A wildlife rehabilitation center’s offer to give shelter to a Mexican gray wolf leading a pack in New Mexico that has been preying on cattle this month convinced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take back an order to have the wolf killed.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has for years been releasing Mexican gray wolves into an area near Alpine, in attempt to re-establish wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico.
But federal authorities authorized the killing of the female head of the Fox Mountain Pack in New Mexico after her pack allegedly killed four cows.
However, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale offered to instead provide the wolf with a permanent home. The center already houses 15 Mexican wolves as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s captive breeding program.
“We are very pleased that the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center stepped forward to assist with the care of this wolf,” said Sherry Barrett, Mexican Wolf Recovery Program coordinator. “This is a perfect example of the importance of public/private partnerships in the recovery of endangered species. Because of their history with the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, we know that the alpha female will be well cared for in this facility.”
The Conservation Center recently received a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to build additional holding facilities for Mexican wolves at their site. These new wolf pens will be up and available by October 2012, but the Center will house the female wolf in an existing pen until completion of the new facilities. Additionally, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center has offered to pay the costs of capturing and caring for this female.
Federal officials confirmed that the Fox Mountain wolves have killed four cows in the past four months, all of them outside the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area and three of the killings were on private lands.
The USFWS categorized the wolves as a “non-essential” population when setting up the reintroduction program. That allows for the killing of wolves who stray outside the recovery area or that prey on livestock. Most wolves prey on elk and deer, but sometimes focus on cattle.
The USFWS has implemented several non-lethal methods to deter the depredations by the Fox Mountain Pack, including hazing, employing range riders, and diversionary feeding of the wolves. In addition, the livestock producer moved his cattle out of the immediate area of the denning wolves. Despite these efforts, the killings continued.
The USFWS determined the Fox Mountain pups could survive without the alpha female, since her mate and a year-old wolf would remain. Also, because the alpha male and alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack are first cousins, removing her to captivity will enable the alpha male to pair with another female that is more genetically suitable. Several sub adult wolves in nearby packs could prove suitable mates. Peak dispersal from packs occurs later in the fall and winter months.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has appointed an 11-member Interdiction Stakeholder Council, which consists of ranchers, tribes, county coalitions and environmental groups. This council has recently developed a coexistence plan, which, when implemented, will provide financial incentives for livestock producers to host wolves on their grazing allotments and private lands.