Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Fish and Wildlife Service proposes larger protection area for Mexican gray wolves in Arizona, N.M.

Endangered Mexican gray wolves could soon be free to roam safely throughout large parts of New Mexico and Arizona. The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was introduced in 1998 when there were an estimated four wolves in Arizona and none in New Mexico, according to the agency. In 2012, there were an estimated 75 wolves, with 37 in Arizona and 38 in New Mexico, and an estimated three breeding pairs. Of the 92 Mexican gray-wolf deaths from 1998-2012, the agency reports that 50 were illegally killed by hunters and 14 were killed by vehicles. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife graphic)

The proposal would allow wolves to roam all of Arizona and New Mexico between Interstates 10 and 40, while new releases would still be restricted to the Blue Range Recovery Area, Joanna Dodder Nellens reports for The Daily Courier in Prescott, Ariz. "This change is part of an August lawsuit settlement reached between the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity," she reports. "The settlement also stops the Fish and Wildlife Service plan to trap Mexican gray wolves that roam into the U.S. from Mexico."

"The federal proposal would keep the Mexican gray wolf's designation as 'non-essential experimental' so ranchers and wildlife officials could continue to kill them for killing livestock or trap them for roaming outside their designated range," Dodder Nellens writes. "While the federal proposal would list the Mexican gray wolf as an endangered subspecies, it also would remove the other gray wolves from the list of endangered species." (Courier photo by Les Stukenberg: A Mexican gray wolf at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott)

"The wolves can't become self-sustaining in the Blue Range Recovery Area because only about 6,000 acres includes its historical range and wolves already inhabit about 4,500 acres there," Sherry Barrett, Mexican gray wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, told Dodder Nellens. However, the larger roaming area would allow the introduction of more wolves. About 300 wolves are held captive in 52 facilities, Dodder Nellens reports.

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