For Immediate Release, July 9, 2007
Contact: Michael Robinson, (505) 534-0360
Hundreds of Scientists Warned Against Wolf Killing
Before Feds Shot New Mexico Wolf;
Governor Richardson’s Demand for Reform Echoes Scientists’
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— In the weeks leading up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent shooting of an endangered Mexican gray wolf last Thursday, hundreds of scientists warned the agency that its unprecedented level of killing and removing wolves was undermining the wolf recovery program and pushing the species toward a catastrophic genetic bottleneck.
The scientists were ignored, and on July 5, 2007, over the objections of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, the federal agent killed a female wolf with pups. The incident provoked a strong reaction from New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson, who has initiated a criminal investigation and called on the Bush administration to suspend its wolf-killing policy pending reform.
In addition to the 11 wolves shot by government agents since 2003, 20 have died due to accidents in the agency’s recapture program, and 22 survived capture but have been permanently removed from the wild. In all, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Service’s politically dominated program has killed or permanently removed 53 wolves since it inception in 1998. That nearly equals the total number of gray wolves remaining in the wild today: 55.
“The greatest threat to the Mexican gray wolf today is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration has turned the agency into a wolf-killing machine. No wolves were shot by government agents until 2003; killings escalated to five in 2006 and are already at three this year. 2007 is on a trajectory to become another record killing year.”
On June 28, 2007, nine scientists, including retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David Parsons, complained to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the recovery program has missed its goal of 102 wolves by nearly 50 percent. They blamed the failure on the high level of killing and removal by federal agents: “For the past four years growth of the [Mexican gray] wolf population has been limited by management-related killing or permanent removal of wolves.”
Other authors included Dr. Phil Hedrick, member of the Mexican gray wolf recovery team, and Dr. Paul Paquet of the University of Calgary, lead author of the government-authorized Mexican Wolf Three-Year Review.
The scientists complained that the government has killed or removed some of the most genetically important wolves, including the killing of the “genetically irreplaceable” Saddle Pack alpha male in 2004 and more recent removal of the alpha pair of the Saddle pack and their seven pups.
They “urge[d] the USFWS to take immediate actions that will result in at least a 15% annual growth rate of the wild population until the objective of at least 100 wolves is met and to expedite management actions necessary to protect and maximize the genetic diversity of the wild population…and to expedite a rule change that will meet the “conservation” mandate of the Endangered Species Act.
Very similar points were made on June 10th, 2006, by the almost 600 attendees of the annual meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists. The Society unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service “ to suspend all predator control directed at Mexican gray wolves at least until the interim 100-wolf goal of the current reintroduction program has been achieved … to protect wolves from the consequences of scavenging on livestock carcasses, ensure the recovery and sustainability of populations of Mexican gray wolves, and allow wolves to roam freely throughout the Southwest.”
The American Society of Mammalogists was founded in 1919 and is the world’s oldest and largest organization devoted to the scientific study of mammals.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.