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Center for Biological Diversity

Tucson group sues feds to speed up Mexican gray wolf reintroduction

A Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity sued the federal government Wednesday to speed reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.

The conservation group contends that officials have failed to respond to the group’s 2004 petition for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act on recommendations made by panel of scientists engaged by the government.

While the reintroduction program calls for a population of at least 100 in the species’ historic range, there are now an estimated 58 Mexican gray wolves in the forests of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.

In a news release, the group said the wolf population has grown by just three in the past eight years.

Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the center, said lack of population growth can compromise genetic diversity and result in smaller litter sizes and increased mortality among pups.

“The Mexican gray wolf remains on the brink of becoming extinct, and its genetic diversity is declining dangerously,” Robinson said.

Mexican gray wolves, native to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, were hunted to the brink of extinction and gained protection under the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s.

As part of the recovery program, the government began releasing captive-raised Mexican gray wolves were released into the wild in 1998.

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The group filed its lawsuit, naming Fish and Wildlife as well as the U.S. Interior Department, in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The lawsuit says federal officials have failed to respond to the center’s 2004 petition calling for Fish and Wildlife take action on three recommendations that a scientific panel made in a report prepared for the agency in 2001 after a three-year review.

The recommendations in question: allowing wolves to establish territories outside the designated recovery area; providing direct reintroduction of wolves into a secondary recovery zone; and requiring livestock operators to remove livestock carcasses that would attract wolves.

When Fish and Wildlife initially didn’t respond to the petition, the center filed suit in 2007. Robinson said the agency began working on the recommendations, including holding public meetings, but has done nothing since.

“It’s put the wolf population in terrible jeopardy,” he said.

A Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Albuquerque, N.M., said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment. An Interior Department spokesman in Washington said in an email that the department doesn’t comment on open litigation.

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1 comment on this story

Nov 30, 2012, 8:10 pm
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This is a typical example of bureaucratic red tape, stalling, and finger pointing.  While nothing gets done and the number of Mexican gray wolves in the wild continues to decrease.  It’s very simple to me: if Arizona and New Mexico can’t get things done, then USFWS needs to step in.  We have already lost one of the few breeding females with the capture of the Fox Mountain alpha female, a real travesty of justice that Wildlife “Services” still won’t release the facts on.  So far only one Mexican gray wolf, a female named Ernesta, is being prepared for release into the wild.  While the genetic pool continue to get weaker due to lack of diversity.  Dozens of wolves in breeding centers have been prepared and are ready to join their numbers.  Let the lobos go free before it’s too late.  Extinction is forever!

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife

A Mexican gray wolf at the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico in 2011.

Mexican gray wolf

  • Most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America.
  • Reintroduced in Arizona and New Mexico in 1998 through the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program.
  • At last count, 58 wolves were in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
  • Packs range from three to five wolves.
  • Average litter is four pups, with a 50 percent mortality rate.