Conservation organizations intervene in lawsuit over removal of gray wolves
Two conservation organizations have intervened in a lawsuit calling for the removal of some of the wolves in the Gila National Forest.
Catron and Otero county officials, two livestock associations and three ranching operations with grazing permits on the Gila National Forest filed the suit against the U. S. Fish &Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
The groups are demanding that the agencies trap or shoot reintroduced Mexican gray wolves in the San Mateo and Middle Fork packs that have attacked livestock on the Gila.
The suit challenges a 2009 agreement between conservation groups and the USFWS which resulted in the agency ending a requirement that any wolf suspected of three cattle deaths within one year be permanently removed from the wild.
Opposing the suit are the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center.
“ We are intervening in part to prevent any settlement agreement that would rid our public lands of the Mexican gray wolf,' said the center’s Michael Robinson. “For wolf recovery to be successful, it’s vital that we keep political forces from infl uencing what should be a science-based process.'
Eva Sargent, Defenders of Wildlife’s Southwest program director, added: “ The Fish & Wildlife Service made the right call when it stopped wolf removals. We are intervening on the side of the Fish & Wildlife Service to defend that decision.'
The federal agency reported last week that, at the end of October, 24 wolves with functioning radio- telemetry collars (as well as an unknown number of uncollared wolves) were living in the wild in southwest New Mexico and southeast Arizona.
The San Mateo Pack, consisting of a single adult female wolf with at least five pups born this year, is in the north- central portion of theforest.
The adult male and adult female members of the Middle Fork Pack, in the central part of the forest, were joined in October by a younger male wolf that previously left the pack and had been traveling alone.
Other family groups of wolves on the Gila are the Dark Canyon Pack, an adult male and adult female, in the west- central part of the forest; the Luna Pack, an adult male and female with three pups, in the northcentral part of the forest; the three- member Fox Mountain Pack, in the northwest portion of the Gila; and Morgart’s Pack, which has been reduced to a single adult male, in the northeast part of the forest.
Morgart’s Pack previously included an adult female wolf, which Interagency Field Team members found dead in mid-October.
No livestock depredations due to wolves were reported in October.
During the month, team members continued fall trapping efforts to document pack status and the number of pups in several packs.
Personnel also conducted a “ count- and- capture' operation on the Gila last month to document the number of pups and equip them with radio collars; and replace VHF collars with GPS collars on adult alpha male wolves in the Luna, Middle Fork and Morgart’s packs.
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