Mexican gray wolf, © Wolf Conservation Center

It’s Hard out Here for a Lobo

Attacks in court and in Congress undermine the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf

Last month, a federal district judge granted New Mexico a preliminary injunction in the state’s case against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), forcing the agency to stop all releases of Mexican gray wolves. Without these releases, we could lose the lobo forever – it’s the only way to improve the wild population’s genetic health.

For years, the FWS delayed releasing wolves due to loud anti-wolf voices in both Arizona and New Mexico. When they stepped up to the plate this year and released two pups in New Mexico in April, with plans to also release two more adult wolves, New Mexico’s Game and Fish Department sued them. The state requested a halt to all lobo releases while the court considers the lawsuit, and demanded that officials recapture the released pups. While the court thankfully denied the recapture, they did halt all releases of lobos into the wild in New Mexico – at least temporarily.

Progress is halted, and the attacks continue

Mexican gray wolf (captive), © Wolf Conservation CenterWhile the case is being hashed out in court, the window for captive-born wolf pups to be accepted into a wild wolf pack, or for releases of adult wolves and their pups, has closed for the year. Pups are born in the spring, and adult wild wolves only accept captive newborn pups into their dens when their own wild pups are days old. Warmer seasons also mean more grass for deer and elk, which means more food for growing wolf families to eat.

Before this year’s pup releases, only four wolves had been released during the entire Obama administration. Now with the stalemate with New Mexico, the declining Mexican gray wolf population continues to slide towards extinction. At the last official count in February, there were only 97 wild Mexican gray wolves in the United States, and fewer than 25 in Mexico.

Knowing how crucial wolf releases are to Mexican gray wolf recovery, Defenders of Wildlife and our conservation partners have requested to intervene in the case between FWS and New Mexico. We asked the court to allow us to join the case and help FWS to defend its right and authority to recover endangered species – which in this case clearly means releasing more wolves into the wild. And late last week, the judge granted our request!

At the same time, the attacks on Mexican gray wolf recovery continue, this time in the U.S. Congress: Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) recently attached a rider to the House version of the Interior appropriations bill that would stop all funding for the Mexican gray wolf recovery program.

Senator Udall (D-NM) has been a vocal opponent of riders on the Interior Appropriations bill that undermine wildlife. We’re working with allies like him and others to remove dangerous anti-wildlife riders before Congress sends a new Interior appropriations bill to the president’s desk.

A majority in New Mexico wants to recover the lobo

The most outspoken anti-wolf politicians in New Mexico are acting on behalf of an outspoken minority. This fight against Mexican gray wolf recovery does not reflect what most New Mexico citizens want: to see the lobo recovered. A 2013 poll showed that 69 percent of New Mexican voters support restoring Mexican gray wolves to suitable habitat in the state. Citizens also have turned out in large numbers for meetings at the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission calling for “more wolves and less politics.”

There are senior elected officials too that want to see the Mexican gray wolf recovery program work. U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) said in a recent radio interview that, “I have real concerns about the NM Game Commission’s actions to undermine the Endangered Species Act. I have encouraged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do what is necessary under the law to recover the Mexican gray wolf.”

What’s next for Mexican Gray wolf recovery?

The next big decision on Mexican gray wolf releases is coming up in a few short weeks: The Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan meeting will be held in early August in Montana. There, the FWS and the captive facilities that breed and take care of lobos will meet to plan next year’s lobo releases.

The FWS stood up to New Mexico on wolf releases. Now they need to sit down with the breeding facilities and plan for an aggressive number of releases of adults and pups in 2017 – a number that makes up for years of foot-dragging, and for this year’s temporary ban on releases in New Mexico.

The Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered gray wolf in the world. It deserves no less than our best efforts at recovery. If FWS will remain resolute against the states that would ban releases, the lobo can join the bald eagle, southern sea otter and other species that have made remarkable comebacks. It is imperative that we keep our eye on recovery, and make sure that many lobo releases happen in 2017. Please join us in calling for more wolves and less politics; ask FWS to release more wolves to prevent the extinction of this beautiful species.

Take Action for Lobos!

Without more wolves on the ground, we could lose our lobos forever. Ask Secretary Jewell to release more wolves in Arizona and New Mexico next spring!

Sign the Petition »

14 Responses to “It’s Hard out Here for a Lobo”

  1. Kirk C Robinson

    I completely agree with Eva Sargent and Defenders of Wildlife, that it is imperative for FWS to move forward with more introductions of captive-born Mexican wolves into the wild. That’s the way to move the species toward recovery, as required under the Endangered Species Act. More wolves, less politics!

  2. Bob Brister

    I’m not sure which is more disgraceful, a state government which undermines Mexican wolf recovery at every opportunity, or the Obama administration which fails to do its job to recover Mexican wolves. Wolves, and those who care about them, are betrayed by both.

  3. Debra Taylor

    We will never have a recovery with apex predators until we ban the use of traps, prosecute poaching, and teach respect for all wildlife through our park and forest rangers.

  4. Bob Lecour

    As a previous biologist and state ranger I support the release of more Mexican Gray Wolves. We are having a major extinction taking place at this time and we really cannot allow any species to go extinct when we can prevent it whatever the cost…..

    Bob Lecour

  5. Michael A. Popich

    The role of apex predators in promoting healthy eco-systems is incontestable. The re-introduction and flourishing of the Mexican wolf in New Mexico and Utah would only enhance the natural beauty and vitality of wild areas in these two states.

  6. cindra broenner

    well…losing the wolves of the world will certainly leave a big hole in the wildlife world…we can not afford to lose them…but all you trophy hunters…better known as murderers..what you destroy next…hopefully eachother…

  7. Lisa Othen

    We need to protect our wolves so that they will be here for future generations, to observe their beauty. Let’s not allow them to disappear and only be known from photos in a book..

  8. Sterling & Susan Richards

    We will save our Wolves from extinction…..one way or the other

  9. Ellen Marmon

    These beautiful wolves belong in the western ecosystem, as much as any other animals. I hope we can get past the obstruction, get more wolves released, and support this restoration effort. It is important.

  10. Michael McLaughlin

    Founder’s effects and the trend toward homozygosity inherent in tiny populations require that the maximum possible number of reintroductions be carried out ASAP.

    Additionally, for the entire history of the gray wolf’s existence in North america, Mexican and Mogollon wolves were genetically connected to Northern Rockies wolves, and reconnectivity must be established in habitat.

    While three states in particular (Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico have attempted to deny further aggressive release to save this increasingly endangered population, such biased antiwildlife efforts must be countered by all individuals , states, and federal government scientists and advocates for the environment.

  11. Michael McLaughlin

    My comment appears not to have been accepted.
    Severe effects resulting from the tiny number of founders and insufficient outbreeding WILL extinguish the present population of Mexican Wolves, unless aggressive reintroduction occurs ASAP.
    Founders’ effect establishes genetic characteristics without the necessary original variability.
    Continued genetic bottlenecking (due to failure to allow free population expansion (including the natural variability of the entire breeding stock now captive) further narrows genetic and phenotypic variation. These two problems alone will cause the population to diminish and disappear within a relatively small number of generations.
    Thus, connectivity with Norther Rockies wolves must be established in order to funnel in more alleles to assist in disease resistance and safety from inbreeding depression. This connectivity has ALWAYS existed, except for a short period in the latter 19th and twentieth centuries, and is a sine qua non of survival.

    No states or special interest groups can be allowed to impede the rescue of this subspecies from extinction.

  12. Ceanne alvine

    Agree with Michael McLaughlin and others on the need for genetic diversity.

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