Unified Action – January 2012

Tell US Fish and Wildlife Service: Release Mexican wolves into New Mexico before it’s too late

Sponsored by the Southwest Environmental Center, jason@wildmesquite.org

The Issue

There are only about 50 Mexican gray wolves (“lobos”) in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona–not enough to ensure their survival. More than 300 lobos are in captivity, waiting to be released into the wild as part of a reintroduction program. Releasing wolves directly into New Mexico–where the best remaining unoccupied habitat exists–is critical to quickly boosting numbers and gene diversity in the wild population, but for bureaucratic reasons the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) won’t do it, citing an outdated rule that prevents direct releases into New Mexico. The FWS could easily change this rule by issuing an Environmental Assessment and putting it out for public review, but it refuses to do so.

What We Are Asking

Call and/or email US Fish and Wildlife Service SW Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle and urge him to immediately begin the process of getting Mexican wolves directly released into New Mexico.

Say something like:

“I urge you to immediately work toward having direct releases of Mexican wolves into New Mexico by issuing an Environmental Assessment and making the necessary rule change. This is the best way to boost both the population and the genetic diversity to a level that gives these wolves hope of survival. We are far behind the schedule of the reintroduction program, so we must move forward with this now.”

Be personal! Introduce yourself and explain your connection to and appreciation for the amazing Lobo

SW Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle

RDTuggle@fws.gov

505-248-6911


More Info on The Endangered Mexican Wolf

The Mexican wolf is a tremendous success story…almost.  By 1976, the Mexican wolf, or lobo, was completed wiped out in the United States. The handful of wild wolves that remained in Mexico were captured to start a captive population, which has been the source for wolves that have been reintroduced into Arizona and New Mexico since 1998.

Status

Mexican gray wolves were first listed as an endangered species in 1976. The reintroduction effort in Arizona and New Mexico began in 1998. According to the 2010 year-end census by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service the wild population of Mexican gray wolves was only at 50. This is far short of the benchmark set in 1998, which projected 100 wolves in the wild by 2006.

Historical Range and Food Habits

Mexican wolves are the most endangered and southernmost subspecies of the gray wolf in North America. They lived mainly in mountainous regions of the Southwest, from central New Mexico throughout portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and southern Colorado and Utah.

Studies of prey remains found in wolf scat revealed that nearly 90% of the wolf diet consisted of elk and native ungulates. Livestock amounted to just 4%. Wolves often take live prey, but they also scavenge when carrion is available.

Danger to Humans?

You are more likely to be killed by a meteorite than a wild wolf. There is not one documented case of a healthy, wild wolf killing a human in the lower 48 states.

By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate between 10 to 20 people are killed and 4.7 million attacked each year by domestic dogs.

The Benefits of Wolves

Wolves are considered a “keystone” species, whose removal affects an entire ecosystem on each trophic level, from plants to herbivores to other carnivores. Predators and predation play a dynamic and essential role in maintaining the health of ecosystems. Wolves prey mostly on animals that are young or elderly, sick or injured, and weak or unfit, thus keeping prey populations healthy and vigorous.

Since the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone in 1995, elk are more wary and have altered their grazing behavior. With less grazing pressure from elk, streambed vegetation such as willow and cottonwood is regenerating after decades of over browsing.

Even the decline of aspen since the 1920’s, which were the last years of wolves in Yellowstone, is being reversed. Farther up the Rocky Mountain chain, from Banff National Park in Canada, reports indicate resurgent willows, aspen, beavers, and native nesting songbirds, where wolves have been reintroduced.

What about predation on livestock?

Wolves are responsible for about .1% of the livestock losses in NM. We realize that ranchers depend on livestock for their livelihoods, so we are trying to work with them to implement practices that will reduce even this small amount.

Effective deterrents used to reduce conflict with wolves include:

  • properly disposing of sick, dead and dying animals
  • livestock guarding dogs
  • erecting barriers: fencing, fladry, and night pens
  • range riders and herders
  • using scare devices: alarms, shock collars, and nonlethal ammunition
  • alternative grazing sites
  • calving strategies

For more info go to www.wildmesquite.org