New Report Highlights Wolves as Conservation Priority for Trump Administration

For Immediate Release:  Dec. 21, 2016

Contact: Catalina Tresky: (202) 772-0253 or ctresky@defenders.org

 

New Report Highlights Wolves as Conservation Priority for Trump Administration

WASHINGTON (Dec. 21, 2016) – The Endangered Species Coalition released its annual “Top 10” report today, which highlights the conservation status and actions needed to protect threatened and endangered plant and animal species around the world.

This year’s report, Removing the Walls to Recovery: Top 10 Species Priorities for a New Administration, profiles wolves, highlighting Mexican gray wolves and red wolves in particular. It also identifies important actions the next administration should take to protect, recover and preserve these iconic species.

The following are statements from Defenders of Wildlife and The Humane Society of the United States:

Nancy Gloman, vice president of field conservation programs for Defenders of Wildlife, said:

“We have reached a critical turning point for wolf recovery across the country. The fates of red wolves and Mexican gray wolves in particular hang in the balance. Wolves have helped revitalize and restore our ecosystems. Where there are healthy wolves, there are healthy landscapes. Will the Trump administration shoulder its moral obligation to preserve our valuable natural places and wildlife heritage for future generations to enjoy like we do? Will our children and grandchildren be able to hear the howl of wolves in the wild? Defenders of Wildlife knows where it stands. We need more wolves, less politics. We will continue to fight for the restoration, recovery and conservation of these iconic species in suitable habitat across the country no matter what.”

Wendy Keefover, native carnivore protection manager for the Humane Society of the United States, said:

“Federal protections should be maintained for gray wolves because they face so many threats to their ongoing recovery. Once delisted, wolves in the West and the Great Lakes region have been subjected to cruel and reckless trophy hunting, trapping, snaring, and even hounding by state management programs. Aggressive fear-mongering campaigns full of half-truths and lies seek to diminish the critical role that wolves play in a healthy, functioning ecosystem, but top biologists recognize how essential it is to restore gray wolf populations to their historic areas.”

Background:

Mexican gray wolves

Mexican gray wolves, or lobos, are the most endangered gray wolf in the world. At last count in February 2016, there were only 97 in the U.S. wild and fewer than 25 in Mexico, marking the first drop in the annual count for lobos in almost six years. Not only are the lobos in the wild facing a population deficit, they are also facing a genetic crisis. There are clear repercussions of low genetic diversity in the wild: smaller litters and lower pup survival. The lobo’s race against extinction became even more complicated in the spring: The state of New Mexico filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for releasing two cross-fostered pups into the wild. Defenders has intervened on this case. As part of this lawsuit, a federal judge granted the state of New Mexico a preliminary injunction, halting crucial wolf releases into the wild. A hearing on the preliminary injunction will be heard in January 2017.

Red wolves

Red wolves once ranged across the Southeast from Texas south to Florida and as far north as Pennsylvania. Due to habitat loss and extermination by humans, red wolves were reduced to a handful of individuals by the 1970s. The captive breeding program for red wolves established in the 1980s was successful and became a model for wolf recovery in the United States, with nearly 150 red wolves in the wild by 2005. But just as red wolves began to thrive, coyotes, which are not native to the East, swept into the area. Coyote hunters have shot red wolves in a tragic case of mistaken identity. At the same time, FWS has been pulling back on conservation efforts for the wolf with catastrophic results. Defenders of Wildlife joined the Red Wolf Recovery Team, convened by the FWS, in 2015. But with no progress and the possibility of terminating the program on the table as an option, Defenders resigned from the team in early 2016. On Oct. 18, 2016 the scientific experts who drafted the Population Viability Analysis (PVA) for the red wolf, which the USFWS cited as the rationale behind its recent proposal to take red wolves from the wild and place them in captivity, sent a rebuttal to the agency, saying “the September 12th decision on the future of the Red Wolf Recovery Program included many alarming misinterpretations of the PVA as justification for the final decision.”

Endangered Species Coalition Report

The Endangered Species Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Coalition member groups nominated wildlife species for the report. Then a committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations and decided which species should be included in the final report. Past reports are available here.

In addition to wolves, species included in this year’s report include sage-grouse, jaguar, Snake River Chinook salmon, the Joshua tree, Hawaii’s yellow-faced bee, the African elephant, the bald cypress tree and vaquita, a small endangered Mexican porpoise.  

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.