The Mexican gray wolf could get stronger protection, environmentalists say, due to a federal decision to consider classifying it as an endangered species on its own.he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday it will consider whether to list the Mexican wolf separately rather than continue lumping it with other federally protected wolf species in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes.
Any decision to do so would be separate and probably about a year away.
The Mexican wolf population in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, where they were reintroduced in 1999, was 42 at the end of 2009, down 10 from 2008. Three wolves were shot and killed there this summer.
The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and the Wild Earth Guardians petitioned the wildlife service for separate protection for the Mexican wolf, hoping to push the agency into updating a 28-year-old wolf recovery plan.
Wild Earth Guardians also hopes a listing would lead to protection of the wolf’s prime habitat, said Nicole Rosmarino, its director of wildlife programs.
“We want to make sure there is completion of this key roadmap of how to rescue the Mexican wolf from the blink of oblivion and recover it,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Michael Robinson. “It’s a bureaucratic process but it is a key step with very meaningful results on the ground.”
But instead of more regulation, cattlegrowers need the wildlife service to sit at the table with them, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and other interested parties to insure that the wolf reintroduction program works, said Patrick Bray, vice president of the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association.
Formal Endangered Species Act protection would make it “very difficult to continue to maintain working landscapes on federal and private land,” Bray said.
But Tom Buckley, a wildlife service spokesman, said he doesn’t expect there would be a lot of additional regulation.
He also said the service will update the recovery plan regardless of how the listing case turns out. A recovery team should be named by October, he said.
Contact reporter Tony Davis at [email protected] or 806-7746.
The Mexican gray wolf is a critically endangered, native species that once numbered in the thousands of animals throughout southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, western Texas and northern Mexico. Its restoration is an opportunity to bring a natural balance and fully functioning ecosystem back to the wild lands of the Southwest.
Read on to learn more about the lives of Mexican gray wolves, their tragic history and near-extinction, their role as a top-of-the-food-chain carnivore and their present constricted range.
Elke Duerr and “Stories of Wolves: The Lobo Returns” From the Albuquerque Journal 7/15/10
CALL OF THE LOBO
When Elke Duerr was growing up on an organic farm in Germany, she went for a walk with her grandfather. Duerr, now an educator and independent filmmaker living in Albuquerque, was about 6 years old on that day in Bavaria.
As she and her grandfather strolled through their little patch of forest, he proudly told her that the wood was called “The Wolf Trap.”“I said, ‘Why is it called the wolf trap? We don’t have any more wolves,’ ” Duerr said. “He said, ‘Oh, this is where our ancestors killed the very last wolf, so that you and I could be safe.’ And he looked it me like, aren’t you glad?“I didn’t really process what was going on until later, but I got really mad, and I said to him, ‘How dare they have done that, because now I will never meet them! They have taken something away. And I said to him, ‘I’ll bring them back!’ “Bringing back the wolf — not in Germany, but in her adopted home of New Mexico — is Duerr’s raison d’Atre. She is at work on a film, “Stories of Wolves: The Lobo Returns,” that she hopes to release early next year.Duerr’s film will focus on the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, which has been a roller coaster of success and failure since it was spawned by the 1973 Endangered Species Act.It has generated great controversy since wolves were first released in 1998. To this day, in parts of southwestern New Mexico, tensions between conservationists who would see wolves flourish again and ranchers seeking to protect their livestock remain high.But Duerr isn’t getting too involved in the politics. For her, it’s all about the lobos.“I’m interested in solutions,” she said. “We have blamed each other a lot, we’ve pointed fingers a lot, and that needs to change, because that doesn’t help the cause at all.”Duerr teaches part time in the Los Lunas public schools as well as working on her film project, which includes educational outreach on wolves. She received her degree in Munich, which at the time was Germany’s film capital. Many of her friends were making movies, she said, and she got involved and discovered a new avocation.“I decided to really learn as much as I can because I felt like my calling now was more in that area, because of the environmental concerns that are piling up,” she said.Wolves may be her passion, but her ultimate goal is more far reaching, she said:“I realize that we are very disconnected from nature these days. That’s why we are doing the things we are doing. That’s why I’m doing all the educational outreach that I can. It’s not just about the wolves.“I started with the wolves because they’re the most endangered mammal in all of North America, our Mexican gray wolves, and they’re in our backyard. So we can have a personal connection to that animal; it’s not thousands of miles away. But ultimately it’s about us and our relationship to nature.”Although wolves once held an exalted place in some ancient cultures, the creatures have for centuries been demonized in popular mythology — see Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood — and hunted to near extinction around the world.Wolves are predators, and often still are portrayed as a danger to man. But Duerr said her research has not revealed a case of a healthy wolf attacking a human.Conversely, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2009 that cattle kill on average about 20 people a year, mostly their caretakers.But because wolves do kill livestock, some ranchers — whose animals often graze on public lands — see them as a threat to their livelihood and have vehemently opposed the reintroduction program. Wolves have been killed, trapped and relocated. Though numbers have fluctuated, there are 41 known Mexican gray wolves (after the recent shooting of an alpha male) in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area on the New Mexico-Arizona border.Duerr said her film, while advocating for wolves, will present all sides of the controversy and will include the positions of ranchers and hunters. She will examine views of wolves through various cultures: European, Mexican and particularly Native American.“The Native American cultures say the wolf is our teacher,” she said. “Brother wolf: because we learned from him how to raise a family and how to hunt. They are so much like us. …“Every time I want to write ‘lobo,’ I always write ‘love.’ That’s the underlying thing. The more love there is for nature, and all of her creatures, and the web of life, and the more connected we are, the more they will stay, and the healthier we’ll all be for it.”The experience was life changing for Seton, who became a well-known naturalist and writer and told the story — some say in highly romanticized form — in his 1898 book “Wild Animals I Have Known.” Seton became a pivotal figure in the founding of the Boy Scouts of America and later joined the Santa Fe literary and artistic circle that included Georgia O’Keeffe, Raymond Jonson and others.An excellent documentary on Seton and Lobo, “The Wolf That Changed America,” aired on PBS in 2008; it’s available online at http://tinyurl. com/2uhdhlo