Mexican authorities released five Mexican wolves in the San Luis Mountains in Sonora, Mexico, on Oct. 12, 2011, approximately 80 miles south of Douglas, Ariz.
Mexico’s desire to release wolves in Sonora as part of its recovery effort has been known for the past two years, although the exact timetable for release was unknown.
“Mexico is a sovereign nation with its own wildlife conservation and recovery goals. The vast majority of historic habitat for the Mexican wolf is actually in Mexico, and long-term full recovery of the sub-species is incumbent on successful recovery there, as well as our recovery efforts in the U.S.,” said Larry Voyles, director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Game and Fish will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine how the wolves will be monitored and managed if animals cross the international border.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been actively involved in the multi-agency effort to reintroduce Mexican wolves to portions of their historic range in the east-central portion of Arizona (and adjacent New Mexico) for many years. In 1998, 11 captive-reared Mexican wolves were released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) in eastern Arizona.
The current population in Arizona-New Mexico was assessed to be approximately 50 animals during 2011 monitoring. The Mexican wolf is considered endangered in the United States and Mexico.
Game and Fish continues to express concern over the lack of progress in aspects of wolf conservation.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated efforts earlier this year to update the 1982 recovery plan for the Mexican wolf throughout its historic range in the American Southwest and Mexico,” said Voyles. “The Service also recently released a draft management plan for wolves that might travel to Arizona or New Mexico as a result of the recent release in Sonora or future releases in Mexico. It will likely take years to finalize either plan because of federal environmental compliance processes that could easily be further drawn out by appeals and even litigation.”
Voyles added that wolf management is an emotional issue with potential effects on the human environment, as well as the natural environment. Everyone engaged in wolf management has a responsibility towards open and transparent coordination and information sharing with Arizona stakeholders, as mandated under provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Voyles said Game and Fish will make every effort to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service, neighboring states, counties, and Mexico, to the extent that transparency allows, to manage and conserve wolves in Arizona.