'Three Strikes Rule' Out, Wolf Numbers Rise in Southwest
by Heidi Ridgley
© Tom and Pat Leeson (captive)
Hope is on the horizon for Mexican wolves in the American Southwest. Los lobos numbers grew for the first time in four years—from 42 to at least 50, including two breeding pairs—according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) annual January tally. That’s a 20 percent increase.
Their struggle is far from over though. In fact, these numbers are still below the historic high of 59 in 2006. But the uptick signals that changes to the wolf-management policy last year, which included an end to excessive wolf removal and the return of federal oversight, could mean the tide is finally turning for the beleaguered species.
Requiem for a Wolf
Defenders sued FWS in 2008 to end the harmful three-strikes-and-the-wolf-is-out rule, which required that any wolf that killed or may have killed three livestock in a year had to be killed or returned to captivity. That was true even if it happened on the 97 percent of wolf range that is on public forest land and despite the fact that wolf kills account for less than 1 percent of cattle deaths each year.