August 19, 2007
The shooting of an endangered Mexican gray wolf on July 5 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service occurred despite the warnings of scientists concerned about the fate of the wolf recovery program and the genetic makeup of the species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The scientists were ignored, and over the objections of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, a federal agent killed a female wolf with pups, reported CBD. The incident provoked a strong reaction from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who initiated a criminal investigation and called on the federal government to suspend its wolf-killing policy pending reform.
The latest wolf casualty added to a growing number of declining wolves in New Mexico. In addition to the 11 wolves shot by government agents since 2003, 20 have died due to accidents in the agency’s recapture program, said CBD. Another 22 wolves survived capture but have been permanently removed from the wild. Since its inception in 1998, the USFWS program has killed or permanently removed 53 wolves, equalling the total number of Mexican gray wolves remaining in the wild (as of July 2007): 55.
“The greatest threat to the Mexican gray wolf today is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Michael Robinson of the CBD. ” … No wolves were shot by government agents until 2003; killings escalated to five in 2006 and are already at three this year. 2007 is on a trajectory to become another record killing year.”
On June 28, 2007, nine scientists, including retired USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David Parsons, complained to the USFWS that the recovery program missed its goal of 102 wolves by nearly 50 percent. They blamed the failure on the high level of killing and removal by federal agents: “For the past four years growth of the [Mexican gray] wolf population has been limited by management-related killing or permanent removal of wolves.”
Other scientists included Dr. Phil Hedrick, member of the Mexican gray wolf recovery team, and Dr. Paul Paquet of the University of Calgary, lead author of the government-authorized Mexican Wolf Three-Year Review.
They said that the government has killed or removed some of the most genetically important wolves, including the killing of the “genetically irreplaceable” Saddle Pack alpha male in 2004 and recent removal of the alpha pair of the Saddle Pack and their seven pups, according to CBD.
They “… urge[d] the USFWS to take immediate actions that will result in at least a 15% annual growth rate of the wild population until the objective of at least 100 wolves is met and to expedite management actions necessary to protect and maximize the genetic diversity of the wild population …” and to expedite a rule change that will meet the “conservation” mandate of the Endangered Species Act, said CBD.
Similar points were made on June 10, 2006 by the almost 600 attendees of the annual meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists, said CBD. The society unanimously passed a resolution calling on the USFWS “… to suspend all predator control directed at Mexican gray wolves at least until the interim 100-wolf goal of the current reintroduction program has been achieved.”
Source: Center for Biological Diversity.