For Immediate Release: December 18, 2002
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service targets non-depredating wolves
Agency disregards scientific consensus that lobos must be allowed to roam
Fresh on the heels of its efforts to kill two uncollared, possibly wild-born Mexican gray wolves, the Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior is trapping for the largest pack of Mexican wolves in the wild.
Unlike the two uncollared animals, who so far have escaped due to vast and rugged terrain, their native wariness and winter weather, the seven-member Francisco Pack is not known to have killed any cattle.
Rather, the Francisco Pack, consisting of two adults and five wild-born pups, is targeted for wandering outside of the official boundaries of the Mexican gray wolf recovery area.
Only 36 Mexican wolves can be confirmed in the wild, and nine of them one quarter of the entire population have been condemned by the government to be killed or captured.
The Mexican gray wolf is considered the most imperiled mammal in North America, exterminated from the southwestern United States by the Fish and Wildlife Service and its predecessor agency and only saved after passage of the 1973 Endangered Species Act by the capture alive of the last five known wild animals from Mexico, between 1977 and 1980. These last animals, plus two already in captivity, served as the basis for an emergency captive breeding program. Reintroduction of captive-born wolves began in 1998.
The decision to trap out the Francisco Pack results from the Fish and Wildlife Service's ignoring the recommendations of a team of independent scientists who urged allowing wolves to roam outside of the arbitrary boundaries of the Mexican wolf recovery area, which consists of the Apache and Gila National Forests.
The June, 2001, Paquet Report, named for Canadian biologist Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D., who led a team of four independent scientists, was the biological component of the Fish and Wildlife Service's three year evaluation of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program. The 86-page report was conducted by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, which contracted with Dr. Paquet and his colleagues to evaluate the program.
The Paquet Report recommended: "Immediately modify the final rule to allow wolves that are not management problems to establish territories outside the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area."
The report added: "Retrieving animals because
they wander outside the primary recovery area is inappropriate because
it is inconsistent with the Service's approach to recover wolves in the
southeast, Great Lakes states, and the northern Rockies [and] . . . needlessly
excludes habitat that could substantially contribute to recovery of Canis
lupus baileyi" (p. 66).
Wolves have been injured and killed in recapture attempts in the past. Stress from the trapping of the Pipestem Pack in the late summer of 1999 led to the death by Parvovirus of three of their five wild-born pups, according to a September 5, 1999 analysis by recovery team consulting veterinarian Bret S. Snyder, who necropsied the pups.
In addition, the alpha female of the Mule Pack lost her leg on January 23, 2000 as a result of frostbite suffered while in a government trap. A male of the Wildcat Pack died from exhaustion and stress on November 9, 2001 as a result of an aerial chase to capture him. Like the Francisco Pack, neither animal had attacked domestic animals.
The Paquet Report stresses the urgency of allowing
wolves to roam free: "We conclude that some wolves have successfully
established home ranges and possibly pack territories within the designated
wolf recovery area. We caution, however, that frequent recaptures and
re-releases confounded our analysis. These manipulations may also be interfering
with pack formation and establishment and maintenance of home ranges.
Lastly, individual wolves have shown some indication of dispersing outside
the recovery areas. This is to be expected and required if the regional
population is to be viable." (p. 23)
There had been 37 wolves known in the wild until recently, but on December 3, 2002 a female wolf from the Saddle Pack in Arizona was found dead and is suspected of having been shot. Illegal shootings and hit and run vehicular collisions are responsible for twelve known deaths of Mexican wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity are offering a standing reward totaling $15,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of wolf poachers.
Michael J. Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity's office in Pinos Altos, New Mexico stated: "Gale Norton's Interior Department is removing Mexican wolves at a rate that jeopardizes the population." He added: "The Francisco Pack can't read maps drawn by politicians. Biologists say the lobos need freedom to roam if they are to survive, reproduce and raise pups."