BLUE — Several weeks ago, Greenlee County officials began to look into reports of a wolf attack in the Blue.
At the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors meeting last week, County Administrator Kay Gayle shared the results of her inquiries with the United States Department of Agriculture and Arizona Game & Fish.
Two incidents occurred: A deer was killed by uncollared wolves near family homes in the area, and a family’s working dog was killed 70 yards from a home where children were playing only a short while before the attack.
Supervisor Ron Campbell said the attacks leave him strongly concerned for the safety of residents in the area.
“They’re (the wolves) not fearful and they’re dangerously close to people,” he said, noting residents’ attempts to scare off the animals.
Gayle said her contacts with the wolf agencies said the agencies had been attempting to locate the offending animals via helicopter following the incidents. However, there was a break during that period to conduct the annual wolf survey, after which Gayle said the agencies would resume the search.
Early results from the survey indicated the agencies were able to capture as many as 24 wolves, some that were uncollared, although it’s unclear if any were responsible for the incidents in the Blue.
Results from the survey will be available in March.
Greenlee County is just one of many stakeholders who want to see changes to the current wolf plan’s implementation, including historical range and breeding numbers. The plan received revision in 2017, and neither side seems happy with the changes.
A number of prowolf advocates in the Southwest have submitted legal challenges to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services over the changes to the plan, which the prowolf groups claim will lead the wolves to extinction.
“A 2012 draft plan written by agency-appointed scientists recommended a management target of at least 750 Mexican wolves in three populations across their native Southwestern range connected via wildlife corridors,” the Western Watersheds and its partners said in a news release. “The service’s deeply flawed final 2017 recovery plan, devised in closed meetings with only state game department representatives present, ignores the best available science and doesn’t come close to the scientists’ recommendation, targeting a total of just 320 wolves and using an interstate highway as an arbitrary boundary restricting their territory.”
Western Watersheds goes on to describe the current plan as being designed by politicians and antiwolf interests as opposed to scientists.
On the other side of the fence, residents near wolf habitats find themselves with a disagreeable neighbor. While Gayle doesn’t think much of the advocates’ chances in the court battle due to certain legalities, it’s hard to say whose best interests will be served at the end of the day in the ongoing Mexican wolf saga.
For the family who valued their working dog at nearly $10,000, Gayle said it’s unlikely the livestock board, which oversees compensation for wolf losses, will cover that amount.
Supervisor Campbell, who struggles to make the voices of a small county heard in a room with loud interests, said, “It’s a fight bigger than us, but we’re in it.”