Even though the federal government began a reintroduction program for the Mexican wolf (also known as lobos) 12 years ago, the animals that exist in America’s Southwest are still on the brink of extinction. The program has one of the worst track records of any animal on the Endangered Species List with only 42 lobos living in the wild. Please help Defenders of Wildlife urge U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to move faster to save the Mexican wolves.
The Mexican lobos are about the size of a German shepherd and the smallest of the gray wolves of North America. They are also the most endangered of the species. There are only 42 animals in the wild – 27 in Arizona and 15 in New Mexico and only two known breeding pairs. In 2009 their count was 52, but then pup mortality increased and brought the numbers to their lowest since 2002.
The animals were nearly eradicated in the early 1900′s due to conflict with ranchers over their livestock. In 1976 they finally received protection from the Endangered Species Act and have remained on the list ever since. It is estimated there are 350 lobos in the world today, with many living at zoos or sanctuaries that promote breeding and keep the animals from becoming extinct.
Twelve years ago US Fish and Wildlife Service began a reintroduction program, sending Mexican wolves back into the Gila National Forest that borders Arizona and New Mexico. The program should have been as successful as the one that reintroduced the Northern Rocky gray wolves into Yellowstone where their population grew to nearly 1,700.
Instead this recovery plan has been a grave failure. Eva Sargent of Defenders of Wildlife said, “The Mexican wolf recovery effort is hampered by the lack of a formal strategy with clear goals for recovery and delisting.” The group has been fighting hard to save the lobos.
The No. 1 question on the minds of everyone involved is: Why are the Mexican wolves struggling to survive?
Benjamin Tuggle, director of Fish and Wildlife Service in the southwest says the two recovery programs are quite different and that until the lobos plan is revised and updated things will not get better. However, the revisions are coming at a snail’s pace and animal groups are getting frustrated as more lobos die each year. They believe Tuggle is dragging his feet and have called upon Secretary Ken Salazar to act on behalf of the wolves.
The reintroduction plan for the Mexican wolves is flawed. Here is an overview of the key points that need to be changed:
Expand the Boundaries
The lobos were released in the Blue Range area of the southwest in Gila National Forest. They were given 7,000 square miles to roam. If they wander past that area, they are rounded up and placed back on the range. This pattern goes against the nature of wolves that naturally travel to new areas in order to set up new distinct colonies.
The Northern Rocky wolves were allowed to migrate in a nature pattern, traveling from Montana into Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.
Sharing the Gila National Forest
When the Gray wolves of the Northern Rockies were reintroduced in Yellowstone, the park was their playground and the wolves had ample food and little competition.
Although Gila National is the natural home of the Mexican wolves, they’ve had to share the grounds with 10,000 cattle, ranchers and hunters. And the ranchers are vehemently opposed to their presence. The Northern Rocky wolves could go for weeks without seeing a cow, but the lobos are tempted every day by prey they are forbidden to touch.
Aggressive Wolves and Genetic In-Breeding
Cattle are natural prey to the wolves, but when individual lobos attack too many times they are deemed aggressive and either killed or removed to a zoo or sanctuary. This limits the number of lobos in the area to breed and takes away some of the healthiest wolves that would establish new packs. The in-breeding may be what is causing the high mortality rate of the pups.
The government’s recovery plan for the Mexican wolf is unfair and unnatural and is in desperate need of change. Please help tell Secretary Salazar to fast-track the efforts to save this important animal. Click Here to sign the Defenders of Wildlife and Care2 petition.
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