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