AboutZoos, Since 2008


Mex­i­can wolf con­ser­va­tion – a suc­cess story that will be ended prematurely?

pub­lished 14 July 2017 | mod­i­fied 14 July 2017

Just this year it was reported that con­ser­va­tion efforts, includ­ing cross-​fostering of wild and captive-​born pups, to pro­tect Mex­i­can wolves from going extinct are pay­ing off. Apex preda­tors such as wolves are impor­tant for keep­ing ecosys­tems healthy. So, the suc­cess story of Mex­i­can wolf con­ser­va­tion was much wel­comed. Sci­en­tists say, how­ever, that the cur­rent num­bers of Mex­i­can wolves are insuf­fi­cient to cre­ate a viable pop­u­la­tion.
Mexican wolfCap­tive Mex­i­can Wolf (Canis lupus bai­leyi) at Sevil­leta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mex­ico.
Image is in the pub­lic domain.

Unfor­tu­nately, the long-​awaited new plan, released as a draft Mex­i­can Wolf Recov­ery Plan by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion on 29 June 2017, would pre­ma­turely strip fed­eral pro­tec­tions for the wolves, increas­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of this highly imper­illed species.

Besides call­ing for remov­ing endan­gered species pro­tec­tions, the new plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice also pre­cludes recov­ery of wolves in regions that inde­pen­dent sci­en­tists say are essen­tial to their long-​term sur­vival — the Grand Canyon and south­ern Rocky Moun­tains in north­ern Ari­zona and New Mex­ico, along with south­ern Utah and Colorado.

In dis­re­gard­ing the sci­ence, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion would strip pro­tec­tions for wolves pre­ma­turely, sub­ject­ing a still-​vulnerable pop­u­la­tion to mer­ci­less persecution.

Michael Robin­son, con­ser­va­tion advo­cate for the Cen­ter for Bio­log­i­cal Diversity

The plan runs directly counter to the con­clu­sions of a 2012 recov­ery team formed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, which included inde­pen­dent sci­en­tists and con­cluded that three U.S. pop­u­la­tions of at least 750 ani­mals were needed for Mex­i­can wolf recov­ery. This would have required estab­lish­ing addi­tional pop­u­la­tions in the Grand Canyon ecosys­tem and the south­ern Rocky Moun­tains. This pre­vi­ous plan was scrapped after Utah and Col­orado, which don’t cur­rently have wolf pop­u­la­tions, objected.

At last count 113 Mex­i­can grey wolves, includ­ing just 10 breed­ing pairs, live in Ari­zona and New Mex­ico, and around 30 to 35 wolves in Mex­ico. The wolves in the United States are genet­i­cally impov­er­ished and are as related to each other, on aver­age, as are sib­lings in a nor­mal pop­u­la­tion. That’s due to the small found­ing pop­u­la­tion and mis­man­age­ment after rein­tro­duc­tion on behalf of the live­stock indus­try, includ­ing gov­ern­ment trap­ping and shoot­ing of genet­i­cally rare wolves and infre­quent releases of less closely related wolves from cap­tiv­ity into the wild. This con­di­tion results in births of smaller lit­ters of pups and in fewer pups sur­viv­ing to adulthood.

Seri­ous flaws in the draft plan should come as no sur­prise since the Trump admin­is­tra­tion appointed Greg Shee­han, for­mer head of the Utah Divi­sion of Wildlife Resources, as deputy direc­tor of the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice. Shee­han — a long-​time oppo­nent of Mex­i­can wolf recov­ery with no sci­en­tific train­ing — will need to sign off on any plan devel­oped by the agency’s scientists.

Replac­ing an interim and long-​outdated 1982 plan, the pub­lic has 60 days to com­ment on the new recov­ery plan.

(Source: Cen­ter for Bio­log­i­cal Diver­sity press release, 29.06.2017)

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