Friday, March 29, 2013

Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery 15 Years

Each and everyday my inbox is filled with both good news and bad news from environmental organizations. More often than not though when it comes to wolves the news is bad. Genetics, poaching, and outright hostility by some segments of the cattle industry and their supporter's still plague wolf populations around the country. Recently wolves in some states have been subjected to hunting once again after being de-listed by the Interior Department resulting in the slaughter of over 1100 wolves. An effort is underway by those who care little about the improvements that wolves bring to the ecology to undo all the efforts made to return a healthy wolf population to the lower 48. It still breaks my heart to think about the destruction of Yellowstone's Cottonwood Pack on a mid October morning in 2009 just outside Yellowstone National Park where thousands of people visit each year to see these magnificent animals roaming free and where the environment is recovering thanks to their presence.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the effort to reintroduce the Mexican Gray Wolf, a subspecies of the Gray Wolf, to Arizona and New Mexico. Unfortunately there is still much to be done if we are to save this "most endangered" wolf from extinction. As a supporter of wolf reintroduction the news that there are now 75 Gray Wolves in the wild on the surface is good news but underlying that fact is that all 75 animals are descended from just seven animals. With a genetic pool this shallow the Mexican Gray Wolf is as endangered today as it was when the program started 15 years ago. With only three breeding pairs in the wild much more needs to be done to ensure the survival of the species. Along with genetics, poaching also continues to be a major problem for the program in-spite of huge rewards offered for the capture of those responsible for the deaths of protected Mexican Grays. I was unable to embed video that I took at the Desert Museum of one of the female Mexican Gray Wolves housed there but have added a link to Howling For Justice that has some excellent information on these animals as well as some stunning video that everyone interested in wolves should see.

Also in my inbox this morning was this plan from Defenders of Wildlife that prods the US Fish and Wildlife Service to release more wolves to address the genetic instability among the Mexican Grays and to improve their overall chance for survival. It sounds like a very good start.

In order to move Mexican gray wolves back from the edge of extinction, Defenders has created a three-point emergency rescue plan:

1 Release more captive wolves into the wild in order to address the genetic problem. The wolves to be released must be the right wolves genetically, and the releases need to be the first step in a more rigorous genetic improvement plan.
2 Complete a scientifically sound recovery plan. USFWS must complete this essential road map to recovery, and then implement it.
3 Establish at least two additional core wolf populations — and do so right away. Additional core populations of Mexican gray wolves will allow them to expand and give them a better chance for long-term survival.
On a further note from Defenders the message is clear.
Time is not on the Mexican Gray Wolf's side, but there is still hope if we act today. Wildlife lovers like you have helped bring back the peregrine falcon, the grizzly bear and a host of other endangered wildlife back from the brink. With the right energy and focus, Mexican gray wolves can join the list of species that have become conservation success stories.

I also received an e-mail from the Arizona Fish and Game Department today about the effort to have Mexican Gray Wolves de-listed ostensibly so that the state can take over the reintroduction effort. I strongly object to any de-listing effort as the State of Arizona Conservation Commission is controlled by hunting interests including a member with ties to Safari International. While the people of Arizona usually speak loudly and clearly for protecting the natural heritage of the state, elected officials record on the other hand has not always in the best interests of conservation.
Wolves Belong here in Arizona and deserve the protection afforded them by the Endangered Species Act.

For the wolves,



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