New Mexico Working to Reverse Wolf Decline
A recent survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a decline in the population of Mexican wolves found in New Mexico. A January 2008 survey shows 52 Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, although the number and distribution of existing wolf packs offer promise for rebound with the next breeding season.
Of 52 wolves detected during the survey, 23 were in New Mexico distributed among 6 packs with 2 or more wolves. In addition, other wolves roaming as individuals could join packs or form new packs in the future. Biologists anticipate substantial pup production from these wolves in 2008.
The survey documents the wolves alive on Dec. 31 of each year. Unfortunately, two wolves from the Rim Pack in Arizona were killed by vehicles in January 2008.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish acknowledges that 2007 was a difficult year for Mexican wolf restoration but is entering 2008 with renewed emphasis on placing and keeping wolves in the wild in New Mexico.
"There were too many losses from the wild wolf population and there were too many unnecessary conflicts reported by people in wolf country," said Bruce Thompson, Director of the Department of Game and Fish. He added "The Department will work with citizens to ensure that more innovative wolf management is conducted in 2008, consistent with the multiple-partner wolf reintroduction effort, and any conflicts will be evaluated closely to determine resolution strategies that are most beneficial to wolf survival and conservation."
Innovative wolf management will provide more options for dealing with conflicts and will emphasize a collaborative process for residents and public officials to work with the Department to maintain a healthy wolf population in southwestern New Mexico.
The Department of Game and Fish is working with residents to identify new ways to discourage nuisance wolf behavior and ways to allow wolves to roam where active livestock operations occur. Game and Fish has hired a wolf program biologist who will be responsible for identifying more innovative and effective ways to communicate and integrate wolf program needs among people living in wolf country. Game and Fish worked diligently in 2007 to temporarily place at least 10 wolves in captivity for release at strategic times and places to bolster the wolf population in New Mexico. A continued emphasis on revising the federal rule for wolf reintroduction is necessary to improve wolf restoration capabilities.
M. H. "Dutch" Salmon, State Game Commissioner for the Southwest district, added that "New Mexico is one voice among the collaborative group making wolf management decisions, but we are strongly committed to adaptively and more effectively restore Mexican wolves to their place in the Southwest ecosystem."
Other agencies participating in reintroduction of Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Wildlife Services, and USDA Forest Service.
Those interested in suggesting innovative wolf conservation practices are encouraged to submit ideas to the Department's Conservation Services Division at (505) 476-8118; Matthew.Wunder@state.nm.us.