Tucson, AZ – Today, WildEarth Guardians, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and Friends of Animals notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) of their intent to sue the Service for its failure to adequately protect imperiled Mexican wolves under the Endangered Species Act. In January, the Service finalized new rules governing the management of Mexican wolves, many aspects of which further undermine efforts to recover the most rare mammal in the American Southwest.
“Seventeen years after being reintroduced to the wilds of the Southwest, the lobo is still struggling under a deeply flawed management system,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “This population of a little more than 100 Mexican wolves is essential to the species’ survival and should have the freedom to roam beyond arbitrary political boundaries without facing a gauntlet of traps and guns.”
Though critically imperiled with just one small population in the wild, the Service retained the “experimental, non-essential” designation for the Mexican wolf under the Endangered Species Act. The designation affords fewer protections and allows for wolves to be removed from the wild. Also of grave concern, the Service’s new rules liberalize trapping and lethal removal, impose arbitrary geographic boundaries on where wolves are allowed to roam, delay reintroductions of additional captive wolves, cap the wild population at less than half the number science says is needed for recovery, and immunize a federal program notorious for killing wolves, Wildlife Services, from consequences for killing imperiled wolves.
“It is long past time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to take its duty of recovering Mexican wolves seriously,” said Judy Calman, Staff Attorney for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Americans support wolves in the wild, and the Service is the agency charged with protecting wildlife for future generations. The Mexican wolf needs full Endangered Species Act protections to ensure its survival and recovery.”
The best available science says that Mexican wolves need at least three populations, each with at least 250 wolves, for the species to be considered recovered. Yet the Service’s new rule caps the population at 320-325 wolves. Capping the population of a critically imperiled species is unprecedented and unjustifiable. The Service’s artificial geographic boundaries for the recovery area also prevent the wolves from naturally dispersing into two of the three areas scientists determined Mexican wolves can and should roam: the Southern Rockies and the Grand Canyon ecoregion. The Service’s failure to follow the recovery science and the science showing lethal removal of wolves can actually increase conflict with livestock continues to cripple efforts to recover Mexican wolves.
“Friends of Animals acknowledges the inherent value of Mexican wolves,” said Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals. “Their individual lives and their freedom have meaning to them and humans must do whatever we can to offer them their rightful place in Nature.”
Although lobos once widely roamed across the southwestern United States and Mexico, the Mexican wolf was purposefully eradicated from the United States on behalf of American livestock, hunting, and trapping interests. Recognizing the species’ extreme imperilment, the Service placed the Mexican gray wolf subspecies on the federal endangered species list in 1976.
In 1998, after the few remaining wolves were put into captivity in an attempt to save the species, the Service released eleven Mexican wolves into the wild. The program has limped along ever since, with both illegal killings and sanctioned removals subverting recovery. At last official count, 109 wolves roam the Southwest. Mexican wolves are at tremendous risk due to their small population size, limited gene pool, threats from trapping, Wildlife Services’ activities, and illegal killings.
WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit conservation organization working to protect and restore the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers and health of the American West.
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wild lands and wilderness areas.
Friends of Animals is a nonprofit animal advocacy organization that seeks to free animals from cruelty and exploitation around the world, and to promote a respectful view of non-human, free-living and domestic animals.