamina, power and grace of the animal who once roamed the West in numbers and those who are fearful of its agile and deadly ability to kill.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to open protected areas in New Mexico and Arizona for the reintroduction of the smaller Mexican Wolf, an uproar of opposition has been raised by ranchers who cannot afford to lose stock and who fear for their children and pets.

That was obvious as the Cochise County Board of Supervisors invited the public to make official comments on the proposal during Tuesday’s meeting. Though FWS is considering the release in the county above Interstate 10, three of the four of the scheduled public hearings are not even in Arizona. The only one is scheduled in Phoenix on a date yet to be determined, said Kim Mulhern, hydrologist and wildlife consultant for the county. That was the reason the Supervisors decided to hold a public hearing so that the voices of the county could be heard.

Mulhern noted the FWS proposed de-listing of the Gray Wolf as an endangered species, but was in the process of listing the Mexican Wolf, a smaller version of the gray, as endangered.

FWS is proposing to expand the Mexican wolf’s protected areas on state and federal public lands, Mulhern explained. The proposed rule would allow releases into all areas of central Arizona north of I-10. The Service is also considering an option that is currently not in the proposed rule to expand the geographic boundaries for the Mexican wolf down to the US/Mexico border in Arizona and New Mexico, affecting all areas of the county.

The basic proposed rule, if the Mexican Wolf is listed as endangered, would permit a direct release from captivity to the wild throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, which runs through the central part of New Mexico from its border with Texas to the Arizona border with California, explained Mulhern. FWS expects the Mexican wolves, a sub-species of the gray wolf, to disperse naturally from the Blue Range into the expanded protection area on both federal and state lands, as well as some private land holdings.

Mary Darling, an environmental consultant, said Mexico had released some of these wolves into remote areas of the country about 20 miles south of Douglas, and there was a possibility of wolves making their ways north into the U.S. and up the San Bernardino Valley and the Chiricahua Mountains. If the FWS does re-list the Mexican as endangered, then those who cross the border would be considered protected and could not be harmed. It also would  effect grazing leases ranchers may have with federal and state lands.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been concerned in recent years about the decreases in deer and antelope populations, so there is a conflict regarding the availability of sufficient large prey for all of the current predators in the area, noted Mulhern. With the addition of Mexican wolves, lack of prey would likely cause them to resort to preying on livestock, pets, and other non-wild prey.

Sherry Barrett, FWS Mexican wolf coordinator, faced a hostile crowd at the hearing, yet moved forward with her presentation on the proposed reintroduction of the endangered species.

“I recognize that ranchers are not in favor of the reintroduction of the wolf,” Barrett added. “However, in polls, people want to see the wolves reestablished in their former environments, even though for most, the wolves would not be in their backyards.”

 It is expected that these wolves would prefer smaller game such as javelina or deer. However, depending on the numbers of prey animals, it is possible for these wolves to take down stock and impact the ranching economy.

In cases of proven predations, FWS could allow the killing of the wolf by authorized personnel, said Barrett.

In the standing-room only meeting room, rancher after rancher came forward to express their confusion and dissatisfaction with the decision to incorporate any part of Cochise County into the reintroduction areas. So did state Sen. Gail Griffin.

Gilbert Reeves, Huachuca City, said he was not a rancher, but could relate to their concerns. He voiced concern for his great-grandchild who could become a target for wolves.

“We don’t need this,” Reeves stated. “Can we eat these wolves? They’re no good for anything. I don’t see why we even have them here. I think the American public rolls over and is silent too often. I’ve rolled over for my last time. It’s time to stand up and fight, people … Let’s put a stop to all this foolishness … Shame on the federal government. They’re here to help us.”

Reeves claimed that shelters had to be constructed in New Mexico so that children waiting for school buses would be safe from wolves.

Steven Smith, Elfrida, stated that the federal government was taking away ranchers’ ability to manage their livestock “in a profitable manner,” which “infringes on our pursuit of happiness,” and “serves no useful purpose for our county or residents.”

Only three people were in favor of the reintroduction project Liza Weissler, Bob Wick and Bob Weissler with the Friends of the San Pedro.

Wick said he thought that this corner of Arizona was blessed in that there was such a rich diversity of wildlife, something he did not have growing up in Ohio. He suggested that the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf would add to the tourism industry as people would want to come and watch the wolf packs. He also told the ranchers that he was “disappointed” that they were not reimbursed for stock they lost to predators.

Bob Weissler reasoned that if Mexican wolves did cross the border, they would probably move on because there was not enough prey. Additionally, the Defenders of Wildlife have a fund for compensation of stock that have been proven to be killed by wolves. When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park, for example, the coyote population that had been preying on smaller animals plummeted and those species came back. The elk herds became more robust as the old and sick were taken down by the wolf packs.

“We’re interested in putting predator/prey balance back into the wilderness and our wild areas because there are unforeseen indirect impacts,” Bob Weissler stated.

All the comments received through the public hearing will be forwarded to the FWS by the supervisors so that Cochise County residents will have a voice in the process. The supervisors approved a letter to FWS earlier in the meeting stating that they were against any wolves being introduced into the county.

Mexican Wolf Recovery Area

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