For Immediate Release, July 2, 2007
Contact: Michael Robinson, (505) 534-0360
Dead and Dying Cattle Litter Gila Region, Drawing Mexican Wolves
SILVER CITY, N.M.— Dead and dying cattle are proliferating in the Beaverhead region of the Gila National Forest, where at least two wolf packs and a few lone wolves are living.
Mexican gray wolves almost certainly have been scavenging on cattle dying of non-wolf causes, keeping the wolves in an area where cattle are vulnerable. As a result, the Durango pack now stands accused of having killed a cow and will be trapped or shot.
Livestock die of disease, calving problems, and poisonous weeds among other causes. Their carcasses in this severely grazed area of mixed public and private land have attracted numerous Mexican gray wolves in years past, helping habituate the wolves to cattle and thus begin preying on them. When the wolves threaten cattle, they are removed by federal agents.
The dying cattle have not only led to the downfall of the Durango packs but also put at risk the nearby Aspen pack.
“This portion of the Gila National Forest is perennially overgrazed, leading to conditions that make it hard to keep cattle alive,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The wolves pay the price.”
The normally anonymous area of the Gila has drawn increasing attention this spring, and an unusual level of human activity due to attempts by a contractor for the anti-conservation Catron County government to trap a wolf from the Durango pack. Federal agents have been on the scene to protect the wolves from this illegal trapping, and Center for Biological Diversity volunteers have also been present to monitor the region.
The 2001 Three-Year Review of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, also known as the Paquet Report, recommended a rule change to require livestock owners on public lands to clean up the carcasses of their non-wolf-killed cattle and horses to keep wolves from scavenging on them and beginning to kill stock.
The northern Rocky Mountains gray wolf reintroduction program for Wyoming, Idaho and Montana requires disposal of livestock carcasses, but the Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to include such protections for Mexican wolves.
The Mexican wolf was reintroduced to the Gila and Apache National Forests in 1998, after first having been exterminated from the wild by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The population was projected to reach 102 animals including 18 breeding pairs at the end of 2006, but actual numbers today are approximately 55 mature wolves, plus pups born this year, in five or fewer breeding pairs.
To see the carcasses scattered throughout the landscape via a tour of the region, which lies approximately 3.5 hours from Albuquerque and four hours from Silver City, contact Michael Robinson.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members, founded in 1989 in an inholding in the Gila National Forest of rural southwestern New Mexico.