Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
| For Immediate Release: June 9, 2003
Contact: Michael J. Robinson (505) 534-0360
More Information: Center's Mexican Wolf web.
Groups request reform of Mexican wolf reintroduction program, cessation of wolf killing and meeting with Interior Secretary Norton
Twenty-four conservation, animal protection, religious and community groups, along with the former Mexican gray wolf recovery coordinator, sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton today urging her to heed the warnings of independent scientists that the control program on Mexican gray wolves is causing a decline in the population and is preventing recovery.
The letter pointed out that for the first time since President Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the federal government has begun deliberately killing Mexican wolves, and that the control program on the “lobo,” exemplified by this killing, is largely responsible for the decline in the wolf population over the past two years.
The population of radio-collared and monitored wolves has fallen from 27 animals in June 2001 to nineteen animals today.
The groups pointed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to change policies in accordance with recommendations made by independent scientists in June, 2001. These biologists, contracted by a non-profit professional organization of scientists, the Conservation Breeding Specialists Group, conducted the first component of the three year review of the reintroduction program and in their report warned of future declines in the wolf population unless changes were made to the program.
The validity of their report was affirmed by both the Arizona and New Mexico departments of Game and Fish, in a joint September 30, 2002 statement to the Fish and Wildlife Service to be transmitted to Congress.
The signatory groups also pointed out that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to change course flouts the overwhelmingly pro-wolf public sentiment expressed at the eleven “open houses” (nine in rural areas plus one each in Albuquerque and Phoenix) conducted in July, 2001 as the second part of the three-year review, at which the public was asked to submit written comments. The federal agency is also failing to follow the recommendations of the third and last component of the three-year review, a three-day workshop. The agency had publicly pledged to use the results of the review in its entirety to change course in the program.
The scientists’ report, named for Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D., advised allowing “wolves that are not management problems to establish territories outside the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.” Unlike other endangered species, Mexican wolves are supposed to stay within the two national forests that comprise the recovery area and are removed from the wild even from other national forests and BLM public lands.
To prevent wolves from beginning to prey on livestock, the Paquet Report also recommended requiring “livestock operators on public land to take some responsibility for carcass management/disposal to reduce the likelihood that wolves become habituated to feeding on livestock,” explaining that “reducing the wolves’ access to carcasses will greatly facilitate coexistence between ranchers and wolves.”
Neither of these reforms has been implemented, and instead the government has inaugurated killing wolves by shooting an animal, wolf number 592, who learned to prey on cattle through scavenging on carcasses, and whose exposure to carcasses was facilitated by being trapped and re-released elsewhere simply for having left the recovery area.
The letter to Norton states that the Mexican wolf is the “engine of evolution for southwestern ecosystems, contributing to the strength and vigor of elk, the alertness of deer, the agility and sense of balance of bighorn sheep, and the speed and keen eyesight of pronghorn antelope.”
Beginning in 1915, the federal government poisoned, trapped and dug up the dens of wolves, and by the late 1920s had completely exterminated the Mexican wolf from the United States. Starting in 1950, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began sending poison and personnel to the Republic of Mexico to duplicate this extermination program south of the border.
Only after passage of the Endangered Species Act did these policies end. The last five Mexican wolves confirmed from Mexico were captured between 1977 and 1980 in an emergency effort to save the species via captive breeding. It is the progeny of these last survivors, and of two previously captured wolves later certified through genetic testing to be pure-bred Mexican wolves, that were first reintroduced in March, 1998 and that now roam their ancient habitats in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
The letter states: “Reintroduction of the Mexican wolf is part of this generation's commitment to generations yet to come that we will leave them some landscapes teeming with life.”
Among the 24 groups signing are the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Ecumenical Council, Christians Caring for Creation, Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and Animal Protection of New Mexico – as well as former Mexican wolf recovery coordinator David Parsons.
The complete letter follows.