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Feds to Determine Future of Mexican Wolves in Colorado

Proponents of Mexican wolves say they are an invaluable part of their ecosystems, helping to control diseases and providing food and shelter for hundreds of other species. (Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons)
Proponents of Mexican wolves say they are an invaluable part of their ecosystems, helping to control diseases and providing food and shelter for hundreds of other species. (Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons)
August 14, 2017

DENVER -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is narrowing in on a plan that would remove the Mexican wolf from the endangered species list and hand management over to states.

David Parsons, a former Mexican wolf coordinator for the agency, said he thinks it’s the wrong path. He noted that fewer than 150 wolves remain in the wild today, and all their genes derive from the last seven wolves that existed before recovery efforts began.

Parsons said breeders are doing a good job of increasing genetic diversity for wolves in captivity.

"But the Fish and Wildlife Service is just not getting them into the wild in numbers that really make a difference,” Parsons said, "largely because the states are pushing back against releases."

Parsons said wolves are frequently seen as a nuisance by powerful livestock interests, and he noted the last time states managed wolves, their numbers declined by 24 percent.

The new plan authorizes delisting after populations reach a total of 500 in isolated areas. But Parsons said the agency's own scientists say 750 are needed to ensure survival in three distinct but connected regions, including southern Colorado.

Hailey Hawkins, Southern Rockies representative with the Endangered Species Coalition, argued that bringing the Mexican wolf back to Colorado would increase demand for wildlife viewing opportunities, which she said could be a big economic driver.

"Mexican wolves are one of our rarest mammals, and are treasured for their countless contributions - to ecosystems, and as part of our national heritage,” Hawkins said. "Folks want to see the Mexican wolf thrive, and federal management should reflect that."

She added that wolves are a critical player in local ecosystems - helping to strengthen deer and elk populations and control outbreaks of chronic wasting disease.

The Endangered Species Coalition is among several groups delivering public comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service through its website, which are due by August 29.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO