ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — Environmentalists are urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do more to protect Mexican gray wolves after one of the endangered predators was found dead in southwestern New Mexico.
The Western Watersheds Project is one of the groups that has criticized the agency’s management of wolves in New Mexico and Arizona, saying illegal killings continue to hamper the population. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service says fewer wolves have been found dead this year than in previous years.
The agency also pointed out a revised recovery plan for the wolf who was released in early October. The agency was under a court order to renew the plan to address the threat of man-made death as one of the ways to increase wolves’ chances of survival in the wild.
Federal officials said they could not provide details on the circumstances of the latest death as it was an ongoing investigation. It is rare for such investigations to ever be closed.
Environmentalists described the recently found dead male wolf near Winston as one of the most genetically valuable Mexican wolves in the wild. It was released in 2018 after being born in captivity and then bred in a wild wolf den as part of an effort to increase genetic diversity.
The wolf and his partner were captured near Reserve in 2021 and moved with puppies to Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in 2021. That move sparked a legal battle, with ranchers saying they had not been notified by the federal government of plans to create the new platoon.
The Ladder Ranch has partnered with the Fish and Wildlife Service for many years and, through the Turner Endangered Species Fund, provides a site for captive wolf and other endangered species projects. Across Turner’s vast landholdings, that work ranged from breeding endangered Bolson tortoises to providing habitat for endangered black-footed ferrets and gray wolves in the northern Rockies.
For more than two decades, the effort to bring Mexican gray wolves back to the U.S. Southwest has been fraught with conflict, as ranchers have complained of having to chase wolves away to avoid having their livestock eaten. Many have said that their livelihoods and rural way of life are at stake.
Environmentalists say the reintroduction has stalled due to illegal killings, management decisions and challenges arising from the region’s year-round cattle calving season.
Greta Anderson, deputy director of the Western Watersheds Project, said she noticed the male wolf was missing when officials released the latest public map.
“The good news is that wolf #1693 has successfully sired two litters of pups, demonstrating the willingness of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to leave him in the wild in 2021 and 2022,” she said in a statement. declaration. “The bad news is that its ability to continue contributing to the overall diversity of the wild population was tragically cut short.”
The rarest gray wolf subspecies in North America, the Mexican gray wolf was listed as endangered in 1976 after being pushed to the brink of extinction. From the 1960s to the 1980s, seven Mexican wolves – believed to be the last of their kind – were captured and the captive breeding program was started. Wolf’s releases started in the late 90s.
The wild population has nearly doubled in number in the past five years, with the last era finding nearly 200 Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. There are also several dozen in Mexico.
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