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NM: Rural Residents, Hunters Join Nationwide Effort to Save Mexican Wolves

Groups Request Dramatic Decrease in Killings, More Releases of Captive-born Wolves

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Hunters, rural residents and thousands of others in New Mexico and Arizona today joined a call to dramatically restrict trapping and shooting of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. Instead, they said, the focus should be on recovering the species — among the most endangered mammals in North America — and releasing more captive-born wolves into the wild.

New Mexico Sportsmen, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance and the White Mountain Conservation League signed on to the Center for Biological Diversity’s letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the agency works on a court-ordered rewrite of a wolf management rule.

“Mexican wolves are beloved by so many people from so many walks of life,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “This rule-making process should show the government both the breadth of public support for our wolves and the depth of scientific concern over their survival.”

In addition to the groups’ 176-page letter, most of which consists of scientific studies that should be considered, more than 20,000 of the Center’s supporters submitted comments prior to Monday night’s commenting deadline, as did tens of thousands of other individuals.

“Most rural residents in southwestern New Mexico support recovery of the Mexican gray wolf,” said Carol Ann Fugagli of Upper Gila Watershed Alliance. “The government is definitely not representing us when it traps or shoots wolves or refuses to release family packs that could thrive and enhance the genetics of this faltering population.”

Twenty wolves have been shot by the government since reintroduction began and dozens more taken into captivity on behalf of the livestock industry.

While 20 newborn pups were released from captivity over the past two months to be raised by wolves already in the wild, the last release of a well-bonded male/female wolf pair with pups occurred in 2006. Genetic diversity has plummeted in the population in the intervening years because only one of the 30 pups released in previous years is known to have yet successfully reproduced, and because wolf killings and removals have taken out genetically rare wolves.

The letter also requests concrete steps to prevent private citizens from shooting or trapping wolves.

“Sportsmen respect wolves and appreciate their vital role in keeping the natural balance,” said Oscar Simpson of New Mexico Sportsmen. “A hunter shouldn’t evade the law by claiming they thought they were killing a coyote. The federal government needs to eliminate this cover for a person who intentionally wants to kill wolves.”

“Those of us in the mountains of eastern Arizona where wolves were first released in the 1990s know that the wolves play a vital role in the balance of nature,” said Tom Hollender of the White Mountain Conservation League. “These imperiled animals must be managed with far greater care than we’ve seen thus far.”

In 2018 a federal court ordered a rewrite of a 2015 management rule that harms the wolves. This fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release a draft environmental impact statement and proposed rule for public review and comment. The agency must finalize a new rule by May 17, 2021.