Four Mexican Wolves Reintroduced in American Southwest Today

Wolf Reward Up to $50,000

(12/11/1998) - Defenders of Wildlife today applauded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for reintroducing four Mexican wolves in the remote Apache National Forest along the Arizona - New Mexico border today. The two pairs of wolves were released this morning on the Arizona side of the border in hopes of bolstering the reintroduction program that began in January.

"Given the recent setbacks, we are encouraged that the Service has chosen to bolster the Mexican wolf reintroduction program," said Craig Miller, Defenders Southwest Representative. "This reinforces that we're not going to allow one or a few unlawful citizens to dictate the success or failure of this program."

The release today marks the second return of the Mexican wolf to the wild in the last 10 months. In January, eleven Mexican wolves were put into acclimation pens in the Apache National Forest near Alpine, Arizona. In March, they were released into the forest, returning the Mexican wolf to the wild for the first time in more than 17 years. In recent months, several of the wolves have been illegally shot, two are missing and presumed dead, and the rest have been recaptured.

Defenders of Wildlife and a coalition of conservation organizations and private individuals are contributing to the current reward offered by the FWS for a total of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone illegally killing a Mexican wolf or transporting Mexican wolf hides or parts. Anyone with information about the recent shootings should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 602-835-8289 or 505-346-7828.

"The shootings have been extremely frustrating because we've done all we can to ensure a smooth transition with this program," says Miller. "There have been the least possible federal restrictions applied, and Defenders has continued its Wolf Compensation Trust to allay the financial concerns of ranchers and has created Wolf Country Beef to provide ranchers with a financial incentive to support the program."

Defenders maintains its $100,000 Wolf Compensation Trust to pay ranchers at fair market value for any verified losses due to wolves. The Wolf Country Beef labeling program certifies that the beef has been raised on ranches that allow and support wolf recovery on the ranch property. Wolf Country Beef will soon be available in grocery stores throughout New Mexico and Arizona.

"We're very hopeful that today's reintroduction effort will pick up where the last one left off," said Miller. "The wolves were doing what they're supposed to be doing; hunting successfully and staying away from livestock. I'm sure that this trend will continue as long as the animals are given a chance to survive and are not shot."

Federal law presence has been increased with this latest release in an attempt to keep these animals alive. Four more family groups of Mexican wolves are set to be released within the next few months in the region.

"It's important to note that whoever is shooting the wolves is only creating more problems for the program and for the community," notes Miller. "Shooting a Mexican wolf only intensifies scrutiny on the surrounding community and wastes taxpayers' money and taxpayers' resources. It will not, however, destroy the program."

The Mexican wolf, commonly referred to as El Lobo, has been missing from the wild for more than 17 years. Having been slaughtered to the brink of extinction, the last-known wild Mexican wolf was shot near Alpine, Texas in 1970. Through captive breeding programs, the population of Mexican wolves has been brought back to approximately 200 animals in, all in captivity except for the four released this morning. The Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan approved in 1982 details the current recovery goal of the establishment of a viable, self-sustaining wild population of at least 100 animals in the Blue Range area of Arizona and New Mexico, with a population of 240 wolves in captivity.



Ken Goldman, 202-682-9400 x221 (Media)