A troubled wolf-recovery effort in the Southwest may have found an unlikely ally: The traditionally anti-wolf New Mexico Game Commission has asked the state Game and Fish Department to re-evaluate its management of Mexican wolves, which were first reintroduced in neighboring Arizona in 1998.
commissions, dominated by ranching interests, have prevented the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from releasing captive wolves in New
Mexico. The agency must first release captive wolves into Arizona's
Apache National Forest. The wolves may then wander into New
Mexico's adjacent Gila national Forest, and wolves captured in
Arizona can be released into the Gila. But even well-behaved wolves
found outside recovery areas in New Mexico are removed and
Environmentalists argue that these rules have
sabotaged the recovery process, preventing wolves from establishing
healthy territories and populations.
Now, the commission
wants Game and Fish to consider allowing the direct release of
captive wolves in New Mexico, and to study the possibility of
increasing the wolf's recovery area. The seven-member commission,
appointed by Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, now includes two
The Fish and Wildlife Service, Game
and Fish Department, and environmentalists agree that the
commission's new direction is promising. Chuck Hayes of Game and
Fish believes it's a big step toward the project's goal of
restoring 100 wolves in the region. "People have gotten away from
the 'get rid of wolves' idea," he says. "Wolves are here (and) we
need to manage them as well as possible."
estimate that there are now 52 to 57 Mexican wolves in New Mexico
and Arizona, although environmentalists believe that number is
inflated. Local attitudes, however, may not have changed: Of 13
wolves killed last year, six were shot illegally.