Southwest Wolf Reintroduction Give Another Chance

Defenders Applauds Decision to Translocate Mexican Wolves

(03/21/2000) - Defenders of Wildlife today hailed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision to move previously released Mexican wolves into the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. Defenders had supported the proposal to translocate the endangered animals in an effort to minimize conflict with humans and livestock.

“We’re very pleased that this reasonable decision has been made," said Craig Miller, Defenders Southwest representative. “Placing wolves in the remote Gila Wilderness will reduce conflicts, killing and overall program costs and will increase the wolves' chances for success. It is clearly the best course of action."

A soft mesh, low-impact temporary wolf acclimation pen will be placed today in the Gila Wilderness by FWS. One family group of wolves will be moved into the pen on Wednesday and may be held there for up to 30 days. Upon release into the wilderness, the wolves will be monitored by an interagency field team. A second family group will be translocated into the Gila in late March.

The two family groups being moved, the Mule and Pipestem Packs, were recaptured in 1999 and early 2000 near their original release site in the Blue Range in Arizona. Miller believes that because both groups have pregnant females, their chances of remaining near the new release site in the Gila are great, promising a bright future for the wolves.

“The denning instinct may help in acclimating them to their new home," said Miller. “They’ll be released in an extremely remote area, far from roads and thus free from easy human access. If people can’t get to them, these animals will be left alone to do what wild wolves do without interfering with any human interests."

Recent public hearings in New Mexico and Arizona offered opportunities for local citizens and interested parties to comment on the translocation proposal. The hearings were attended by more than 850 people, and electronic comments also were solicited.

Originally reintroduced in the Apache National Forest in 1998, the Mexican wolf, or El Lobo, was missing from the wild for more than 17 years. Having been hunted and slaughtered indiscriminately for years, the wolf was saved from extinction by a captive- breeding program in the United States and Mexico. Currently, only seven Mexican wolves remain in the wild, and fewer than 200 are in captivity. Early reintroduction efforts suffered setbacks, including the shooting and killing of five animals close to roads near the Arizona - New Mexico border.

“The Gila Wilderness is a vast, remote region that will serve the Mexican wolves well," said Miller. “The Gila was our nation’s first officially designated wilderness area, so it’s fitting that it will now help to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy true wilderness with a full complement of species."



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270