Local & Regional News

Our View: Beware of congressmen in pro-wolf clothing

Arizona Republic (Original) Posted August 17, 2016 by the Editorial Board

Editorial: Don't buy Arizona politicians' attempts to "help" Mexican gray wolves. They are anything but helpful.

Beware of politicians in wolves’ clothing.

Two congressional efforts to seize control of the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program may pretend to be wolf-friendly. They aren’t.

The first is being pushed by Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar and New Mexico Republican Rep. Steve Pearce. Both previously have sought to kick the Mexican gray wolf off the endangered-species list.

Now, they are behind an amendment to the Interior Department appropriations bill that would defund the federal wolf-recovery effort. Pearce says states could do a better job.

Wolves are worse off? Not true

The federal reintroduction effort began in the late 1990s and has included state involvement. It raised the population of Mexican gray wolves in the wild from zero to 97 at last count.

Gosar says the endangered species of wolf “is no better off today than it was 20 years ago,” according to a story by The Arizona Republic’s Brandon Loomis.

Not true. The species is 97 times better off. And that’s because of a federally run effort that is guided by the federal Endangered Species Act, which established species diversity as a national value.

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Line of descent: How poor management left Mexican wolves dangerously inbred

High Country News (Original) Posted August 8, 2016 by Cally Carswell

Missteps and conflict between the state and the feds have hounded the recovery of Arizona and New Mexico’s remaining wolf packs.

On a breezy January day, in a double-wide outside Alpine, Arizona, a wolf lay on a large wooden conference table. He was tranquilized but very much alive. His ribs rose and fell, and his body twitched. He was blindfolded and muzzled, and compulsively licked his dark nose. His white, black and cinnamon-colored fur was long and coarse, except around the ears, where it was soft. Veterinarian Susan Dicks massaged his belly. It felt mushy, like raw meat. It felt like he’d had a meal.

The people in the room spoke in whispers and worked quickly. Hands gloved in black latex, a few of them jockeyed around the table, drawing blood, administering vaccines, measuring the wolf’s long, pearly canines, and swabbing the dart wound on his rump.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had captured him during its annual winter census, when agency biologists try to count every endangered Mexican wolf in the forested mountains of western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. His “name” was M1296, “M” for male, and biologists caught him in order to replace his radio collar.

It was remarkable that he was here at all. In April 2013, he stepped in a trap set for coyotes on private land in New Mexico, and it took biologists three hours to reach him. “He had abrasions, broken teeth. He just looked terrible,” recalled Julia Smith, who works out of this field office for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “I thought, ‘He’s not going to make it.’ ”

He did make it, though, and even found a mate. Then another setback: In 2014, an unknown gunman shot her. Eventually, M1296 wooed another female, F1439. They established a territory, and earned a name, the Mangas Pack. At 74 pounds, M1296 was healthy and well-fed. On a scale of 1 to 5, Dicks rated his body condition a 4.

On the surface, things seemed to be looking up for the entire Mexican wolf population. In 1998, after Mexican wolves were poisoned and shot out of existence here, the Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced 11 wolves, with the initial goal of growing their numbers to 100. After years of struggle, the population crossed that threshold for the first time in 2015. Biologists counted 110 animals, a 25 percent increase over the previous year. M1296 was among 97 wolves counted in this year’s census.

Yet trouble lurks even in these historic numbers. As the population expands, it’s also edging toward a genetic crisis, and the larger the population gets, the harder it will be to avert. M1296 is descended from a fantastically successful matriarch called AF521, “A” for alpha. His mate is, too. Their story is typical. In fact, biologists know of only one breeding female in the wild that isn’t related to AF521. Wolves shouldn’t sleep with their relatives for the same reason people shouldn’t. Inbreeding can cause dangerous disorders, depress fertility, and even make small populations more vulnerable to extinction. But right now, the Southwest’s Mexican wolves don’t have much choice. On average, they share about as much genetic material as siblings do. They need new blood, and quick.

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Mexican gray wolf management measure passes US House

Arizona Daily Sun (Original) Posted July 14, 2016 by the AP

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two Western Republican congressmen have succeeded in getting legislation through the U.S. House that would shift management of the endangered Mexican gray wolf from the federal government to states.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Steve Pearce of New Mexico was included as an amendment to a $32 billion spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency that passed Thursday.

The congressmen say efforts to reintroduce the wolves in the Southwest have failed. They cited the lack of an updated recovery plan, a struggling population and livestock losses.

They also pointed to a recent federal investigation that concluded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mishandled the program.

But environmentalists are worried the wolf could go extinct if the legislation gets through Congress.

Deaths of 3 Mexican gray wolves under investigation

Arizona Daily Sun (Original) Posted July 9, 2016 by the AP

PHOENIX (AP) — Three Mexican gray wolves have been found dead in Arizona and New Mexico and wildlife managers say they're investigating.

The latest monthly report on the status of the endangered predators shows a male wolf belonging to the Marble Pack was found dead in New Mexico. In Arizona, a female from the Hoodoo Pack and a single male were also found dead in June.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department didn't release any further details about the deaths in the report released Friday. The agency partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the wolf reintroduction program.

Illegal shootings, politics and legal battles have hampered the program over the years. Environmentalists want more captive wolves released, but ranchers and some local leaders are concerned about livestock losses and public safety.

The rule of No. 9: Thinking like a mountain

Flagstaff Live! (Original) Posted on June 9, 2016 by Kate Watters

Every once in a while there is a day in your life that you never want to forget. I'm thinking of one of a day in Yellowstone National Park a few winters ago that reminded me why I am committed to conservation work. I was at a leadership retreat in Montana with a group of people working for conservation organizations. We had spent days inside discussing the human side of conservation in small groups, taking notes on flip charts and scheming about how to transform our organizations to be more effective at our work. We snuck in a morning of wolf watching to break up the workshop.

The day began in the pre-dawn winter darkness. The curtain of night lifted and morning light flooded the snow-covered world, revealing animal tracks everywhere crisscrossing the snow. The landscape was alive with bison, elk and, of course, the famous Yellowstone wolves.

Wolves were historically the most prevalent species in the world, but by 1930 they had been hunted to the brink of extinction in the lower 48. The federal government listed them as an endangered species in 1974. In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured 14 wolves in Canada and released them into the 2.2 million acre Yellowstone National Park. Today the wolf-watching economy brings in $35 million in tourism each year to the region.

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