Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 20, 2016

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Feds Order Wolf Trapping in New Mexico 

Removal of Alpha Male Would Hasten Mexican Wolf Decline

SILVER CITY, N.M.— An endangered Mexican gray wolf in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico will be removed from the wild for killing cattle, according to a newly disclosed order from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Trapping the two-year-old alpha male of the Luna pack would further reduce the struggling wolf population that declined by 12 percent in 2015. Only 97 wolves were counted in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona in January, down from 110 the previous year. Three wolves have already died this year, including two accidentally killed through government trapping.

“Ongoing federal mismanagement is pushing the Mexican wolf further toward extinction instead of recovery,” said Michael Robinson of the Center. “This alpha wolf, whose mate may be pregnant, should be allowed to stay in the wild and help raise his pups.”

Trapping is to commence only after the targeted wolf’s mate localizes in a den to give birth, or after May 15, the last possible date for whelping, in order to avoid harming her. Yet, even with human feeding of the female, any pups will be less likely to survive once their father is removed.

The targeted male wolf, officially known as M1396, was given the name “Guardian” after his birth, coined by a student in Albuquerque as part of a contest to name pups. He originated in the Fox Mountain pack, which repeatedly suffered from government trapping, including of Guardian’s brother last year and of the pack’s alpha female in 2012. She died recently after years of poor adaptation to captivity.

Guardian and his mate were repeatedly drawn to cattle by the remains of cows that died not from wolves, but from other causes, including calving problems. Contrary to the recommendations of scientists, and in contrast to the regulation that led to successful reintroduction and population growth of northern Rocky Mountain wolves, livestock owners in the Southwest are not required to prevent wolf scavenging by removing the carcasses of non-wolf-killed domestic animals. Scavenging on dead stock is often a prelude to depredations.

“Mexican wolves are unfairly penalized because ranchers are not required to eliminate the lure of carrion,” said Robinson. “In the latest instance, two wolves that had largely preyed on elk were repeatedly drawn by cattle carcasses to vulnerable cattle. The stock owner will be indemnified. But a wolf will be taken from the wild and recovery of this intelligent, social mammal that contributes to the natural balance in the Southwest will be dealt another unnecessary setback.”

Mexican gray wolves were almost completely trapped and poisoned from the wild in the U.S. and Mexico by the Fish and Wildlife Service and its predecessor agency on behalf of the livestock industry in the early to mid-20th century. After passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and placement of the Mexican wolf on the list of endangered species in 1976, five wolves were captured alive in Mexico and three were successfully bred.

In 1995 progeny of those three and of four other wolves captured in the 1950s and 1960s in Mexico and Arizona were bred. In 1998 reintroduction began in Arizona and New Mexico.

The reintroduced population was originally projected to reach 102 wolves, including 18 breeding pairs, by 2006 and continue growing thereafter, but instead has been repeatedly set back by government shooting and trapping as well as by illegal shootings. The population also suffers from smaller litter sizes and lower pup survival as a consequence of reduced genetic diversity.

Reintroduction to Mexico began in 2011. Fewer than 25 wolves live in the wild in Mexico.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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