A slow comeback for Mexican wolves

 

Mexican gray wolves continue to die along the Arizona-New Mexico line. In December, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials found a dead wolf outside of Reserve, N.M. It was the 21st Mexican gray wolf to die or disappear since the agency first released captive animals into the Apache National Forest in 1998 (HCN, 12/21/98: Wolf killers sought in Southwest).

While the cause of the latest death has not been determined, wolf advocates suspect it was killed by ranchers. In October, a federal judge sentenced James Michael Roberts, a member of an Arizona ranching family, to four months in prison for killing a Mexican gray wolf.

Karen Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, says the wolves, which have killed seven head of cattle in two years, have put ranchers on edge. "It's been a total failure," she says of the reintroduction program.

Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity does not sympathize. The cattle killings were the result of careless - and in some cases illegal - grazing, he says.

There are now 22 Mexican wolves running wild in the Southwest, and Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist Wendy Brown says her agency remains committed to having 100 wolves in the wild within 15 years. "We have said as a country that restoring endangered species is something that we do," she says.