Four Mexican Wolves Returned to the Wild

Defenders Applauds Continued Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Effort

(03/15/1999) - Defenders of Wildlife today hailed the release of four Mexican wolves into the Arizona wilderness as a great step in ensuring the restoration of this critically endangered species. Today's release brings the total number of wild Mexican wolves to six.

"We applaud the perseverance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department in continuing the reintroduction effort," said Defenders President Rodger Schlickeisen. "Neither agency has caved in to attempts to sabotage this project, and that means good things for the Mexican wolves."

The four wolves, known as the Pipestem family group, were released today into the wild from the Turkey Creek Pen, located near Clifton, Arizona. The pack consists of an alpha male, an alpha female, and two pups born last year. The four had been in acclimation pens since January. Last spring, 11 captive-bred Mexican wolves were released into Apache National Forest in Arizona, marking the historic return of this species to the American Southwest. Mexican wolves had been missing from the wild for more than 17 years, because of relentless hunting, trapping, and poisoning. Within the first few weeks of release, the wolves established territories, killed prey, avoided livestock, and produced pups.

Despite the early success of the program, human intolerance once again threatened the wolves' survival. Last year, between March and November, five of the newly released wolves were shot to death, and two more were missing and are still presumed dead.

"Those early losses were a heartbreaking setback for all of us involved in this recovery effort," said Craig Miller, Defenders Southwest Representative. "Those wolves were doing exactly what they were supposed to, and the project was very successful. But a few individuals tried to do their best to ruin the whole thing." Miller continued, "It's encouraging to see that Fish and Wildlife Service officials and cooperating groups have made it clear that they will not tolerate further wolf killings, nor will they allow a few illegal attempts to sabotage the program to result in termination of recovery efforts."

Currently, in addition to the six wolves roaming the wild, 11 Mexican wolves are being held in acclimation pens in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. These 11 will be set free in late March or early April. Four more animals are being held at the Ladder Ranch and the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. These four may also be released later this spring.

"The Mexican wolves belong to all Americans and they are a part of our natural heritage," said Schlickeisen. "The agencies involved realize that, and they won't let a few individuals alter this recovery effort. We have every confidence that this wolf reintroduction program will end up being as biologically and economically successful as the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction."

Defenders of Wildlife maintains a $100,000 Wolf Compensation Trust. The trust reimburses ranchers, at fair market value, for any verified losses due to wolf predation. The trust encompasses all areas involved in the Mexican wolf reintroduction program.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270