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The Dilemma of the Mexican Gray Wolf Without a Compass

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Monday, September 30, 2013   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - One of America's most endangered animals is the subject of a public hearing this week in Albuquerque. The Mexican gray wolf numbers only 75 individuals, all of them descendants of seven wild founders of a captive breeding program, and their recovery is hampered by a number of factors. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed to trap wolves that wander north of Interstate 40 or south of Interstate 10 and return them to a prescribed area.

Eva Sargent, director of Southwest Programs, Defenders of Wildlife, said in order for the lobo to survive and thrive, there must be two populations of wolves in addition to the current pack in the Blue Range reintroduction project. Dispersal is needed between the three, she explained, "so that occasionally, a wolf from Population A wanders its way up to Population B and infuses new genes. It's also a question of, 'Don't keep all your eggs in one basket.' It's dangerous to have all your endangered Mexican wolves in one small area, where they could be vulnerable to fire or disease, or any kind of catastrophe like that."

Sargent criticized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal, which she said obstructs the wolves' ability to move into suitable habitat by allowing any wolf that leaves the prescribed area to be trapped. The public hearing, and a protest of the proposal, are both coming up on Friday, Oct. 4, at Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque.

The Final Rule for the Reintroduction of the Mexican Gray Wolf needs to align with current science that says the wolf needs new populations, the ability to wander between them, and more animals released into the wild from captivity, Sargent said. She wants the rule changed to allow a wider release area.

"Right now, when they go to release Mexican wolves from captivity into the wild, they can only release them in one tiny little box in Arizona that's, I think, a sixteenth of the whole recovery area. That little box is getting full of wolves, and it's hard for new wolves to make their way out of that box and disperse into the rest of the recovery area."

She added that the wolves need something else: a new recovery plan.

"The so-called 'current' recovery plan was finished in 1982. 'TRON' was the top movie in 1982, and the Falklands War occurred in 1982 - it was actually quite a while ago," she said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has been working on revising the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan since 2010, with the final version scheduled to be approved and released in 2014. The deadline for public comment is Oct. 28.

The USFWS recovery plan is available at www.fws.gov.


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