Local & Regional News

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.

Press Release: New study finds politics, not science, led agency to lower goals for recovery of Mexican wolves

PRESS RELEASE: July 12, 2019
Contact: Carlos Carroll, (530) 628-3512, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New study finds politics, not science, led agency to lower goals for recovery of Mexican wolves.
Conclusions illustrate broad problems with recovery planning for wolves and other species.

In a new peer-reviewed study published in Scientific Reports, a journal of the Nature Publishing Group, researchers
have analyzed the science used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to support its goals for recovery of the endangered Mexican wolf. The researchers found that politics inappropriately skewed development of criteria for recovery and delisting, a process which the Endangered Species Act requires to be solely based on scientific data. The study’s findings have broad implications for how agencies conduct endangered species recovery planning, especially for controversial species such as the wolf.

The Mexican wolf is the most endangered large mammal in North America. Because the current US wild population of 131 Mexican wolves descends from only 7 founders, the population faces severe threats from inbreeding and low genetic diversity, as well as other factors such as illegal killing. In 2013, a team of scientists convened by the Service developed draft Mexican wolf recovery criteria which proposed that a metapopulation totaling 750 wolves within the US would be necessary for recovery of the subspecies. These criteria were ultimately shelved after generating opposition from prominent politicians in southwestern US states. In 2017, new recovery criteria were developed with greater involvement by state representatives that called for less than half as many wolves (320) inhabiting a smaller portion of the southwestern states. A group of scientists decided to analyze whether the contrasting sets of goals could both be based on best-available science, as required by law.

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Op-Ed: Mexican Gray Wolf pups need more from feds

Arizona Daily Star (Original) Posted June 22, 2019 Op-Ed by Maggie Howell and Cyndi Tuell

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writers.

We couldn’t be happier that there are 12 new lobo puppies in the wildlands of Arizona and New Mexico (“Pup fostering gives genetic boost to wild Mexican wolves”) and we’re glad that cross-fostering is a successful tool for improving the genetic diversity of the current population.

Maggie Howell, the executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center, sent one of the pups, a female born on April 26, to Arizona where the pup joined the Saffel pack. We’re happy to report the pup is thriving with her new family.

Though cross-fostering on its own will not save this species and it is essential to release family groups, this year’s litters of wolves are going to be healthier and stronger as a result of the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery team and the Species Survival Program captive-breeding facilities around the country that provide these valuable puppies. We’re grateful for this hard work.

However, we must not lose sight of what these wolf puppies are up against on public lands. In addition to grave threats of illegal killings, lobo families are subject to intense conflict caused by incompatible livestock grazing practices in their habitat.

The captive-breeding facilities and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do what they can to get genetic diversity into the wild, carefully matching whelping dates of pups and making sure human scents don’t cause the wild mothers to abandon their dens. Unfortunately, the Forest Service hasn’t been quite as willing to ensure that grazing in wolf habitat is managed for success.

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Captive-born Mexican gray wolf pups released to 'foster dens' in Arizona and New Mexico

The Arizona Republic (Original) Posted June 24, 2019 by Andrew Nicla

Twelve Mexican gray wolf pups that were born in captivity have been released into the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, where officials hope the pups will grow up alongside other wolves as part of an effort to rescue the species from extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department placed the pups in "foster dens," where a female wolf had recently given birth. Scientists from the agencies and other groups participating in the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan believe introducing the pups into a wild population could help increase the population's genetic diversity.

Five of the young wolves were placed into wild dens in Arizona and seven were placed in New Mexico between April 18 and May 10. The dens are in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area, millions of acres of forest land shared between the two states.

Maggie Dwire, deputy Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said lots of planning and a bit of luck were required. The captive and wild wolves had to be born within days of each other in order for the release to work.

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