SILVER CITY, N.M.— A four-year stalemate in federal efforts to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest took another step backward last week when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recaptured a male wolf only three weeks after his release into the wild.
“It’s unbelievable that after four years without releasing any new wolves to the wild, that they immediately pick him up again,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Both the chronic lack of releases and the recapture of this male ignore urgent pleas from scientists and conservationists to release more wolves to help the struggling population. At last count, there were fewer than 60 in the wild.”
After delaying for more than four years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released an endangered Mexican gray wolf into the Arizona wild on Jan. 7. The wolf was recaptured in New Mexico on Jan. 29 after he wandered outside the established territory of his intended mate, the alpha female of the Bluestem Pack, which lost its alpha male to a criminal shooting in July 2012.
Scientists have documented that the lack of new releases, coupled with government shooting and trapping of wolves, is causing genetic problems that manifest in smaller Mexican wolf litters and lower pup-survival rates. At the same time, genetically valuable wolves in captivity are growing old without the opportunity to breed.
At last count a year ago, there were 58 wolves, including six breeding pairs, in the wild. The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release results of a new census this week. The current breeding season for wolves will continue for only another week or so.
“Fish and Wildlife should be releasing family packs or at least dozens of single lobos to the wild right now, today,” said Robinson. “As the Mexican wolf slides toward extinction, officials are sitting on their hands and even hastening the decline by removing wolves from the wild.”