Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Shooting Threatens Species Recovery Efforts

More Mexican wolf rhetoric based on a blatantly false AP article initiated by a Defenders of Wildlife press release.

http://www.care2.com/causes/endangered-mexican-gray-wolf-shooting-threatens-species-recovery-efforts.html#ixzz2a4PP2o00

Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Shooting Threatens Species Recovery Efforts
• by Alicia Graef
• July 24, 2013
• 1:00 pm

Mexican gray wolf recovery efforts received yet another blow when an alpha female, known as F1108, was shot and killed. She was mothering pups, who are also sadly presumed dead, reports the LA Times.
So far, federal and state officials aren’t saying much about it, other than that they are investigating.
This tragedy has raised even more concerns about recovery efforts and the Mexican gray wolf’s ability to survive with so few left in the wild. With an estimated 75 in the wild, with only two breeding pairs, F1108 and her pups had raised hopes for the species. With her death and news of her mate, M1133, being recaptured for wandering outside the recovery boundary in New Mexico, things are once again looking bleak. This also means that there have been no successful releases of Mexican gray wolves this year.
Mexican gray wolves were once abundant in vast portions of the Southwest and Mexico, but were eradicated by the 1900s. In 1976 they were listed as an endangered species, and bi-national recovery efforts began. Yet despite starting the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan in 1982, there are still few in the wild. Those few remain vulnerable to a host problems ranging from a lack of genetic diversity, diseases and natural disasters to being killed by humans; at least 50 illegal killings have been documented since reintroduction efforts began in 1998.
Since the first 11 Mexican gray wolves were released that year in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in Arizona, work on a full recovery plan has been delayed again and again while their presence in the wild has been continuously opposed by ranchers who don’t want to see them return, despite being compensated through public and private funds for any losses they incur as a result of predation.
Meanwhile, the species’ struggles have continued. The population was expected to be more than 100 by 2006, but it has still not reached that number, and 15 years later the recovery plan still isn’t finished. Combine that with incidents like the latest shooting of a female with pups, continued efforts to eradicate them entirely, killings by federal employees, attempts to kill the recovery program, legalized trapping in wolf recovery areas, years between releases, and questionable releases and recaptures, and it starts to feel like it may be decades longer before they have a solid foothold.
Now, while Mexican gray wolves may receive special protection under the Endangered Species Act as an endangered subspecies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed rules concerning them that have their advocates concerned, despite plans to delist gray wolves in the lower 48.
The proposal includes allowing direct releases of wolves in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, which has been hoped for, but it will also designate existing wolves as an “experimental, non-essential” population. Under the FWS’ logic, even if those in the wild completely disappear, it won’t hamper recovery efforts; but wolf advocates disagree.
According to Mexicanwolves.org, there were only 11 wolves in the wild when they were originally declared nonessential; if something had happened to them, it may not have been the end. But now there are up to four generations who have experience establishing packs and raising pups and with such a small gene pool to work with, protecting the ones who are already surviving is vital to their recovery.
The rule also prevents wolves from expanding their habitat into suitable areas in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. Currently, any wolves who leave the recovery area are recaptured and put back. Not only does this stop them from establishing new territories and moving between populations, but captures can be traumatic and end in death.
Advocates also argue that a full recovery plan needs to be finished before any new decisions or proposed rules are set in place; 1982′s recovery plan just isn’t going to cut it.
According to Nancy Gloman, Vice President of Field Conservation for Defenders of Wildlife:
If the Mexican gray wolf is to have any chance at survival, the Fish and Wildlife Service must ramp up recovery efforts with a comprehensive plan that includes the release of many more wolves into the wild, and affords those that are released with protection outside of arbitrary lines on a map. Without being allowed to disperse, the wolves cannot establish the numbers and new populations necessary to win the fight against extinction.
The FWS is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until September 11, 2013.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/endangered-mexican-gray-wolf-shooting-threatens-species-recovery-efforts.html#ixzz2a4ZgLe2d

Categories: Endangered Species, Wolves | Leave a comment

Habituated Mexican Grey Wolves Threaten Hikers and Hunters – Luna Wolf pack at it again

Another posting from WolfCrossing.org showing how dangerious these habituated Mexican gray wolves are. The environMental extreme claim the wolves are not dangerous and will run away. Another unsafe wolf encounter. When will the public be told the truth instead of the Disney G rated version of wolves. Wolves are dangerous predators. Habituated wolves are even more dangerous.

This is the same Luna wolf pack noted for encircling a boy a little less than a year ago.

On Monday night November 5th at 10:00 PM our deer hunting camp on the West Fork of the Gila River, was terrorized by a pack of wolves estimated to be 4 to 6 in number. They came right into our camp howling right between our hunters tent and the cook tent and then just on the other side of the guide’s tent. We had our horses and mules high lined at the camp and when we started hearing the wolves growl right next to the horses, we got up and tried to run them out. We walked down to the end of the highlines, with several thousands of dollars worth of horse and mule fllesh tied up and it probably looked like a smorgage board or shish kabob to the wolves, and it became quiet for a little while. We went back to the tent, and then the wolves moved back in and started howling again.

My son Brian went back down to protect the animals by getting between them and the wolves, and then the wolves really set up a racket of a combination of howling, yap barking, growling and snapping their teeth. They were really intimidated by him being there. It sounded like 4 to 6 wolves and my son held his ground in the pitch black of night and had to stay there for probably 30 minutes before he was satisfied they had maybe left. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep the rest of the night. Brian said it litterally scared the hell out of him!

Our three hunters from the San Antonio, TX area were really scared, so much so they stayed real quiet through the whole ordeal in fear that the wolves might hear them and come to their tent, which is where the first howls came from. They literally can not believe what the Government is doing to the people here by putting the wolves back. The old timers got rid of them for good reason.
Over the last several years we have had wolves howling out side of our camp but never had them come right through camp and absolutely have no fear of humans or human scent. They acted very aggressive and especially so when my son confronted them the last time. They really became excited. These wolves are absolutely a danger to humans and livestock as they seemed to not even care about human scent like most wild animals.

We think Nick Smith used to camp where we were camped, when he was packing elk meat and dog food in a few years ago to feed the wolves. We had heard the wolfer airplane circling in the TurkeyFeather Mountain area earlier that day and the tracks confirmed they had come up out of Cooper Canyon and Iron Creek on the trail and over Turkey Feather Pass and down to the West Fork of the Gila and returned out the same way. There were wolf tracks on the trail for about 5 miles.

When we came out yesterday on Thursday November 8th, we met a group of male back packers who were camped on the confluence of Cooper Canyon and Iron Creek and they related a story to my hunters who were on the back of our packstring, and I didn’t get to talk to, as I had passed by them, or I would have gotten a name and info from them. They said that on Wednesday evening that they were above camp gathering firewood when they noticed movement and the saw the wolves and evidently the wolves made a move toward them and they ran back to camp and one of them climbed up in a tree and waited until the wolves left. They were terrified!

Categories: Endangered Species, Federal Regulatory Policy, Uncategorized, Wolves | Leave a comment

“It’s all part of learning to live with wolves,”

1250 words

“It’s all part of learning to live with wolves,” said Brian Kelly, coordinator of the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction project, headquartered in Albuquerque New Mexico. “We agonized over the decision,” he said. Referring to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services refusal to remove wolves preying on cattle in southwestern New Mexico.
The statement was typical of a bureaucrat that knew he had nothing to worry about, though they were in violation the Mexican Wolf Environmental Impact Statement. The aforementioned EIS, clearly states, “The FWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) will permanently remove or at a last resort, euthanize any wolf exhibiting a consistent pattern of livestock depredation.”
The Mexican wolf project has been conducting its three-year review the past several months analyzing the progress made by the reintroduction. Paul C. Pacquet of the University of Calgary Canada, John A. Vucetich of Michigan Technological University and Mike Phillips of the Turner Endangered Species Fund made up the three-man team. No southwestern wildlife biologist was on the team though there was room for three more. A situation that leads Southwest Ranchers to believe the review process always had a predetermined outcome.
Ranchers won’t have much impact on the planning process, though they will be invited to give feedback at local meetings throughout the summer. Having gone this route before they feel they will be given little credibility by the USFWS. So called, stakeholders, in the reintroduction will meet in Albuquerque at the end of the summer while ranchers are out protecting cattle from wolves.
May 11 Arizona Game and Fish Region 1 Supervisor, Richard Remington gave a presentation on the review teams draft report to the Arizona Game Commission in Safford Arizona. Mr. Remington focused on what he called wolf days. The total of days each wolf was actually on the ground in the wild. The only focus on a specific problem facing the program was the number of wolf shootings and removals that have taken place since 1998. In fact, out of the nine criteria studied, and supposedly addressed in the review, four were categorized as simply not having enough data.
Issues not addressed in the presentation include inadequate depredation confirmations. Missing calves when wolves are in a calving pasture are never confirmed as kills. Wolves are leaving the wild and ending up in town, picnic areas. Wolves harassing hunters in camps, where at least one shooting took place. Three wolves killed by cars on highways. In one incident, a family of wolves attacked a man on horseback.
Reproduction was one of the disregarded criteria. The inability of the wolves to attain breeding condition in the wild, and the failure of the wolves to bear live pups in dens in the wild was not addressed in the report. Out of about 25 pregnancies listed in USFWS Notes From The Field, from 1998 until the spring of 2000, only one pup was actually documented as bred, born and survived to a year old in the wild. Several litters released into the wild with their parents had poor survival rates or had to be removed for various reasons. Nearly, all the breeding females conceived while being fed by the USFWS.
Dennis Manning, head of the Arizona Game commission, questioned the birth and pup survival rates. He did not get an answer. Mortality figures in the presentation did not include pup mortality or lost pregnancies.
It is clear that the Mexican Wolf project is counting on the 2001 breeding season to legitimize continuation of the program. What’s not clear are the reasons for the inconsistency in data supplied to the review team and the information that is provided to the public?
The Arizona Game commission was preparing to vote on whether to continue their participation in the project and expected the results of the review to be laid out before them in a concise manner. What they got was a chocolate coated, presentation that focused solely on the FWS wish to increase the scope of the project.
If the USFWS get that wish, there will be direct releases of wolves all the way from central New Mexico to the Mexican border and from Eastern AZ into west Texas. Every 200-mile radius in this area will have a wolf pack by the time new project goals are met. There are a lot of campgrounds and ranches to police in these areas, an impossible task and the USFWS knows it.
Is the project actually failing? One member of the Arizona Game Commission went so far as to tell the Fish and Wildlife Service it looked as if the numbers were only meeting the three year review level because they dumped so many wolves off tailgates in the six months prior to the review.
At least 10 wolves were hard released, meaning kicked off tailgates with elk hindquarters, in that time. Those releases brought the number of wolves in the wild up to between 25 and 31 wolves. The number is not exact, the agency seems to have no idea how many wolves are actually out there.
The shabby data provided in the presentation led the AZ Commission to delay a decision to remain in the Mexican wolf reintroduction. They demanded the FWS provide more detailed information meet certain guidelines if AZ is to remain supportive in the reintroduction. Guidelines that Environmentalists feel are too stringent for the agency to comply with. Among them are, *FWS must provide cost analysis of the project to date. *Assurance the AZ Game and Fish Department will not be liable for any claims made against the wolf program for wolf damage. *The USFWS cease releasing wolves in the crowded, primary recovery zone in Arizona. *All future stakeholder meetings beheld in areas where those that are living with wolves can be involved. Along with this request came the request that all grazing allotment owners living in potential wolf territory be given full participation in planning processes.
Environmental leaders were not happy with these requests. Because the AZ. Game Commission questioned the Fish and Wildlife on their handling of the review data and their management methods, several people in the audience threatened the commission. Succumbing to a mob rule mentality, environmentalists feel that as long as they can bus enough people in to cheer for the project, it will negate any problems encountered by it.
Learning to live with wolves’ can mean many things. If you are actually living with wolves, you must live with being called a liar for exposing the misinformation put out for public consumption when it is incomplete or not factual.
Ranchers must learn to give up most of their calf crop without dumping any extra stress on their families. They must learn to politely settle for compensation for the few calf carcasses that can be recovered each spring. They must learn not to wake up in a panic at night every time their cow dogs begin to howl and bark.
The wolves Brian Kelly agonized over removing and ultimately chose not to, have graduated from killing baby calves and moved on to grown cows, killing three in two weeks. Two were giving birth when they were eaten alive. The animals ultimately had to be recaptured by helicopter since trapping methods were no longer effective.
When an urban dog is wantonly killed or private property is destroyed in town. Citizens have access to the police and the judicial system. Ranchers and others encountering wolves must display nothing but mild disappointment at their loss of livelihood, privacy and relative safety for their children.

Categories: Endangered Species, Federal Regulatory Policy, Uncategorized, Wolves | Leave a comment

Howling Mad Since wolves were reintroduced, some eastern Arizona ranchers claim the animals have destroyed their lives.

Tucson Citizen
by Leo W. Banks

Dean Warren has a story to tell about how Mexican Gray wolves stole one of the best parts of his life.

He was on horseback on a mountain trail south of Rose Peak, in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, when four wolves attacked him and his six blue tick hounds, setting off a ferocious struggle.

“Picture 10 animals in a dogfight under your horse, and you know what I’m talking about,” says Warren, then a rancher and range deputy for the Greenlee County Sheriff’s Office.

“I’m being attacked by wolves!” he hollered into his police radio. “I need help!”

He yelled and fired shots into the air, but the wolves kept coming. The desperate brawl lasted two hours. Warren’s fighting retreat brought him to Sawmill Cabin, where he closed himself inside a barn, the animals pacing and howling outside.

Something–probably the arrival of rescuers–caused them to quit, and Warren, 62 years old at the time and a crack outdoorsman, headed home, considering himself lucky. If his horse hadn’t been accustomed to dogs, he says he could’ve been thrown to the ground and injured or killed.

But the funny part, the tragic part, the unbelievable part, is the idea of a cowboy, alone, in a death struggle with vicious animals–and what’s running through his mind, apart from not turning into wolf kibble?

Lawyers.

“I definitely felt threatened, but I knew that if I shot those wolves, I could pay a huge fine and maybe get years in jail,” says Warren. “Hiring a lawyer would break me. I don’t have that kind of money in my hip pocket.”

Welcome to the government’s version of the Wild West.

THE FIRST MEXICAN GRAYS put paws back on Southwestern soil in 1998 under a program headed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, around 40 of them roam throughout and often beyond a roughly 5,000-square-mile area of eastern Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and western New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness.

That number is expected to reach 100 in seven years, when the project will be deemed successful–the wolves a self-reproducing fixture.

Public support for the program has always been high, especially for those viewing it from a distance. But for many who actually live with the wolves, their view of the animals ranges from public nuisances on up to four-legged terrorists.

Warren’s fight happened three years ago, and the news traveled quickly along the straw-hat grapevine. The facts put a chill in everybody’s day, especially the part about one wolf jumping up to put its paws on the horse’s flanks, snapping and growling.

“That scared all of us,” says Dan Groebner, supervisor of Arizona Game and Fish’s wolf field team. “Wolves aren’t supposed to behave that way.”

Dramatic as they were, the details never traveled far beyond ranch country, and probably wouldn’t have been heard if they did. For city environmentalists, the thought of the lobo howling in the wild again–the deep emotion of that concept, the romantic resonance of it–has the power to deafen, even though most probably couldn’t distinguish a wolf call from Sting.

But those scratching out a hardscrabble existence in the wolf recovery area hear a different song–and for some, it sounds like a funeral dirge for a way of life.

“The wolves ate me out of house and home, and I had to quit the cattle business,” says Harold Filleman, patriarch of an eastern Arizona ranching family. “It wasn’t profitable anymore. The only thing we could figure was to pull out and wait until the government stops funding these wolves.”

Like Warren, Filleman lived on Eagle Creek, 30 miles above Clifton. For residents there, and others to the north and east, the wolf program’s troubles–and the sometimes bitter feelings that have resulted–come into sharp view.

The creek meanders along the bottom of a rolling prairie on the edge of the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Those who live in this beautiful country speak of it as a kind of paradise, remote, silent and wild.

But paradise has taken hit over the wolf issue. It caused a nasty divide among ranchers, with only one family, Jan and Will Holder, enthusiastically supporting reintroduction. That stand got the couple ostracized by longtime friends.

“Some neighbors wouldn’t talk to us for going over the wolf side,” says Holder. It got so bad that Jan, who runs a natural beef company in nearby Safford, worried that Will “might even get shot out there.” Will volunteers as a wolf guardian with Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit group.

Once on the ground, the wolves did their part to rattle nerves even more. Shortly after their release, they staked out Scott Dieringer’s ranch, about 8 miles above the Creek.

Gary Bowen, who helped Dieringer through the ordeal, said the wolves “created constant turmoil” and behaved so aggressively that if either Scott or his wife went to town, the other had to stay home to keep the animals from attacking their stock and dogs.

Once, in April 1999, the Dieringers looked out their living room window and saw three wolves in their front yard, one entering his corral. Dieringer went outside with a rifle, and after the animals attacked his dog, he fired shots into the air to scare them off.

“The wolves just stood and looked at me,” wrote Dieringer, in a letter to the Eastern Arizona Courier. He threw rocks, but they dodged them. After the wolves chased Dieringer back to his house, he and his wife jumped into their truck and left to get help.

Dieringer didn’t get to see his grandchildren at Easter that year because the ranch was too dangerous to visit. In his letter, Dieringer explained why he’d decided to pack up and leave: “We fear for ourselves, our dogs and our livestock, and feel we have no way to defend ourselves.”

Some in the area say they live with bouts of stress and sleeplessness, wondering if that sound they heard in the night might be a wolf looking for a snack.

Retiree Ed Fitch found a wolf chasing his baby foal and her mother, penned up beside his barn. He ran the wolf off, but not before it forced the foal into a fence, badly cutting her face.

A wolf chased Ed’s wife, Edie, down a hill near their home, and the Fitches say that when they walk their dogs at night, they carry a gun just in case.

THE ELY FAMILY, OF THE 4 Drag Ranch, have just emerged from a hellish period last year, during which an unusually aggressive wolf pack targeted their cattle.

Clifton’s Copper Era newspaper described one episode in which Gary Ely and two cowboys came upon a wolf feeding on the hindquarters of a live heifer.

“The anguishing screams of the calf shocked them all,” Darcy Ely told the paper. “You could hear this horrible wailing. My husband fell apart over this, and so did the rest of the crew.”

The Elys–wrung out and hardly fans of the pro-environmentalist press, according to friends–wouldn’t respond to several messages seeking comment. But one neighbor estimates they lost between 100-200 cows, most to wolves, they contend, each worth a conservative average of $400.

As Darcy Ely told the Copper Era, she and Gary have begged the feds to come out to their wolf-cattle kill sites; they also moved their cattle to repeatedly to protect them from the wolves. “Now the wolves are in the middle of the pasture,” she says. “Where do we go now?”

The Elys are still hanging on. But of the eight families living along the Creek proper, all of whom ran cattle in the late 1990s, only two do so now, according to Frank Hayes, chief of the Forest Service’s Clifton district, a reduction in cattle numbers of 70 percent.

It’s not because of wolves, he says. It’s the drought. Ranchers agree the drought has been bad, but say piling wolves on top of it has creamed their bottom lines.

And Chase Caldwell, Dieringer’s former business partner, says the drought had nothing to do with their troubles. When their ranch came under siege, the drought wasn’t as bad as it is now.

“It was strictly wolves that created all of our problems,” says Caldwell, a Phoenix-area real estate broker who invests in ranch properties. “When you have a predator targeting your calf crop, that’s hard to deal with.”

Is that true? Are wolves the cattle killers ranchers claim they are?

Ask government wolfers and get ready for a tense silence. They don’t want to talk about it much, but they will squeeze out a few numbers.

They confirm only 39 wolf-cattle kills, with 16 more possible or probable, in the entire recovery area since 1998, according to John Oakleaf, field projects coordinator. On Eagle Creek proper, they confirm, as of this writing, a grand total of three since 1998.

If you want to hear a pissed-off chuckle, mention those numbers to a rancher.

What about the Elys’ loss of 100-200 head? “Those cows are missing,” says Oakleaf. “No one knows what happened to them. But we’re looking into it.”

Both sides acknowledge that making a firm determination is difficult in country brimming with predators, especially mountain lions. Old-timer Filleman agrees that lions have always plagued the Creek and areas beyond.

“But they don’t kill wholesale like these wolves,” he says.

Caldwell adds, “If you’ve got a problem lion, you can shoot it. With wolves, there’s nothing you can do, because they’re protected.”

Even when investigators for Wildlife Services, the federal agency that looks into wolf depredations, finds a kill site, days might’ve passed and the ground has been picked clean. No body, no crime–and most importantly for ranchers–no payout from Defenders of Wildlife, which compensates ranchers for confirmed wolf kills.

Defenders wins praise from pro-wolfers, who say they stepped up to provide money to ranchers, which the federal government should’ve done. For its trouble–for trying to bridge the gap between ranchers and wolf program managers–Craig Miller, the group’s southwest director, told the Eastern Arizona Courier he’s received death threats on his Tucson telephone.

Tensions are high. Allegations fly.

Filleman, whose grazing land is 25 miles east of Eagle Creek, says he was compensated for one calf, even though he’s sure–but can’t prove–that wolves killed 20, possibly 25.

“We know they killed one of my saddle horses,” says Filleman. “I’d rode him the day before, and these two Fish and Wildlife people let those wolves eat him plum up before they contacted us, I guess so they wouldn’t have pay for it.

“The wolves ate our cattle, too, but Fish and Wildlife didn’t want us knowing anything about that, either. They wanted the evidence gone so they couldn’t prove anything. That’s how they work.”

Filleman, now 83, now sits in his home in York while his house on the Creek lies empty. Along with wife, Jeanette, they have plenty of time to ponder what happened to their life, make phone calls to politicians and write letters.

“Nobody even gets back to us,” he says. “We don’t know where to turn.”

TRUTH IS, RANCHERS HAVE despised wolves from the beginning of time, and rural eastern Arizona is still deeply traditional.

“Any time you mention endangered species or setting aside wilderness, ranchers here go bonkers,” says Karen Williams, who runs Safford’s Eastern Arizona Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. “You get an over-reaction to anything, not just wolves. But this is the first time a predator has been re-introduced.”

It was done badly, too, in Williams’ view, especially releasing wolves during a drought, when their natural prey population is down, forcing them to seek alternatives.

Also, the captive breeding programs the wolves come from allow so much contact with humans that the animals no longer fear people. Some even associate the sound of pickup trucks with feeding time.

She says the animals should’ve been trained to keep away from people and cows by installing an electric fence inside their enclosure and stocking the area behind it with cattle. When a wolf moves too close–zap.

“Even if it means shooting them with beanbags, do it,” says Williams, who says wild-born pups should do better. “Be mean to these guys. Then you won’t have them coming into somebody’s camp and curling up by the fire to get warm, acting like a dog.”

But federal managers haven’t done that, says Williams, because of their “touchy-feely approach” to handling wildlife. When rehabilitators get hold of a special animal, they tend to want their pictures taken beside it, and even try to bond with it.

The wolves need to be monitored, no question, says Williams–from as far away as possible.

But then there are those who see the wolf as an icon rather than a real wild creature, a symbol of nature pure, part of a glorious past that surely can happen again if these local huckleberries with their inconvenient lives would only step out of the way.

That’s the attitude federal managers have displayed toward rural residents from the start of the wolf program.

“All along we met with Fish and Wildlife and told them what we wanted, made suggestions and were repeatedly ignored,” says Jan Holder. “They had no intention of listening to people on the land. They don’t consider them very intelligent, and that’s the truth.”

Holder, who serves as program manager for the nonprofit Gila Watershed Partnership in Graham and Greenlee Counties, a water issues group, says much of what her neighbors feared about the wolf program has come true, and she has a message for city folk who support reintroduction:

“Even though Will and I want these wolves, everyone needs to realize what it has done financially. It’s devastating. What’s happening in this whole watershed is frightening. There are fewer farmers because of the drought, and ranchers are disappearing, too. People in urban areas say ‘get another job,’ but there aren’t any.

“Graham and Greenlee Counties are among the poorest in the state. When you talk about all these regulations governing how we handle tiny species, then put wolf re-introduction on top of that, a rancher might lose $10,000 a year, and that’s breaking backs out here. People are losing their homes, their culture and way of life.”

But Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental group that filed the initial lawsuit to get the wolves returned, says ranchers always blame lawsuits and bureaucrats for their bad business conditions.

“Ninety-five percent of ranchers’ problems are due to drought and overgrazing, and five percent to environmental protection,” says Suckling.

He adds that the wolves that caused the trouble around Eagle Creek have been removed, and many of them died in the process. They’re the big losers, says Suckling, not the ranchers. He acknowledges wolves have eaten a few cows, but says they “have no practical effect on ranchers.”

But ranchers say the presence of wolves basically doubles their work. Cattle must be moved more often to keep them away from these new predators, and cowboys sometimes have to camp overnight with their herds to keep the wolves away.

And if wolves are afoot, a rancher can’t bring his cow dogs, hugely valuable in sniffing out and holding a cow for the cowboy. “The work is much harder and longer without dogs,” says Barbara Marks, who ranches south of Alpine.

ANOTHER ISSUE: THE RULES governing dog protection really crack ranchers’ chaps. Unless a wolf is threatening humans, a pet owner can only wave his arms, scream and fire in the air to drive it off.

Can’t hit it with a six-pack. Can’t bash it with a stick. Can’t do anything that might harm the wolf.

Emer Wiltbank, who runs a guest ranch in Sprucedale on the Black River, lost his pet when wolves approached his back porch where his dog was sleeping with her pups. The dog went out to defend her babies, creating a 5 a.m. fight.

By the time Wiltbank got outside, all he could do was fire into the air to scatter the wolves. But by then, his dog was dead. Even if he’d been on the scene, and the wolf was determined enough, there was little he could’ve done beyond hollering.

When Fish and Wildlife arrived, they suggested it was Wiltbank’s fault for not chaining his dog to his own porch. “I won’t tell you what I said to them,” says Wiltbank. “I wasn’t very nice.”

After that, Wiltbank’s daughter, who lives a quarter mile away, wouldn’t allow her child to walk to his house, and two guests got so unnerved they left.

Government wolf experts say the animals become territorial toward dogs mainly during spring breeding. But the Wiltbank episode occurred last fall.

And Wildlife Service’s own hunter, J.R. Murdock–who tracks and kills problem predators–found himself in a frightening dust-up when wolves attacked his dogs while he was hunting a lion, scaring years off him.

The embarrassing incident, which Wildlife Services refuses to talk about, reportedly occurred last October.

Warren says government wolfers will be continually surprised by wolf behavior because they know little about these predators they’ve put back, or the outdoors in general.

“They aren’t outdoors people,” says Warren. “They haven’t burned up the horsehair and the saddle blankets I have. You have to be on the land and be part of the land to make these environmental decisions. You can’t do it from a textbook or through a window.”

AN UNEASY CALM HAS settled on the Eagle Creek area. The Francisco pack, one of those that staked out the Elys’ cattle, has been removed. But beforehand, they ranged west onto the San Carlos Reservation.

The same drama played out there. An Apache rancher on the reservation’s northeast corner claimed the wolves gobbled 80 to 90 of his calves, according to Harold Nofchissey, of the tribe’s wildlife department. But Fish and Wildlife won’t confirm a single kill on San Carlos in 2003.

Nevertheless, the agency responded to the tribe’s demand to get the animals off their land, and six of the seven have been removed.

But how long the quiet lasts is unknown. Chase Caldwell says he intends to try again, stocking up on cattle in the future. He also expects the wolves to return.

“They like to eat livestock. They’ll find us,” says Caldwell. “Look, I’m not anti-wolf. Predators are part of what make that area so attractive. But you have to be able to protect your livestock.”

Groebner acknowledged there will always be some problem wolves. Nineteen such animals have been permanently removed since 1998. He says that’s not many, considering that the number of wolf days stands at a minimum of 20,000–a wolf day is one wolf on the ground for one day.

In the past six months, his agency, Game and Fish, has taken a more active role in on-the-ground management of the program, which many welcome. The agency’s head, Joe Carter, a Safford native, is likely to listen to locals, and he knows the program has troubles, describing it to one newspaper as in “disarray.”

Groebner says G&F might re-work rules governing protection of pets, and he touts a study underway on Eagle Creek to tag cows to determine what predators are doing the killing.

“It’s frustrating to realize that some people there are hurting,” he says. “If we thought it was just wolves doing it, we wouldn’t have wolves there. They don’t make it easier, but there’s a cumulative effect of things wearing on people. We feel bad and are really trying to do something.”

But when ranchers hear government wolfers talk about boosting the number of animals to 100 wolves, they grit their teeth. “Holy mackerel, if we’re having these problems with 40, it’s scary to think about 100,” says Marks.

Jan Holder, still optimistic the wolves can win rural support, says ranchers need to change the way they ranch to accommodate wolves, and she has a suggestion for city-dwellers eager to help wolves: Stop giving money to lawsuit-happy environmental groups and instead buy gifts this Christmas from predator-friendly companies.

Holder says environmental lawsuits over the years have so hardened positions, turning every issue into a war, that by the time wolf reintroduction came along, ranchers had stopped listening.

“The thought of having to give up what their ancestors built is a horrible thing, and that’s what the wolf is to them,” says Holder. “It’s a symbol of everything they’ve been beaten up with. We need to find common ground, and keeping these issues away from lawyers would help. To me, the wolf isn’t the real problem.”

But Warren, who sold and left Eagle Creek, doesn’t want to hear any defense of wolves. He lived there 15 years and loved it more than words can say. But it became too much–wolves in his yard, wolves running through his camps, wolves harassing his hounds.

“The stress they caused is enormous,” says Warren. “I’d be out working fences or laying pipe, and I always had that old yellow eye looking down on me. It became impossible to live there. If it wasn’t for the major holdings people have, it’d just be picnickers and retirees left out there.”

Like most ranchers, he believes that was the true purpose of wolf reintroduction–getting ranchers off public land, permanently and forever.

Adios, cowboy.

“That’s it, partner,” Warren says. “That’s the whole deal, right there.”

Categories: Endangered Species, Federal Regulatory Policy, Uncategorized, Wolves | Leave a comment

Published in Worldnet Daily Caught Between The Pack And The Hard Case

1848 words

Arizona ranchers Gary and Darcy Ely have had a tough 6 months. It shows in their faces, Gary spends most of his time in the saddle and Darcy most of hers coordinating meetings, kids and trying to keep the normally calm, Gary from loosing his cool.
The Ely’s were fully aware they lived in close proximity to the Mexican Wolf Francisco pack; even dealing with wolf depredations on their livestock. Over the course of the past summer, something happened to the Francisco pack that has the Ely’s scrambling for help. They had a successful litter of pups and things drastically changed for the worse in the Ely’s pastures.
In July, Gary Ely put 165 heavy and mother cows with 70 branded calves into their summer pasture on the 4-drag ranch in eastern Arizona. In November, after gathering for over a month, his found tally is so low that he is not optimistic about remaining in business. Found so far are 158 cows and 31 calves, 6 of those were born in the pasture.
Last week, after finding a partially consumed calf, one of the few that could be found, the US Fish and Wildlife service informed Gary that he was really dealing with the combined forces of 2 packs of wolves. Nine of the wolves have collars and are definitely part of the Mexican Wolf recovery program; at least 5 are possible pups, 3 have been trapped and have temporary collars and 2 of them are unknowns. Of these unknowns, one is so big that it has earned the name Bigfoot, to date, no one has been able to trap Bigfoot to determine whether he is actually a Mexican wolf born to the packs in the last year or two or if he is a feral hybrid released to supplement the gene pool. If the wolf turns out to be a hybrid the question will be, how did it get there and has it mated with any of the other wolves.
Across the fence from the Ely’s, on the San Carlos Reservation, just 5 miles from the Ely’s livestock allotment, the livestock that provides the San Carlos Apache tribe with income and a food supply for ceremonies has all but disappeared. Tribal leaders want to know why the US Fish and Wildlife have ignored their plea to remove the marauding wolves. So far, answers have not been forthcoming.
GOBBLED UP
According to the final rule of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program the expected livestock depredation numbers were supposed to remain at 30 head a year once 100 Mexican wolves were recovered into the Blue Range wolf recovery area. On the 4-Drag, 16 wolves have likely slaughtered nearly 50 calves and several cows since late spring, many of them since July. Giving the pack the benefit of the doubt by not counting the unknown depredation numbers from reservation losses. Ignoring the Ely’s missing adult cows and calves that were due to be born in the pasture yet didn’t show up. The count is still far over the expected depredations from less than a quarter of the wolves.
Using those conservative numbers, the super pack has eaten 3 to 4 calves each, in 120 days. If this is any indication of the need for prey, 100 wolves in cattle country with a free buffet of livestock will eat at least, 1600 calves per year and likely many more. These numbers are closer to historic data on Mexican Wolf depredations, but much higher than the current environmentally correct school of thought expressed in the wolf recovery plan.
FWS would like to lay the damage on other predators, lion kills have historically been a problem on the 4 Drag but the Ely’s say their depredations have increased from a bad year high of 25% depredation attributed to lion, coyote and bear, to an overwhelming 70% in just two years.
Back in the good old days of 25%, the newcomer wolf packs were not as successful at providing for themselves, and less capable of bringing down livestock. Instead, they preferred to live off hunter leavings and lion kills, many times driving the lions to kill more livestock and wildlife and driving hunters off their game.
Rancher Doug Stacy in Arizona, watched a different pack of five
wolves chase 6 elk not more than 75 yards from his truck and trailer While gathering cattle proving that it isn’t just ranchers with something to loose.
“All the sportsmen need to get on the band wagon before they don’t have any game to hunt. Just think about the future picture as these damn things multiply,” said Stacy.
Animal Damage Control, the agency responsible for capturing problem wolves, other livestock killers has it’s own wolf troubles. In late October, three members of the super pack ambushed employee J.R Murdoch, while he watched from horseback. They appeared out of nowhere and badly mauled one of his female lion hounds before he could intervene.
EXPERIMENTING WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S LIVELIHOOD
The advent of an unknown number of pups in 2002 has lent a successful air to the project; three collared pups live in the super pack. However, with mouths to feed, the wolves have hit their predatory stride. The Ely’s and the San Carlos Reservation Apache’s are paying the bill, given that the super pack territory has expanded deeply into the reservation in the last two years.
Both wolf packs involved in the massive depredations are confirmed livestock killers. Experimental 10J status, allows the FWS to remove them, but nothing substantial has been done to limit the nightmare to a manageable scope. Arizona Wildlife Services feels it is becoming impossible to trap them, leaving helicopter removal as the only option.
USFWS has considered bringing in contract trappers but that seems to be an agency scuffle that no one wants to broach as of yet. The past year alone, ADC trappers spent hundreds of fruitless hours babysitting wolves and trying to find what little evidence was left of rancher high calf losses in wolf recovery areas.
Acting on orders from the Mexican Wolf Recovery leader who has faced 2 years of demands that he remove the wolves from the San Carlos Reservation, Animal Damage Control, a division of Wildlife Services, was ordered to play musical wolves. Trapping wolves from the reservation, only to release them back into the forest, where they could roam right back to the reservation or deeper into the 4-Drag. Wildlife Services feels the constant manipulation and shuffling of wolves trained them to avoid traps and intensified the problem.
The education of Mexican Wolves is not news to ranchers who warned that history showed us too much trapping would habituate the wolves to traps before the project was begun.
BUREAUCRATIC TUG OF WAR
With the sudden increase in wolf numbers, lethal control is an option, however; USFWS refuses to give the state agencies the authority to make normal management decisions, much less a lethal take decision. Ranchers offered lethal take permits often refuse due to threats to their operations and livestock by wolf activists and environmental extremists who see wolf reintroduction as a political and biological weapon against land use in the west. The Ely’s, want nothing to do with what they feel is USFWS responsibility.
There is no doubt the recovery program is in the midst of a major power struggle. Both the Arizona and New Mexico Fish and Game commissions have been unhappy with the project and are determined to have more of a say in how it is managed.
Arizona game commissioner Joe Carter says the program is clearly in disarray. “Over the past two years, the program has continued to disintegrate in fulfilling the obligations of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Arizona Commission, myself included, have discussed this with H. Dale Hall and we would like to see him turn this around and make full partners of the state agencies so we all know who is responsible for what.”
Mr. Carter calls the wolf reintroduction the only real problem project they have conducted with the USFWS, other projects have worked well in the past. This lends credence to rancher claims that the original wolf recovery plan was unrealistic and compiled with faulty data. As Mr. Carter points out, “When a grazing permittee is loosing 70% of their calf crop, and we can tie the cause to wildlife, the state game agencies bear a responsibility for dealing with that problem. With things going the way they are, if we cannot control and manage the 10 or 25 or 40 wolves that are out there, how are we going to manage 100 animals?”
Arizona and New Mexico state agencies are insisting on a set protocol for dealing with problem animals. Including identifying who has the authority to deal with depredation problems, removal and lethal control issues and dangerous situations. As things stand, no decision to remove an offending wolf can happen at the state level. All management decisions are being made at the top of the USFWS food chain. USFWS is reluctant to relinquish control of this authority.
While major project renovations languish in bureaucratic splendor the wolves in Arizona have taken this season to establish themselves as record-breaking livestock killers living off the labors of the few remaining ranchers in Arizona and the helpless people on the Apache reservation.
Gary Ely says Fish and Wildlife Mexican Wolf recovery coordinator, Brian Kelly told him that the Arizona game department does not want to help deal with the Ely’s problem and that Gary needed to talk to them and find out why. This information was a big surprise to Commissioner Carter, his impression was that a plan to begin dealing with the super pack that should be in place within days, though USFWS only provides for the removal of 3 un-collared wolves.
Whether that gives the Ely’s enough relief to stay in business remains to be seen. It is entirely possible that if they stay, the Ely’s will have to feed wolves for free into perpetuity and they aren’t inclined to furnish the chuck that long. Defenders of Wildlife, who reimburses ranchers for lost livestock, have bowed out of the process since even they cannot continue to write the checks the wolves are cashing at the Ely chuck wagon. So far, the Ely’s say they have gotten one check in 2001 for heifers they lost amounting to 1000 dollars. This year there have been many promises but nothing else for one badly bitten ranch horse and two baby calves, of course the missing cows and calves are considered a donation by the Ely’s.
The Mexican Wolf recovery program is proving once again that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. That doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is indeed the definition of insanity. Ultimately, rural Arizona and two separate cultures are being destroyed. The bill falls squarely on those who had no choice in the matter.

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Who killed The Lupine Pack?

8-9-2003

Everything was so wonderful when they broke out of the pen in June, it was green, the weather was warm and there were plenty of baby elk on the ground to eat. The pups were adorable and the yearlings were frisky. So frisky in fact, that most of them took off immediately leaving the alpha pair to fend for the 3 younger puppies alone.
Survival turned out to be a daunting task in the overcrowded wolf recovery area in eastern Arizona. The Alpha male soon found himself suffering from wolf bites that no one new about until he was found dead from a rattlesnake bite. Usually rattlesnake bites aren’t fatal to dogs but since the Lupine male was injured from an apparent fight with another wolf, the extra stress of the snakebite was fatal.
Soon after the release and the dispersal of the older pups one yearling female simply vanished. One of the yearling males was seen numerous times living in the area of Aragon NM. Since he was hanging around human civilization, the Fish and Wildlife Service chose to remove him and return him to his family in the Arizona Mountains. He was trapped fairly easily but within a week of forcing him to reunite with his parents and younger siblings, he was back on the outskirts of the town of Aragon again. About the same time as the Alpha male was found dead the young Aragon wolf was hit by a car along the highway. The remaining yearling wolves, both of them males, traveled separately for the next several months.
From all accounts, things went downhill for the Alpha female when she was forced to tend to her pups alone. The wolf updates were soon reporting the status of the pups as, unknown.
In mid November the Alpha female was found dead apparently from suspicious circumstances since an award for information immediately went out. She was one of two wolves killed in November from an apparent gunshot wound. The necropsy reports are still not available but FWS says she was in excellent shape when she died. The reward for information leading to an arrest is up to 15,000 dollars.
In early December, hunters found the carcass of the missing yearling female, no details were available, just that she was found on the Apache reservation in Arizona. The reports do not say if she had been dead since she went missing in July or she had died recently and her radio collar had simply malfunctioned months ago. One of the yearling males was also killed in early December. Fish and Wildlife service is calling the three lupine pack deaths suspicious though none of the details are being made public yet.
Only one of the 9 Lupine wolves released in June still roams the populated area along the Arizona New Mexico border.
Opinions as to what happened to these animals are as various as who is giving the opinion. Environmentalists blame anyone and everyone, from ranchers to hunters to drivers and even the USFWS. Ranchers don’t care as long as there are fewer wolves to get into their calving pastures, ranch wives feel sorry for the suffering wolves but are secretly relieved when they turn up dead and not in the kids yard.
The fact is most of the wolf shootings have occurred during the fall hunting season. It stands to reason, the wolves are in poor condition in the cold weather, hunters trailing up a wounded elk or deer only to discover something that resembles a sickly dog trying to stalk the animal too. One couldn’t blame him if the hunter shoots before considering that it could be an endangered Mexican Wolf they have in their rifle sites. No one wants to admit to a 25,000-dollar or one year in jail mistake and the mistakes happen every year.
About the only thing not reported in the press is just how hard the life of a newly released, wolf pack, is on the animals. The tragic demise of the Lupine pack is not an exception, for the last three years, it has been the rule. It is only this year that a whole pack has died out. A Cruel method perhaps, but apparently necessary if the occasional resilient wolf is to survive to provide breeding stock for the next generation.

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Endangered Status Bestowed on Coyotes When Partnered With Lobo

3-21-2001

Since our local coyote pack, a female and three yearling pups, have graciously decided to help Mexican wolf 592 improve her diet. She has reciprocated by bestowing temporary endangered species status on them. So much for the USFWS theory that coyotes will be thinned out by the wolf reintroduction.
By late winter we usually start making a dent in our resident coyote packs. If we don’t they make short work of our early calves. We set traps, use M44 cyanide guns, and shoot every one we see. Since the advent of the wolf, all that has ceased since she is obviously not immune to the various methods normally used for coyote termination and we have no wish to become felons. Nor do we have the 100,000.00 fine handy or the extra free time to spend in jail.
Though it’s still legal to shoot coyotes our wolf keeps us leery. At her worst she looked so much like a bedraggled sickly coyote that we think twice before even carrying a gun when we know she is near and she is near most of the time.
Three months ago F 592 decided our ranch headquarters was to be her home base. She was in and out of here so often the kids named her Lucy Lobo. When temperatures dipped down below zero in January it looked as if she would starve to death. My daughter rode up on her in late January and the wolf was so starved and intent on chewing a small bone that she just laid there, cowered and let Kris get a really long and close look at her. Kris said the wolf weighed about 35 pounds. A far cry from her release weight of 54 pounds. Somehow she managed to hang on long enough to hook up with a pack of coyotes and start eating off their kills.
She is picking up in condition now, that much is evident. Though we no longer see her as much as we used to, she is here many nights barking like a town dog up on the hill to the west of the house. You know how it goes, you have to spend the night at crazy old Aunt Thelma’s house in town and one of the neighborhood dogs starts up. Soon every dog in town is howling at the moon and you don’t get a wink of sleep. That is how it is here, the wolf can’t decide if she is a cow dog or a coyote so she takes turns visiting with both packs.
Since our cows are calving in the winter country to the west and south of the Headquarters, the wolf sitters have been pretty vigilant about keeping an eye on her. It isn’t very difficult to get a location on her since she is here just about every night. Her day goes something like this. Up at dawn, look down the hill at the ranch house just in case something there has died. Scoot off the hill, head down the canyon and see if you can find the latest coyote kill for breakfast. Not too difficult since we usually have a pretty big coyote population in late winter and early spring. In fact, it’s about to get bigger since princess Lucy, the wolf, has benevolently bestowed endangered status on them.
After meandering a mile or two down the canyon her solitary morning walk is interrupted by a bit of a ruckus. Curiosity getting the better of her she picks up speed. Up ahead she joins two or three coyotes after the morning greeting something polite folks don’t like to talk about. They hear down the canyon again where they find some of our cows bedded down. They slink around nine cows with three new baby calves. Several inches of snow the night before helped determine this to be a fact. Together they roust the cows out of bed where they bunched up and defended the calves. Since our cows have extremely long and sharp horns, the calves were still there when Matt rode through later in the morning. It was apparent the cows won the day, this time anyway.
Further down the canyon, the ravens and crows roosting in the trees show evidence that the coyotes and Lucy had a meal a few days earlier. There is no sign of a tight bagged cow in the canyon bottom and what ever it was is gone now. Lucy continues past the crows after sniffing around the area and has her morning constitution. Since the wolf sitters like to pick it up and poke through it at a lab, they are finding out it contains the same stuff the coyotes are eating. So far, it doesn’t have calf hair in it. As long as our cows stay in the calving pasture and the wolf stays with the coyotes, it will only be a matter of time.
Since the coyotes can no longer be controlled, they will provide a good alibi for wolves. The usual USFWS depredation report on a dead calf, if the calf can be found, reads like this.
Since the wolf was in the area and there were wolf tracks around the carcass we have determined the wolf probably ate on the carcass after the coyotes killed it.
She does seem to be eating the deer the coyotes kill though and it is keeping them a little leaner. The coyotes are only too willing to teach her how to kill a calf.
Later in the afternoon Dan the wolf biologist calls in and I enjoy teasing him about her interbreeding with the coyotes and creating a whole new race of endangered species. Something they don’t believe will happen but it is a remote possibility. Dan sounds nervous about it. If it happened it would probably destroy the project. Anyway, teasing Dan is my only solace and he is good natured about it. Which is more than I can say for me.
Our plan is to keep bringing in the new mothers onto the deeded land and feeding them hay we can’t afford. At least they will be on deeded land and it is legal to defend our private property as long as it is on our private property and not on our forest permit.
During all the wolf reintroduction meetings one of the key points people kept bringing up was that the wolves would probably control the coyotes. Well it looks like the coyotes will get a free ride as long as there are wolves around. Princess Lucy certainly appreciates the assistance they have given her.
The most obvious flaws in the program is that people aren’t allowed to protect their private property on federal land they pay for the use of. Because of this, the need often arises to expend an enormous amount of extra money to feed livestock where there is insufficient forage. In our case in riparian areas that need the winter rest. The second interesting turn of events, the coyotes seem to be actively cooperating with the wolf, something no one expected. As usual, the majority of the burden for the program falls on those who wanted it least. While those who want it most get a free ride and never even hear the howl.
Dan Stark, the wolf biologist, thinks it would help if we could just kill off the coyotes in the canyon but the very tools we used to use for that purpose have been denied to us by the existence of the wolf. He, and the other volunteers are willing, hardworking and dedicated. That helps our bleak outlook on things a little bit.
Meanwhile Lucy lays up in the sunshine for the majority of the day and comes home at night. After checking in with the cow dogs she beds down and gets rested up for another hard day of ranch work.

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Mexican Wolf Taking It’s Toll

Laura Schneberger

1530 words
copyright 3-2000

Gila Hot Springs Guide and Outfitter Service has been in business for nearly sixty five years. It was started by the Campbell family when Doc Campbell bought the property in 1940. The Campbell’s raised four kids at Gila Hot Springs, two boys and two girls. They were home schooled by their mother, Ida and brought up in a less than traditional manner. All Four managed to become successful business people. Doc ended up passing on the outfitting business into the capable hands of his youngest daughter Becky.
On a winter day Becky and her sister Ysabell can be heard over the radio by folks eating Ysabell’s homemade ice cream in the Campbell store. The discussion usually centers around which ridge they should come off in order to catch up with the dogs before the lion is treed. Usually there is a lucky hunter trying to keep up with the women.
Becky and her family have provided access to the Gila National Forest for hundreds of people from all corners of the globe. The sisters furnish pack trips, hunting, lodging for visitors to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and a dose of big personality to their guests.
Becky raises Paint and Tennessee Walker horses to supply her business with mounts. She keeps the stallions, brood mares and colts on her deeded land at Gila Hot Springs. The horses are welcome scenery for guests especially when the foals start hitting the ground in the spring. The rest of Becky’s horses are kept on the Wilderness forest allotment adjacent to the headquarters in the Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico.
The grazing allotment for the riding and pack horses is part of a special use permit issued in conjunction with Becky’s guide and outfitter permit. The Wilderness allotment is the very same Gila Wilderness area where the US Fish and Wildlife Service plan to release two packs of Mexican wolves in the spring of 2000. All the while claiming the reason the wolves are to be released in the Gila is to minimize the chance for conflict with livestock.
“I am not even mentioned in the Draft Environmental Assessment and I’m barely mentioned in the Final EA. Apparently, to the Fish and Wildlife, I don’t exist” said Becky. “I have to leave pack mules and horses staked out in camp while the guests go for day rides and there is no provision in their plan for the safety of my animals or my clients. It’s also going to be nearly impossible to make sure my horses are all right in the terrain and brush”
Becky doesn’t have much confidence in the US Fish and Wildlife Service. She isn’t the only livestock owner in New Mexico and Arizona that have problems with the way the agency is conducting the Mexican wolf recovery. In the two years since the first wolves were dropped into the Blue Range Mountain recovery area the project hasn’t met with much sucess.
Over the two year period, 11 wolves have been shot and killed, another wolf was killed by a lion, another was run over. One of the wolves shot was killed while attacking a campers dog only yards from the camp where a three year old was playing. Of the only litter of wild born pups, three died from canine parvovirus. By the first of the year most of the remaining wolves had to be trapped for killing cattle.
According to a survey of Arizona and New Mexico ranchers, wolves have taken an estimated 51 head of cattle, including a five year old registered red Angus bull. They have also killed one ranch horse a cow dog and crippled a miniature horse. So far, only eight of those 51 kills have been confirmed by the agency and paid for through a special compensation fund set up by Defenders of Wildlife. The fund only pays for livestock confirmed by using the USF&WS standards. As many of the ranchers in wolf country found out, getting the agency to confirm a livestock depredation is like pulling teeth especially if the loss was a calf.
The T link ranch, owned by Charlie Newman in southeast Arizona suffered livestock losses to the Pipestem pack in the summer of 1999.
“The cow was run through a stand of high brush and got hung upside down in a fence after her calf was split off.” said Bill Wilson, manager of the T link. “I don’t know how long she lived after that, but it was a while. They finally ate enough off her to kill her.”
What remained of the cow’s four hundred pound calf wasn’t far away.
Though Fish and Wildlife personnel witnessed the attack of the T link cow and her calf from the air, they mistook the pair for elk and did not investigate the incident for a couple of days. After realizing their mistake, they informed the ranch manager. Bill and his wife Kelly accompanied investigators to the scene where GPS equipment indicated the Pipestem pack was within 50 yards of the people as they examined the cow. The dead pair was not considered a confirmable livestock kill. The remains of a smaller calf were found nearby as well, It was not confirmed though the ranchers believe the pack was responsible for it as well.
The pack was recaptured in the fall of 1999 after another incident in which a heifer calf was bitten on the hind legs and injured this attack was confirmed by the agency. The Pipestem pack are slated for re release on Becky’s supposedly livestock free permit in March of 2000.
Members of the Mule pack are also slated for re release on the allotment though ranchers say they are responsible for 4 livestock kills the fall of 1999 through the winter of 2000. The Agency says the animals have never killed livestock but Defenders Of Wildlife paid for a cow owned by Jannett Filleman. The Filleman’s also lost a horse to the pack. USF&WS say the horse was dead when the pack found it but Jannett disagrees. “Dandy was just fine the week before, then the people from the Fish and Wildlife showed up and told us he had died and the Mule pack were eating on him.”
The Gavilan pack are also slated for re release in the Gila though as of yet no plans have been released as to the location. The pack was recaptured after killing four head of grown cows their four calves and a five year old bull. Fish and Wildlife personnel claim the alpha male was the leader in the livestock killings and plan to keep him in captivity for the rest of his life. The rest of the pack will be freed in the Gila spring of 2000.
One member of the Gavilan pack is still free and has been located Near Beaverhead New Mexico where a cow belonging to Jim Blair of the ObarO ranch was attacked and injured on March 22 of this year. Fish and Wildlife personnel told the Blair’s the attack was confirmed as that of a wolf, but it wasn’t their wolf. M555, the young Gavilan male, was the only wolf free in New Mexico at the time of the attack. He was last located within a couple of hours traveling distance of the ObarO.
“Nobody’s seen anything like this for 60 years” said Kim Blair, The cow was pretty shook up for a couple of weeks. She had her ears eaten off and bites all over her back end”
The Blair’s are concerned about calving season with M555 on the loose. Though the wolf was not involved in the death of a pregnant cow and the five year old bull in New Mexico early this year, it was involved in the 1999 deaths of three wet cows and their calves, in Arizona last fall. The animals were confirmed as wolf kills but never compensated by DOW because the owner was accused of being in trespass on his forest allotment at the time of the attacks.
Fish and Wildlife personnel refuse to pick up M555 even though he is in the wrong area and has attacked livestock at least four times. A violation of the writings and intent of the original EIS.
Public meetings held in early March, on the plan to move the livestock killers into the Gila were packed with ranchers and business people opposing the methods used by the agency. As one rancher put it “They never want to reintroduce a predator were it won’t impact people. They seem to go for maximum trouble whenever possible.”
The majority of the 800 people opposing the reintroduction at a wolf meeting in Silver City New Mexico March 2, believe the wolves are only being released in the Southwest to put more pressure on Southwest ranchers. The speed in which the project has been pushed forward has doubled with elections on the horizon.
Time will tell if Mexican lobo’s will make a comeback in the Southwest. If they do, the outfitters, tour guides and ranches may never make one.

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