Thursday, April 21, 2016

Step Aside New Mexico, It’s Time to Release More Wolves

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Although New Mexico denied the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) application to release Mexican wolves into the wild in 2015, the federal agency announced on Monday its plan to release a single family of captive-bred wolves in the state and implant captive-born pups into wild packs via cross-foster events. USFWS opted to forge ahead despite the state’s objections explaining that it has a responsibility under federal law to facilitate recovery of the critically endangered species and that releases are a part of that effort.

Now New Mexico plans to sue. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish confirmed Wednesday that its lawyers have filed a notice of intent to sue USFWS over the agency’s proposed releases for 2016 citing the plan as “aggressive.”

Aggressive? The fed’s plan is anything but.

Only 97 wolves remain on the wild landscape (47 in NM), a significant drop from the previous year’s count of 110. Mexican wolves in the wild face not only illegal shootings, but also inbreeding from too few animals with few choices of mates. Inbreeding results in smaller litter sizes and fewer pups surviving to adulthood, all of which heightens the odds for extinction.

Science says that Mexican wolf recovery requires releasing more family groups into the wild. And the best remaining unoccupied habitat exists in New Mexico. Thus releasing wolves there is critical to boosting numbers and improving the genetic health of the wild population.

The unremitting slaughter by humans already drove Mexican wolves to extinction in the past. No species should have to face extinction at the hands of humanity, much less twice.

The lobos are ready and the wild is calling. It’s time to release more wolves.

Background

The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 97 individuals.


The Wolf Conservation Center participates in the federal Species Survival Plan for the Mexican gray wolf. Since 2003 the WCC has played a critical role in preserving and protecting the imperiled species through carefully managed breeding and reintroduction. To date,three Mexiacn wolves from the Center have been given the extraordinary opportunity to resume their rightful place on the wild landscape.

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