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For Immediate Release -- June 21, 2005
Contact: Michael Robinson 505-534-0360 / 505-313-7017 (cell)

Most imperiled mammal in North America faces second extermination, conservationists warn

The wild-born alpha male of the Francisco Pack of Mexican gray wolves was trapped on Saturday morning in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico and his right front leg was broken as he tried to escape from the steel leghold trap. He underwent initial surgery on Monday and is having his leg amputated today.

His mate, the last wolf still alive and in the wild from amongst the first eleven released into the wild in 1998, is due to be shot next week and their pups taken into captivity. All five of her pups from a previous litter died as a result of her being taken captive last year, before she was re-released, according to documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity under authority of the Freedom of Information Act.

"We are saddened and outraged by the ongoing destruction of the Francisco Pack," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Pinos Altos, New Mexico, at the edge of the Gila National Forest. "Today's headlines sound straight out of the 1920s when the goal was extermination."

A lone wolf who has travelled hundreds of miles seeking a mate on the Gila National Forest was also trapped Sunday morning near a cow he killed on a private inholding.

Meanwhile, traps have been set for the alpha male of the Ring Pack, and a decision is expected shortly over whether to kill him. Yesterday he was in the vicinity of a dead cow thought to have died from eating poisonous plants, and he killed two calves in the same area of the Gila National Forest. This region, Collins Park, is the same area in which the Francisco Pack was repeatedly drawn by livestock carcasses before they started hunting cattle.

The Francisco Pack male is the second Mexican wolf to lose his leg as a result of a government trap. The alpha female of the Mule Pack had her leg amputated in January 2000 as a result of a trapping mishap; she was not accused of preying on livestock but was being trapped because she had scavenged on a dead cow and dead horse left on the Apache National Forest in Arizona. Her leg was cut off because she had developed frostbite due to being left in the trap in winter weather.

After re-release in March 2000, she wandered alone for the rest of the year, preying or scavenging on natural food sources, but no radio signals have been heard from her since 2000 and her fate is not known. Her pack was destroyed along with her, as have most of the wolf packs established since the reintroduction program's inception.

The vigorous control program against the Mexican gray wolf has now reduced the number of radio-collared "lobos" to 24 animals almost exactly four years after independent scientists recommended reforms that have been ignored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In late June 2001, when the Paquet Report was released, there were 27 radio collared wolves in the wild in the Southwest.

The Paquet Report, which constituted the official Three-Year Review of the reintroduction program, was named for Canadian wolf biologist Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D, who led a team of four non-governmental scientists who specialize in carnivores and population demography. The report warned that more wolves must be allowed to live out their lives if recovery was to be achieved, and recommended that ranchers be required to take some responsibility for removing or rendering unpalatable (as by lime) livestock carcasses before wolves scavenge on them and become habituated.

The rules for the reintroduction program for wolves in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho prohibit control actions against wolves that attack livestock where carcasses have drawn the wolves in. That reintroduction program, which began in 1995, has been a success; over 700 wolves now roam the northern Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. But no such protections from carcasses apply to Mexican gray wolves.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's draft Five-Year Review of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, released in December 2004, states that 91% of the wolves known to have scavenged on livestock carcasses are also eventually involved in livestock depredations.

The government poisoned and trapped wolves from the West in the early 20th Century. In 1950 the Fish and Wildlife Service began sending government-produced poison and American salaried personnel to Mexico to exterminate wolves south of the border, and continued killing Mexican wolves until President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law at the end of 1973.

Between 1977 and 1980 the five wild Mexican wolves were trapped alive in Mexico for an emergency captive breeding program. No more have since been documented south of the border, and the species is assumed extirpated there.

In 1986, the Fish and Wildlife Service identified the Mexican gray wolf as the most endangered mammal in North America, and in 1998 a reintroduction program began into southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.

"This is a control program masquerading as a recovery program," said Robinson.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service has begun implementing its new, aggressive control protocol even before the public comment period has closed," Robinson pointed out. "If the agency had listened to the scientists instead of the livestock industry, the Mexican gray wolf would be well on its way to recovery by now."


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