For Immediate Release, March 11, 2009
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017
Rob Edward, WildEarth Guardians, ( 303) 573-4898 x 762
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 253-8633
Conservationists Call for Strong Plan to Recover Endangered
Mexican Gray Wolf; End to Trapping and Shooting Essential
SILVER CITY, N.M.— In comments submitted Tuesday on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service draft “conservation assessment” that analyzes the current Mexican gray wolf management program, the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations called for development of a new Mexican wolf recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan, and for a temporary cessation of removals of Mexican wolves from the wild.
“The conservation assessment confirms that the Mexican wolf recovery program needs new direction,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the Mexican gray wolf is going to recover, it must have a scientifically credible recovery plan.”
A recovery plan is a roadmap to how an endangered animal or plant species can be brought back from the brink and eventually be secure from the risk of extinction and removed from the endangered species list. The existing recovery plan was completed in 1982 and is now largely out of date. It also fails to specify how many wolves, in what distribution, would constitute recovery.
Only one population has been established, in the Gila and Apache national forests of New Mexico and Arizona respectively, along with the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. With only 52 animals and just two breeding pairs as of December 2008, that population is far from viable.
“The dramatic success of reintroduction of wolves to the northern Rockies proves that wolves are adaptable animals that if not persecuted, can rapidly increase their numbers,” said Robinson. “With a cessation of trapping and shooting until the minimum goals for this reintroduction program are reached and a recovery plan is in place, wolf numbers would surely improve.”
As the conservation assessment makes clear, recovery would not be achieved with just 100 animals, but that number is a benchmark for success within the Gila and Apache national forests that constitute the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.
Government removals of wolves from the wild, since the reintroduction program began in March 1998, have left dozens of wolves in permanent captivity, 18 wolves inadvertently killed as a result of capture, and 11 wolves shot. Even wolves who have been released after capture are sometimes injured and often released in unfamiliar terrain, reducing their opportunities for survival.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter, Western Watersheds Project, and WildEarth Guardians pointed out in their comments that wolves are captured or killed in response to livestock depredations that may result from the wolves first having scavenged on domestic animals that died of non-wolf causes, such as disease, starvation, or poisonous weeds. Scientists have warned that such carcasses can draw wolves into areas with vulnerable livestock, and have urged that owners of cattle and horses using public lands be required to remove or render inedible (for example by lime) such carcasses before wolves scavenge on them.