Local & Regional News

Could more wolves mean more water for Arizona? Now is a good time to find out

The Arizona Republic (Original) Posted December 31, 2019 by Joanna Allhands

Opinion: If Mexican gray wolves are a keystone species for Arizona, our entire ecosystem rides on their health.

What if I told you that this one simple trick could lead Arizona to more water, better grazing conditions and healthier, more diverse wildlife?

There is ample research that gray wolves are a keystone species – which means the entire ecosystem rides on their health. Without wolves, grazing species tend to over-eat because they aren’t constantly on guard for the apex predator.

That destroys the diversity of plants in watersheds, which can deplete stream flows (not to mention the quality of grasses and other foods for grazers). It also diminishes the populations and alters the behaviors of other animals, from beetles to eagles to coyotes.

Reintroducing wolves puts everything back in balance.

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Competing interests leave Mexican gray wolf recovery efforts at a crossroads

The Arizona Republic (Original) Posted December 30, 2019 by Debra Utacia Krol

Three decades into a troubled attempt to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to their native habitat, more than 60 leading environmentalists and scientists have called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revamp its wolf management plan and, in effect, start over.

In the letter, dated Oct. 16, the groups urged the agency to create an “entirely new approach to management and recovery of Mexican wolves — an approach based on science, acknowledgement of past shortcomings, humaneness, and a precautionary approach to management of a genetically unique and genetically depleted regional subspecies.”

The organizations and scientists referred to a March 2018 ruling by U.S. District Judge Jennifer Zipps that directed the Fish and Wildlife Service to revamp its wolf management plan because it “fails to further the long-term recovery of the Mexican wolf.”

"Time is running out for the critically endangered Mexican wolves," David Parsons, a retired Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery coordinator said in a statement released with the letter.

"This time the Fish and Wildlife Service must get it right — follow the law, follow the science, and push back on the political interference. ... The wolves know best where to live and what their ecologically effective population size should be."

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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.

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