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Feds: Human Predators Continue to Endanger Arizona-New Mexico Wolves

February 10, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – The future of endangered Mexican gray wolves along the Arizona-New Mexico border rests with just two surviving breeding pairs, a number far below the 18 pairs wildlife biologists had hoped for by now. Dave Holoway, president of the White Mountain Conservation League, says something must be done to stop illegal shooting of the wolves.

"We need a little bit more enforcement to keep the illegal killings out, and some investigation of those, to hold people accountable. And I guess we may need a little help from nature to make the numbers go up, so it's a viable population."

The original plan, which began 11 years ago, was to have more than 100 Mexican gray wolves in the recovery project by now. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counts only 52 in the study area, the same as a year earlier. Area ranchers have charged that the endangered wolves attack and kill their cattle, but Holoway says those losses are being covered.

"Defenders of Wildlife is reimbursing cattlemen for livestock loss when it can be really shown it's a wolf issue. There are just some people who are vehemently opposed to this. They're afraid to go out in the woods, when there's already lions and bears out there."

Ranchers had completely eliminated the wolves in the early part of the last century, but Holoway believes the wolves deserve to be a part of the ecosystem.

"They're a beautiful animal, a social animal. They are a part of Southwest history, and the one thing I haven't heard is wolves howling. I'd really love to sit out in an evening or lay in a tent, and listen to wolves howl like I listen to elk bugle."

In Holoway's view, it's not a choice between wolves and humans, because both can coexist in the region.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ