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Posted: Aug 22 2006, 02:05 AM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 10-July 06
By Michael J. Robinson
June 22, 2006
The Mexican gray wolf, or lobo - the diminutive border wolf identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1986 as the most endangered mammal in North America - is being trapped and shot into oblivion by the Bush administration.
Reintroduced into the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona in 1998 after being exterminated from the Southwest by the early 1930s, the Mexican wolf was projected to reach 102 animals in 18 breeding pairs by the end of this year.
Instead, after initial success, the population declined by 20 percent in both 2004 and 2005 and continues to decline today. At the end of last year only 5 breeding pairs and 35 total wolves could be counted in the wild.
But in the last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf-control program killed 10 Mexican wolves, including six pups in one pack. An additional, orphaned pup is too young to survive alone and has almost certainly died.
Four more packs are at imminent risk because they have preyed on livestock - in some cases learning to do so by scavenging on the carcasses of cattle and horses that died of other causes.
In June 2001, the service's Mexican Wolf Three-Year Review, written by independent scientists, warned the control program was removing too many wolves and would prevent the population from reaching its goals unless critical reforms were instituted immediately. The service pledged to take action, but it has not done so.
The stalled reforms would bring the Mexican wolf program up to the same standards as those used in the successful reintroduction program for northern gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
That reintroduction began in 1995, three years prior to the Mexican wolf reintroduction, and has resulted in approximately 1,000 wolves now roaming a tri-state region.
The scientists' two most important recommendations were to:
Allow wolves to roam outside the arbitrary boundaries of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, just like all other endangered species are allowed (Mexican wolves are currently trapped if they go onto the "wrong" national forest).
Require ranchers to remove or render inedible the carcasses of cattle and horses that die of nonwolf causes and habituate wolves to regarding livestock as prey.
Expect to read about more government shooting and trapping of wolves.
Trespassing cattle roam many officially closed areas of the Gila National Forest, and dead cattle litter public and private lands alike. In late April, the Fish and Wildlife Service released a new pack - the Nantac Pack, consisting of survivors of past predator-control actions - into the Gila. In early May they scavenged on a bull that had perished from disease, and later that month they killed a cow.
It's important to note the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began as an agricultural service agency, and only reluctantly took on its present statutory responsibility to recover endangered species. The agency and its predecessor, the Bureau of Biological Survey, poisoned and trapped all wolves in the western United States between 1915 and 1945.
Beginning in 1950, the Service began sending American salaried personnel and U.S.-produced poison to Mexico to duplicate its extermination program south of the border.
Only passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 stopped the service from killing the very last Mexican wolves - four males and one female captured alive in Mexico for an emergency captive breeding program. No wolves have been confirmed alive in the wild in Mexico since 1980.
The anti-predator bias in the service, along with strong-arm tactics from the Bush administration and its congressional allies, has succeeded in turning a reintroduction program back into a traditional control program.
The agency needs to take a "time out" on predator control against Mexican wolves to give the wolf population a chance to stabilize and reach its 100-wolf goal.