The Latest: Wild Mexican wolf pups born in Sierra Madre

The species still struggles on both sides of the border.

  • This summer, the first known litter of wild Mexican gray wolf pups was born in the western Sierra Madre.

    Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas

Hunting, trapping and poisoning nearly obliterated the Southwest's Mexican gray wolf in the '70s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began captive breeding and started releasing wolves in New Mexico and Arizona 16 years ago. Today, around 83 roam the wild, but conflicts with humans and livestock have prompted environmental groups to try to create more cow-free space by retiring grazing permits ("The Gila Solution," HCN, 2/17/14).

Mexican wolves were also nearly wiped out south of the border, where officials began releasing captive-bred animals in 2011. This summer, the first known litter of wild pups was born in the western Sierra Madre (see photo above). Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment until Sept. 23 on a revised, and controversial, management plan. Advocates want stronger protections, but the proposal continues the animal's ESA "nonessential experimental" designation. It would give wolves more room to roam, though not into historic range in the Grand Canyon and Southern Rocky Mountains.

Rex Johnson Jr
Rex Johnson Jr
Aug 19, 2014 03:55 PM
The main reason that the ESA is not working as well as it should is simply that it is not being enforced. The wolves are not recovering because they are being shot, and the locals shooting them are not being forced, or even encouraged, to stop shooting them. "I thought it was a coyote," is the standard answer given by, say a grazing permittee when asked about a wolf he was reported to have killed. So the federal agent charged with enforcing federal law, let's say a USF&WS official, shrugs his shoulders as though nothing could be done. For instance, it would be bureaucratically unthinkable to ban the shooting of coyotes in a wolf recovery area. But let me get more to the point: It is incomprehensible how some of the law enforcement agents we have here in southern New Mexico, and Arizona, can be so reluctant to enforce the law. If this were a western movie (and a lot of our local characters seem to think it is), everyone one would be laughing at the gutless sheriff.
The Taylors
The Taylors Subscriber
Aug 19, 2014 04:24 PM
I think part of the problem of law enforcement is the reluctance of elected officials or even appointed officials to go against the mainstream of the locals where the mex wolf is now and hopefully soon will be. I live in a relatively unpopulated county in central Arizona. the village I live in is historically ranching and mining demographics. the descendants of this pioneer stock are conservative and pretty much anyone else who chooses to live in this village come programmed for conservatism too. their dogma dictates to be against the mex wolf reintro. a few months ago the county supervisor for this county came to the community center to inform us that we may start to see mex wolves migrating thru the countryside. good thing the locals were't armed at the meeting, they seemed poised to start shooting with so much instant anger at the news. my point, I think it would behoove az game and fish, and fish and wildlife to be more proactive with educating the populace of how important it is to reintro a predatory carnivore.
Kirk Hohenberger
Kirk Hohenberger Subscriber
Aug 19, 2014 05:27 PM
Some think the ESA , is not enforced enough, others think to much. Some would like to see it go away. If the USFW service who enforces and administrates the act, is not funded properly then it is not enforced, and not worth much. The Agency is not then able to do its job. Who polices the agency to make sure they are doing what they are suppose to? Often it seems it's private environmental organizations. Was it not a conservation organization that sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list the sage grouse? Why is this happening? Can anyone tell me what the simple criteria is for listing a species as threatened or endangered? Why has the buffalo never been listed? Going from 30-60 million to less then twenty thousand free roaming animals? Would anyone admit its not science but politics in the extreme?
Charles Fox
Charles Fox Subscriber
Aug 19, 2014 06:00 PM
It is politics in the extreme and the results are pathetic. After 16 years of the federal wolf recovery program, there are still fewer than 100 Mexican Wolves in the wild. That's not really recovery in any meaningful, robust sense. It's actually slow death because the genetic stock, which is solid, has a limited shelf life. The people who hate wolves have very nearly accomplished their goal, a native species of carnivore teetering on the edge of extinction. The power of human irrationality is with us and should never be underestimated. We know that some of New Mexico's finest citizens like to shoot wolves and claim ignorance. However, any individual suspected of harming a federally protected species should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Because the rule of law matters.
martin weiss
martin weiss Subscriber
Aug 19, 2014 06:45 PM
absent wolves, rats move in.
Larry Bullock
Larry Bullock
Aug 21, 2014 08:09 PM
     All of the above comments are correct.
     There is little risk to USFWS personnel and other wildlife biologists in opposing protections for endangered species. Most who favor wildlife conservation live in faraway cities and are despised and ridiculed by wildlife haters, who are the majority in rural areas where most wildlife would thrive if allowed.
     The wildlife conservators write letters, make comments to agency proposals, vote in elections where wildlife are not represented by any candidate, and join toothless environmental organizations. The wildlife haters can socially ostracize you, shoot out your windows, set your truck on fire, and kill your dog if you oppose them.
     The ESA has been politically compromised by obscure laws passed in the 1980s. The ESA can be easily subverted by creating Habitat Conservation Plans and similar instruments. Hastily convened meetings of stakeholders, dominated by the wildlife haters, create the voluntary plans.
     Ironically, various federal and state funds are channeled to these landowners and their organizations (taxing districts whose benefits mostly accrue to them and whose taxes are mostly paid by everyone else) to enact the “plans.” There are no requirements other than avoiding ESA restrictions. Environmental PR corporations facilitate meetings, advertise, and sell the results. Federal, state, and local elected officials praise the “plan” in the media. Wildlife die.
     When was the last designation of critical habitat? It just doesn’t happen anymore. That demonstrates the political power of a small, favored minority.
     Wildlife conservators must drastically increase their political involvement and organization if wildlife are to be conserved. Neither the Democratic nor Republican Parties are concerned about wildlife conservation. So, candidates for elective office who are not members of the two big parties (the duopoly) will probably have to represent wildlife interests.
     The task will not be easy for wildlife conservators because the wildlife haters and the duopoly dominate the popular media.