Mexican wolf recovery #fail


At the end of 2007, we published a story by investigative reporter John Dougherty called “Last Chance for the Lobo,” about the “bloody mess” that had become the Mexican wolf reintroduction in New Mexico and Arizona. There were so few wolves left when the recovery effort started that many born in captivity were inbred. Ranchers didn’t want the wolves on the land any more than they did decades ago, when they almost wiped the predators out. Wolves were illegally killed, or baited to prey on cattle so the feds would do the dirty work of predator control themselves. When Dougherty’s story ran in our pages, 84 reintroduced Mexican wolves had been killed -- and there were just 40 left in the wild.

A Mexican wolf pup, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Four years later, the population has increased a bit -- to 58 wolves -- but little else has changed. Four out of five wolves released in Mexico in the fall of 2011 met death-by-poison within months. Stateside, three of the four wolves known to have died last year were illegally shot. (Although, this was good news, in a way, because fewer wolves died, in total, than in the previous year.)

A glimmer of hope was publicized over the summer: Two new couples had “hooked up,” and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hoped they would breed and grow into viable new packs. And at the beginning of this year, a male, M1133, was released in Arizona, with the hope that he would mate with the top lady dog in the Bluestem Pack, whose alpha male was poached last summer. It was the first release in four years.

But this arranged marriage -- like so much of the recovery effort -- didn’t go as planned. Last week, M1133 was recaptured because he’d strayed outside his prospective mate’s territory and the two were unlikely to meet.

John Morgart, then Fish and Wildlife’s Mexican wolf recovery coordinator, told Dougherty in 2007: “Wolves can make it in the wild if it’s just a matter of biology. Wolves are easy.” That M1133 was snapped back up so quickly for doing what wolves do -- roam -- is another reminder that the relationship between people and wolves in the Southwest is still remarkably uneasy.

Cally Carswell is HCN's assistant editor.

Jodi Peterson
Jodi Peterson Subscriber
Feb 08, 2013 09:58 AM
The Southwest region of the Fish and Wildlife Service just released new numbers for the Mexican wolf population. The 2012 count is at least 75 wolves, a marked uptick from the 2011 count of 58. From the press release: "This past year we have implemented a number of management actions – in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders – that have helped reduce conflicts related to recovering a sustainable population of wolves on a working landscape,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “Our strategy for 2013 will be to increase the genetic viability of the wild population, and implement management activities that support more wolves in the wild. Releases are one of the important tools we use for improving the genetic viability of the wild population.” Sincerely, Jodi Peterson, HCN Managing Editor
Sandy Doumas
Sandy Doumas Subscriber
Feb 08, 2013 03:09 PM
Your timing is questionable for that title, given the 2012 count just being released:[…]-Numbers-up-from-2011.shtml

Unless you WANT to focus on the negative side of things....
Jodi Peterson
Jodi Peterson Subscriber
Feb 08, 2013 03:11 PM
Thanks Sandy, this post was published before the new count was released. Please see the comment above yours in which we provide that information. - Jodi Peterson, Managing Editor