Federal wolf managers go after another Mexican wolf pack.

Newly reintroduced pair (Nantac Pack) removed.

June 23, 2006

After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's disastrous handling of the Hon Dah pack (ten rare Mexican wolves killed or died) and its control killing of a Mexican wolf from the Saddle Pack that wandered into the San Carlos Apache Reservation, two more Mexican wolves have been removed. One was shot by the government and the other captured This pair, the Nantac Pack, was introduced to the wild in late April this year. It was thought the female was pregnant. She wasn't.

The pair was released in the Black Range near the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. Most designated Wilderness areas are livestock free, but some, like the Gila and the Aldo Leopold have some grandfathered grazing privileges. Back in 1964, when the Wilderness Act became law, grandfathering livestock grazing was a price paid as a compromise that would let the bill go forward.

Black Range. New Mexico
The Black Range in New Mexico. Copyright © Greg Magee

The wolf pair was released, however, in an unusued grazing allotment. It was hoped they would stay there, but instead they headed north and the pair fed on a dead (from disease) cow bull in early May (removal of livestock carcasses is unfortunately not common). The pair may have, therefore, begun to view cattle as prey and they probably killed a cow calf May 24, dooming them in the eyes of the government.

So the number of wild Mexican wolves continues to hover near thirty, down from 55 just 3 years ago, and far below the population goal.

The amount of livestock killed is very trivial compared to the rarity of the wolves and generally sloppy livestock management by the U.S. Government in this part of the Southwest.

The Region 2 USFWS seems to be controlling this tiny wolf population in response to livestock problems with as much or more vigor than in the Idaho-Montana-Wyoming area where the wolf population of nearly a thousand exists from the successful reintroduction of the gray wolf in 1995-6. If recovery or even conservation of this tiny wolf population is really a government goal, control is excessive.

In response to these actions a number of conservation group have appealed by letter to new Secretary of Interior, Dirk Kempthorne. They are asking for an emergency moratorium on killing Mexican wolves for these generally trivial livestock depredations until the Mexican wolf population stabilizes or grows to the goal of 100 wolves. Alert from the Center for Biological Diversity. You might want to contact the new Secretary of Interior and the governor of New Mexico, Bill Richarson, who is a shoo-in for reelection and a possible candidate for President of the United States.

Here is the letter-

The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne                                                                                  June 19, 2006  

Secretary of the Interior
Interior Building, Room 6156
1849 C St.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Copy by facsimile: (202) 208-5048  

Dear Secretary Kempthorne,  

            This is to request an emergency moratorium on all predator control targeted against endangered Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.  We request that this moratorium stay in effect until the population of Mexican wolves stabilizes and population objectives for the reintroduction are achieved.

             Federal predator control has significantly contributed to the reduction of the census population of Mexican wolves in the wild from 55 at the end of 2003, to 44 at the end of 2004, to 35 at the end of 2005 – a twenty percent decline in each year.  Most recently, your Fish and Wildlife Service authorized three trapping and killing operations that wiped out eleven wolves, including six pups from one pack.  A seventh, orphaned pup has likely died of starvation as a result of these actions.  Another wolf is in the crosshairs today.  

            By way of contrast, the Mexican wolf population, which was reintroduced to the wild in 1998, was projected to reach 102 animals by the end of this year.  

            The dramatic decline in the Mexican wolf population mirrors the original loss of the Mexican wolf.  The Fish and Wildlife Service and its predecessor agencies poisoned and trapped all gray wolves in the West, including the Mexican wolf, between 1915 and 1945 while claiming that extermination was not the goal.  Beginning in 1950, Fish and Wildlife Service personnel and government poisons were sent to Mexico in a program that eliminated Mexican wolves in that nation, as well.  Only passage of the Endangered Species Act led to the live capture of the last known five “lobos” in Mexico (comprising four males and one female) for an emergency captive breeding program to stave off extinction.  No wild wolves have been confirmed alive in Mexico since 1980.  

            The reintroduction program that stemmed from the captive population is intended to correct a historic mistake and save an endangered species and the ecosystems of which it is a part.  The Mexican wolf is the engine of evolution for southwestern ecosystems, contributing to the strength and vigor of elk, the alertness of deer, the agility and sense of balance of bighorn sheep, and the speed and keen eyesight of pronghorn antelope.  The lobo also provides carrion for scavenger species such as eagles, badgers and bears.  In sum, reintroduction of the Mexican wolf is part of this generation's commitment to generations yet to come that we will leave them some landscapes teeming with life.  Appropriately, polls have consistently indicated strong public support for wolf reintroduction, including in the rural counties where lobos now roam.  

            Unfortunately, over the past eight years, federal control actions intended to capture and kill Mexican wolves, exacerbated by continued incidents of illegal shootings and hit-and-run vehicular collisions, have resulted in the wolf population consistently failing to meet population projections.  The 1996 Mexican gray wolf reintroduction final environmental impact statement predicted 83 wolves in the wild and fifteen breeding pairs by the end of last year, while only 35 wolves in five breeding pairs could be counted by the Mexican wolf interagency field team.  

            The Fish and Wildlife Service has known since at least June 2001, at the release of the Mexican Wolf Three-Year Review, that reforms were needed to bring the Mexican wolf program up to the standards of the successful reintroduction of northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.  For example, unlike in the Southwest, the Service has not pledged itself to trap wolves in the northern Rockies simply because they establish homes outside of their designated recovery area.  And unlike in the Southwest, in the northern Rockies the Service has given itself the flexibility to refuse to carry out predator control against wolves if those wolves prey on domestic animals in a region in which attractants – including carcasses of cattle and horses that died of non-wolf causes – have drawn the wolves in.  Over the past six years the Service has repeatedly pledged that action will be imminent to reform the Mexican wolf reintroduction program’s rules, but it has failed to act. Now, the Mexican wolf, which the Service identified in 1986 as the most endangered mammal in North America, is being wiped out again.  

            In order to avoid repeating a tragic history, we respectfully request an immediate order by your office to the Fish and Wildlife Service to put a hold on all predator control activities targeted at Mexican wolves, until the wolf population stabilizes and the goal of at least 100 wolves in the wild for the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area has been achieved.  

            Thank you for your consideration.


                                                Sincerely endorsed by:

 Stephanie Nichols-Young
Animal Defense League of Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona

Camilla H. Fox
Animal Protection Institute
Sacramento, California

Elisabeth A. Jennings
Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters
Albuquerque, New Mexico

David Henderson
Audubon New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Michael J. Robinson
Center for Biological Diversity
Pinos Altos, New Mexico

Jacob Smith
Center for Native Ecosystems
Denver, Colorado

Bryan Bird
Forest Guardians
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Kelly Burke
Grand Canyon Wildlands Council
Flagstaff, Arizona

Nicole J Corbo
Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project
Flagstaff, Arizona

Stephen Capra
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

Oscar Simpson
New Mexico Wildlife Federation
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Jeff Williamson
Phoenix Zoo
Phoenix, Arizona

Kriss Milts
Protect Wolves
Tracy, California

David R. Parsons
The Rewilding Institute
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sandy Bahr
Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter
Phoenix, Arizona

Susan Martin
Sierra Club –Rio Grande Chapter
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Matt Skroch
Sky Islands Alliance
Tucson, Arizona

Kevin Bixby
Southwest Environmental Center
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Susan Lyndaker Lindsey, Ph.D.
Wild Canid Survival and Research Center
St. Louis, Missouri

Danna Lynn Cruzan
Wolf Mountain Sancutary
Lucerne Valley, CA 

Cynthia Minde
Wolf Tracks
Apache Junction, Arizona   

Please respond to:  Michael J. Robinson

Center for Biological Diversity

P.O. Box 53166

Pinos Altos, NM 88053

(505) 534-0360

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Copyright © 2006
Ralph Maughan
Wolf Recovery Foundation

PO Box 444; Pocatello, ID  83204
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