Local & Regional News

Forest service cautions hunters to be careful around wolves

The Eastern Arizona Courier (Original) Posted November 19, 2019 by Ken Showers

AZGFD coyote Mexican wolf comparison graphicGraphic credit by AZGFD.

GREER — The U.S. Forest Service issued a warning to hunters in the White Mountains area of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests this week.

ASNF noted that Mexican wolves are present within the forests and that hunters should be careful what they shoot.

“Hunting season is in full swing in the White Mountains, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds coyote hunters that Mexican wolves are present in Game Management Units 1, 27 and 3B,” ASNF wrote. “In addition, wolves could also be present in Units 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3C, 4A, 4B, 5A, 6A and 6B.”

Mexican wolves are still federally protected endangered animal present throughout Arizona and New Mexico. The Forest Service wants to make sure that hunters are careful not to mistake the animals for coyotes.

“Please note that not all wolves are collared, and it’s always the hunter’s responsibility to accurately identify all wildlife prior to taking a shot,” it said.

The most recent estimate of the Mexican wolf population placed it at 131 wolves, 64 of which are in Arizona. That is a 12-percent increase in population from the previous year.

Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a proposal for cross-fostered pups’ release and translocation plans in the wild for 2020. The service is concerned that the current wolf population is not suitably diversified.

“With seven unrelated founders, the Mexican wolf has experienced a genetic bottleneck, necessitating management actions to retain remaining gene diversity. Specifically, the captive population is carefully managed in an effort to maintain gene diversity by establishing breeding pairs through a process that considers mean kinship and avoidance of inbreeding,” the USFWS wrote.

Saving Mexican gray wolves requires new approach

Arizona Daily Sun (Original) Posted October 17, 2019 by Susan Montoya Bryan for the Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dozens of environmental groups and scientists have asked U.S. wildlife managers to rethink how they plan to ensure the survival of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest.

Following a loss in federal court last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is crafting a new rule to guide management of the endangered predators in New Mexico and Arizona.

In a letter Wednesday to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and federal wildlife managers, the coalition said the rule should be based on "an entirely new approach" that incorporates the best science while acknowledging the recovery effort's past shortcomings.

"Please do not keep going in the same fruitless direction that has not even met your own metrics, but instead chart a new path that will actually recover the Mexican gray wolf," the letter states.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it is using the best available science to craft a plan for the wolf that can be accommodated within the species' historical range in the Southwest and in Mexico.

The agency is under a court mandate to revise the wolf management rule by May 2021. Officials say they plan to meet that deadline while seeking peer review and public comment.

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Scientists, Conservationists Call For Sweeping Changes To Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan

KNAU Arizona Public Radio (Original) Posted October 17, 2019 by Ryan Heinsius

Dozens of scientists and wildlife advocates are calling on federal officials to dramatically change how endangered Mexican gray wolves are managed in the Southwest. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it comes more than a year after the current plan was found to violate federal law.

A federal judge in 2018 ruled elements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s wolf management program didn’t comply with the Endangered Species Act. The agency has until May 2021 to rewrite it.

Nearly 80 wolf conservationists and scientists sent a letter to the Interior Secretary and wildlife managers, saying they want more captive wolves released, greater range, and higher population numbers, among other changes.

"Under the current rule the future is in my opinion and the opinion of other scientists, fairly bleak … The Fish and Wildlife Service has dragged its feet on aggressively meeting that challenge of improving genetics in the wild," says David Parsons, a wildlife biologist who signed the letter. He also led the Mexican wolf recovery program when it began in the 1990s.

In a statement, current Fish and Wildlife recovery coordinator Brady McGee says the agency is using the best available science for its revision, and will analyze the work through peer review and the National Environmental Policy Act.

At last count there were about 130 Mexican wolves in the wild. The population has struggled since reintroduction because of illegal killings, lack of genetic diversity and other factors.

Range war over wolves continues

White Mountain Independent (Original) Posted July 26, 2019 by Peter Aleshire

APACHE COUNTY — The range war between wolves and humans continues in Arizona and New Mexico, according to the latest report from Arizona Game and Fish.

From January to June, eight wolves died or were killed, out of a documented 2018 population of 131; two of the deaths occurred in Arizona.

The wolf population grew by 12 percent between 2017 and 2018, but the mortalities in the first six months of this year wiped out many of those gains. Most of the deaths remain under investigation, but deliberate killing by humans played a big role. A least one of the wolves was killed by program managers because he’d kill cattle.

On the other hand, the wolf packs in Arizona, New Mexico and the Fort Apache Reservation have killed at least 88 livestock since January – most of them calves on the open range. A handful of those kills were cows. Twenty-six confirmed depredations occurred in Arizona, including one horse.

Studies show ranchers can dramatically reduce wolf kills if they keep the calves in secure enclosures for some months after birth, but most ranchers put the cows and calves on the open range until the fall roundup.

The most recent population study documented 32 wolf packs, plus seven wolves wandering alone – looking for a pack or a mate or unoccupied territory. In the past year, 18 packs had pups – and 16 packs had young that made it through their first year. A total of 81 pups were born and 47 survived their first year.

Their population has fluctuated, but hasn’t grown much in the past five years – in part due to continued, mostly unsolved shootings.

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US authorities investigate death of Mexican gray wolf

KNAU Arizona Public Radio (Original) Posted July 19, 2019 by the Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wildlife managers say investigators are looking into the death of a Mexican gray wolf that found last month in New Mexico.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the male endangered wolf belonged to the Elk Horn pack, which has been roaming an area just west of the Arizona-New Mexico state line.

Officials say there have been eight documented wolf mortalities in the first six months of 2019. They have not released any details about the circumstances of the deaths.

Survey results released earlier this year indicated there were at least 131 wolves in the mountain ranges spanning southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

A subspecies of the Western gray wolf, Mexican wolves have faced a difficult road to recovery that has been complicated by politics and conflicts with livestock.

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