Thursday, February 07, 2008

SW wolves down 12% from Bush FWS persecution

Mexican wolf shot dead

ALBUQUERQUE -- Statement of David R. Parsons, former Mexican Wolf Coordinator (1990-1999) for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and current Carnivore Conservation Biologist for the Rewilding Institute.

Re: Population decline of the wild population of Mexican gray wolves in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

Today’s news of a 12% decline in the wild population of Mexican wolves is a big disappointment but, frankly, not a surprise. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its cooperating state and federal agencies stopped managing for the conservation of endangered lobos four years ago, and the population has declined in three of those four years. The stated objective for 2007 was a 10% population increase, thus the Fish and Wildlife Service fell 22% short of their goal, leaving only 52 of these critically endangered animals in the wild. Of even greater concern is that the number of breeding pairs declined from seven at the end of 2006 to only four at the end of 2007. When breeding pairs are routinely destroyed or broken apart it is hard to grow a population. Indeed, only nine new pups were added to the population, and two of those have died already in 2008.

The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, 4.4 million acres of remote public lands teeming with elk and deer, was identified by wildlife biologists as the best place for the first reintroduction of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf. The objective for this initial recovery effort was to establish a viable, self-sustaining, wild population of at least 100 lobos by the end of 2006, eight years after the first releases.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should issue an immediate moratorium on any further killing and removal of wolves until the population rebounds to at least 100 wolves, as recommended by the American Society of Mammalogists.

Ignoring science and bowing to pressure from special interests, the Bush administration, and politicians, the Fish and Wildlife Service has abandoned its legal obligation to protect, conserve, and recover the Mexican gray wolf—the most endangered mammal in North America. Rather, conflicts (whether real or induced) are routinely resolved by killing or permanently removing wolves, risking the second extinction of this rare, ecologically important carnivore.

None of this is the fault of the lobos whose only interest is to survive and prosper in the remaining wild lands of the Southwest. The wolves have shown their ability make a living in their native habitat. They eat mostly elk and deer, consistently breed and reproduce in the wild, and very few die of causes other than those inflicted by humans.

Scientific research has shown that wolves and other large carnivores improve the biological diversity and overall health of the landscapes where they live. Following the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, young willows and cottonwoods, formerly devoured by unwary elk, have returned to stream banks, beavers have returned, and songbirds are more numerous. A variety of scavengers including eagles, ravens, weasels, and foxes are flourishing from the free lunch left for them by wolves.

Southwest residents broadly support the wolf recovery effort and want to see lobos thrive in the wild once again.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a legal and moral obligation to protect and conserve endangered lobos and restore them to viable populations within their former range. But their continued authorization of excessive killing and removal of wolves is having the opposite result.

It’s like hiring a contractor to remodel your home and, instead, they tear it down. You would be outraged; and the American public should be outraged at the continued use of tax dollars by our public agencies to destroy endangered Mexican wolves. Conflicts do arise between wolf recovery and other uses on our public lands, especially livestock grazing. The Fish and Wildlife Service has a proper role in seeking to minimize conflicts, but not at the expense of the conservation of endangered lobos. Wolves have a right to exist and are legally entitled to at least equal status on public lands.

It is wrong policy to give domestic livestock higher priority than endangered wolves on our public lands. Solutions will require abandoning the tools of the past—shooting and trapping—and adopting more innovative management practices and new policies that reflect modern ethics and public sentiment favoring the conservation of wild wolves.

- from Rewilding Inst


The Keeper said...

Long a conservationist, it bothers me that more isn't done to protect endangered animals. But I have a few objections to your post. First, the headline is misleading as you don't provide any evidence of Bush's "persecution." You hurt your cause when you stretch facts to make an argument. Second, while I think the wolves should be protected and assisted where necessary, I don't agree that they have an equal status with cattle. After all, cattle feed our country and are not predators. Yeah, they are boring and hardly as interesting and mystical as wolves, but they serve a greater purpose.

I think these important causes will find much more support among conservatives, hunters, fisherman and the like if we all leave politics out of the mix and compromise better on the balance between man's needs and wildlife.

meadow said...

I am stunned at your comment that suggests cattle are the most important occupant of our public wildlands. All the cattle grazed at the public trough in all the western states amount to about 3% of the total in America. They could all disappear and the country would hardly notice. However, add this to the destructive capacity of grazing a non-native herbivore in the fragile,dry biomes of the west at the expense of millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies and I also think cattle should not have an equal status with wolves. In fact, the status of cattle should be very much below that of our native wolves which are endangered expressly because of the very same cattle and the people who run them. We have sacrified a great deal in the way of lost wildlife, diminished plant communities, eroded gullies, and watershed viability on the alter to the domestic cow. Wolves don't need help. They just need to be able to roam the wildland that is their historic home without being persecuted, trapped and shot on behalf of the interests of the cattle industry.

Anonymous said...


I didn't say that "cattle are the most important occupant of our public wildlands," or anything close to that. I only suggested that they rank higher than wolves in terms of service to man. None of us may like that fact, but it's true. Whether or not that is a fair criterion with which to judge the wolf can certainly be debated. I personally like wolves and want them to run free in the wild, but I also am realistic that we are not going to ever get the public behind giving up burgers and steaks in support of the wolf. That's why I advocate balance. I think we help the cause, and the endangered species, when we find it.

Jeneiene said...


Well said. I would also like to add this alarming fact to the evidence of why cattle have no place in our drought-laden south west deserts: Fully 80% of our water supply goes towards the production of alphalfa to feed cattle. Furthermore, it is Bush and Cheney who chose (read: appoint)who leads the depts of the BLM, Forest Service, secretary of the interior, and Fish and Wildlife. Bush makes sure that these hand-chosen people do indeed persecute species at risk. This administration is the worst at all levels of protecting endagered and threatened species. Many people now recognize the wealth to our economy to be gained from healthy wild ecosystems. And, this scenario does not include resource depleting and shitting in pristine streams cattle.

meadow said...

Consider the destuction wreaked by cattle on public land in the west in terms of watershed health and woody plant increase, both of which directly lead to raging wild fires and the loss of biodiversity. Cattle are a major source of nonpoint source water pollution. The water, the wildlife- these things are valuable to humans too. I would dispute that cattle are equally valueable to humans in wolf habitat and on wildland they should not rank very high at all. My point is that having wolves affects the entire food chain in suprisingly positive ways while having cattle does it in negative ones. I'm talking about cattle intruding in wolf habitat. The public can easily give up the steaksand burgers produced in these places without giving up steak and burgers in their diet because the proportion of beef from public land is insignificant to the food supply.
As far as balance goes, right now its tilted so much in favor of cattle that wolves are being exterminated a second time. They could very well be driven to extinction AGAIN! I'd very much like to see some "balance" too. This means you don't automatically give cattle the upper hand every single time and kill wolves that kill cattle. Instead you look at requiring cattle producers to practice better husbandry to mitigate the possibility of predation. If this doesn't work, its the cattle that should go and not the wolves. A few cattle are not worth the extinction of these magnificent and biologically important creatures.