Monthly Archives: February 2011

¡Protecciones Para Los Lobos!

Photo license:   Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

The Mexican Wolf, Canis lupus baileyi, or “Lobo,” is a subspecies of the North American Gray Wolf, and currently protected under the Endangered Species Act as such. Due to extremely low numbers of Lobos in the wild (they currently exist in the states of Arizona and New Mexico), many believe this subspecies should be classified separately. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson passed a bill to increase protections of the Lobo in 2010. However, such a small population is in constant danger of extinction from poachers, disease, and legislation. Recent data from a 2010 count found that approximately 50 Mexican Wolves exist in the wild.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife policies toward Gray Wolves vary from region to region, over the continental U.S. and Alaska. Mexican Gray Wolves are found in the Southwest Region 2, and on the agency’s website are listed as “Experimental, non-essential (EXPN):”

“The non-essential experimental population designation for Mexican wolves allows for  greater management flexibility to address conflict situations, such as livestock depredations or nuisance behavior, than if wolves had retained the fully endangered designation… Reintroduction of a top predator such as the Mexican wolf is highly complex and often controversial. It is important to understand the role Mexican wolves are playing on the landscape, including all of the potential biological, social and economic impacts – be they good, bad, or indifferent. In order to continually evaluate this role, an Interagency Field Team (IFT) has been formed and has the primary responsibilities of collecting data, monitoring, and managing the free-ranging Mexican wolf population. A series of 23 Standard Operating Procedures have been formalized to ensure consistency in management of the wolf population. Equally important is the IFT’s close interaction and involvement with local communities directly affected by wolf recovery.” [1]

Policies of the U.S. Forest Service also have an impact on successful predator management. From all outward appearances, the U.S. Forest Service prioritizes the interests of ranchers, leasing over 500,000 acres in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest alone, for livestock grazing (this is happening in public lands nation-wide). Wolves are perceived to be a threat to livestock by ranchers and the public at large, so this sets up an immediate conflict with human interests. To be fair, there are positives to ranchers’ leasing of public lands (and surrounding private lands), not least of which is deterrence from development of the large tracts necessary for predators and migrating prey to live. However, this practice must be managed carefully by prioritizing conservation.

Perhaps we need to re-evaluate the environmental policies and priorities of the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the federal government at large. U.S. Fish and Wildlife currently plans to cull populations of wolves in Alaska and Idaho for the benefit of hunters, and what is perceived to be the benefit of the prey animals they hunt. This agency collects large sums of money through the granting of hunting licenses and permits. While this money is desperately needed, it sets up a conflict of interest between the wants and needs of hunters, and the protection of large predators in particular. Should U.S. Fish and Wildlife focus more of its money on educating hunters and the public at large on the vital importance of conserving our fast disappearing wild lands and wild life? Should they be making more efforts to de-mythologize the wolf through public education projects, and present this animal for its value as well as its challenges? These are important questions to ask at a time when financial woes can lead to impulsive, destructive, and often irreversible decisions.

There are currently efforts in the U.S. House and Senate to de-list the Gray Wolf from endangered species protections. Please write to your representatives! This legislation would leave wolves vulnerable to eradication in the continental U.S., and would set a dangerous precedent for other species as well.

[1] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, web.