The southwestern United States and northern Mexico are home to a spectacular diversity of landscapes and wildlife, including a very rare keystone predator struggling to regain its footing in its historic habitat: The Mexican gray wolf.
Also known as “el lobo,” the Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered wolf subspecies in the world. Essentially eradicated from the Southwest by the 1970s, Mexican gray wolves today number only 83 in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, the result of a captive-breeding and reintroduction program.
Because they sometimes prey on livestock, Mexican gray wolves are often killed or removed to protect against future losses. This approach to addressing conflict is one of the primary obstacles to successful wolf restoration in the Southwest. Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to ending the vicious cycle of livestock loss and predator removal that poses a barrier to the recovery of Mexican gray wolves.
Living with el lobo
In conjunction with the reintroduction of wolves in the Southwest, Defenders initiated a regional coexistence program focused on conflict prevention. We work closely with ranchers, federal, state and tribal agency biologists and resource managers, researchers and community and conservation groups to implement and cost-share nonlethal wolf deterrents and best management practices for livestock in wolf country. Tools and techniques such as increasing human presence among livestock, timed calving, range riders, use of alternate pastures, diversionary feeding and turbo-fladry (portable, electric fencing with flagging) are just a few of the approaches that have proven effective to keep both livestock and wolves safe. Because reservation lands are a vital link between where the wolves are now and where they need to be to recover fully, our work with the White Mountain Apache Tribe is especially important. To date, we have:
- Invested over $300,000 in more than 65 proactive wolf coexistence projects, successfully bridging the gap between conservation and ranching interests in the American Southwest and Northwest Mexico.
- Published Livestock and Wolves: A Guide to Nonlethal Tools and Methods to Reduce Conflicts, a how-to manual widely used by livestock producers and wolf managers throughout the American Southwest since 2008, and collaborated with the Mexican conservation group Naturalia on a 2011 spanish language edition for ranchers south of the border.
- Established a range-rider program in partnership with the White Mountain Apache Tribe that trains and equips tribal cowboys to watch over livestock and discourage wolves from getting too close.
- Placed “camera traps” in the wildest places on White Mountain reservation lands to learn more about Mexican gray wolves and their movements and offered cash rewards to tribal livestock associations for the images captured, providing a financial incentive for living with wolves on reservation lands.
- Served on the Mexican Wolf Livestock Coexistence Council, a stakeholder group of ranchers, conservationists, and state and federal government agencies, convened to create a long-term plan to support the recovery of Mexican gray wolves based on a program to increase tolerance for a growing wild wolf population and adopt non-lethal proactive measures to reduce wolf-livestock conflict (see www.coexistencecouncil.com ).