Local & Regional News

Wolf reintroduction offers chance to support intensely endangered subspecies, wildlife advocates argue

The Colorado Sun (Original) Posted December 8, 2022 by Elizabeth Miller

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is still sorting out where to source wolves from as the first draft of its plan goes public, and some say that plan should look to Mexican gray wolves

When voters passed Proposition 114 to require Colorado Parks and Wildlife to return gray wolves to the state, the ballot initiative specified when and where wolves would arrive. But it doesn’t say which kind of wolves to bring back.
Conservation groups and at least one state wildlife commissioner are reiterating that wolf reintroduction is an opportunity not just to return a keystone species to ecosystems in the state, but to aid an endangered animal in dire need: the Mexican gray wolf.

“The Mexican wolf is much more imperiled, so doing a project to reintroduce wolves would benefit the Mexican wolf to a great extent — possibly even save it from extinction,” said James Jay Tutchton, who serves on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and worked on wildlife cases as a lawyer for WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife for 27 years. He said he has made this point at several commission meetings and with Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists.

The state agency’s first draft of the plan for reintroducing wolves to Colorado will debut Friday at the commission meeting. The plan will not include Mexican gray wolves, and there are a lot of “biological and political and legal” reasons for that, said Eric Odell, the state agency’s biological lead for wolf reintroduction. But wolves released by the December 2023 deadline will be just the first in a multi-year effort, Tutchton points out, and he contends there’s still time to change that approach.

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Protections sought for coyotes in Mexican wolf territory

KNAU News Talk - Arizona Public Radio (Original) Posted December 8, 2022 by Associated Press

Environmentalists want the U.S. government to list coyotes as endangered in parts of Arizona and New Mexico where the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America is found.

A coalition of groups argue in a petition submitted Thursday to U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that small statured Mexican gray wolves are often mistaken for coyotes and that protecting coyotes would in turn cut down on wolf deaths.

Environmentalists say illegal killings are the leading cause of death for the endangered animals.

The petition pointed to cases in which Mexican wolves have been killed by people who said they believed they were killing a coyote. This misidentification invokes a federal policy that effectively protects a person from prosecution because it requires the government to prove that a defendant knew they were killing an endangered species when they pulled the trigger.

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Conservation Groups Seek to Protect Mexican Gray Wolves by Listing Coyotes as Endangered in Parts of Arizona and New Mexico

 coyote photo by ERennCoyote photo by E. Renn

For immediate release: December 8, 2022

Media contacts: 

Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, (520)623-1878; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Chris Smith, WildEarth Guardians, (505)395-6177; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Michelle Lute, Project Coyote, (406)848-4910; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
David Parsons, The Rewilding Institute, (505)908-0468; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575)313-7017; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Conservation Groups Seek to Protect Mexican Gray Wolves by Listing Coyotes as Endangered in Parts of Arizona and New Mexico

TUCSON, Ariz. – In a formal “similarity of appearance” Endangered Species Act petition filed today, fourteen conservation groups are urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide better federal protection for Mexican gray wolves by listing its look-alike species, the coyote, within the wolves’ recovery area. Illegal wolf killing is the leading cause of death for Mexican gray wolves, and the similarity of appearance with coyotes is a common excuse for wolves being unlawfully killed.

“If people are going to confuse Mexican wolves for coyotes, then it makes sense to stop killing coyotes in the areas where wolves are recovering,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. “Our petition demonstrates that even professional wildlife agents can’t seem to tell wolves and coyotes apart, and if it’s that hard to really distinguish between the species, both should be protected by the Endangered Species Act for the sake of the rare Mexican wolf.”

“Illegal mortality is the leading cause of death for Mexican wolves, and research shows that undetected wolf deaths are likely as high or higher than known wolf poaching.  Outlawing coyote killing in occupied wolf habitat in Arizona and New Mexico would be a simple and effective solution to the poaching problem,” said David Parsons, former coordinator of the Mexican wolf recovery program. “If the Service won’t prosecute people for mistakenly killing wolves, making it illegal to kill coyotes should substantially reduce Lobo mortalities.” 

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Killing of Mexican Wolf Highlights Why Recovery Is Failing

Sierra magazine (Original) Posted November 20, 2022 by Lindsey Botts

Here are three key things that conservationists say need to happen to turn things around

Advocates and conservationists are increasingly worried about the plight of critically endangered Mexican wolves. While the wild population, which spans eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, has grown slightly, recovery has been slow and incremental. And the recent death of a genetically valuable male last month in New Mexico highlights why.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is failing to protect wolves against even the most basic threats, such as illegal killing. Over the years, conservation groups have tried to force FWS to do its job, primarily using the courts. Some have sued the agency at least half a dozen times for failing to comply with the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

For its part, FWS has largely evaded many of the recommendations biologists and conservationists have put forward: a population of at least 750 individuals, spread across at least three distinct yet connected populations, and frequent genetic exchange. These goals were instead significantly reduced in the agency’s final plan, and recovery has been elusive. Now advocates are wondering what can be done to fully restore wolf populations in the Southwest while working within the agency’s narrow view of recovery.

“The science is clear,” said Greta Anderson, a deputy director at Western Watersheds Project who tracks Mexican wolf issues. “What Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to be doing is clear. Why they aren’t doing it is a mystery.”

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Authorities investigate the killing of a captive-born Mexican gray wolf in New Mexico

The Arizona Republic (Original) Posted October 19, 2022 by Jake Frederico

A Mexican gray wolf that conservation advocates say was genetically significant to the species' recovery in the wild has been found dead in New Mexico.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the death of the captive-bred and released Mexican gray wolf known as No.1693. The wolf was discovered on Oct. 8. Fish and Wildlife officials have not released details on his killing because it is still under investigation by law enforcement.

The death came just days after the Fish and Wildlife agency announced a revision to the Mexican gray wolf recovery plan with proposed actions to reduce human-caused wolf mortality.

Mexican wolf No. 1693 was released into the wild in 2018 when he was just 15 days old. He was cross-fostered into a wild wolf den in an effort to increase the genetic diversity of the wild population of wolves, a step biologists say is critical to the survival of the species.

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