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Wildlife Advocates, Scientists Call on Interior Secretary Jewell to Hasten Release of Endangered Mexican Wolves in New Mexico

October 9, 2015
Kelly Nokes (406) 209-9545
In This Release

Friday, October 9, 2015
Wildlife Advocates, Scientists Call on Interior Secretary Jewell to Hasten Release of Endangered Mexican Wolves in New Mexico

Genetic Crisis Threatens Unique Southwestern Wolves With Extinction
Contact: Kelly Nokes (406) 209-9545

Additional contacts:

Michael Robinson, Centerfor Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017,michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org
Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, (914) 763-2373, maggie@nywolf.org
Dr. Joseph Cook, American Society of Mammalogists, (505) 506-8606,tucojoe@gmail.com
Mary Katherine Ray, Sierra Club, (575) 740-2858, mkrscrim@gmail.com

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Advocates for wild animals,along with scientists and breeders of endangered wolves for conservation, urgedSecretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today to release five or more packs ofendangered Mexican gray wolves intothe Gila National Forest in New Mexico through the end of this year and into2016. A letter toJewell signed by 43 groups and scientists emphasizes the urgency of the issue,pointing out that federal biologists and independent scientists have repeatedlymade clear that without such releases, wolf inbreeding will worsen — cripplingchances of recovery.

“Federal biologists know they must release more Mexicanwolves from captivity, but the Obama administration has permitted the releaseof just four,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.“Then the government recaptured one and shot another, and the remaining twoalso died — which argues not only for stricter protections but also for manymore releases to ensure that some wolves actually add to the gene pool.”

Releases of wolves bred in captivity are necessary,according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and independent scientists, inorder to diversify the gene pool among the wild wolves. Inbreeding among theMexican wolf’s wild population in the United States is causing fewer pups to beborn and fewer to survive to adulthood.

“The longer we delay in introducing new wolves to increasegenetic variation in the wild Mexican gray wolf populations, the greater ourfuture challenge will be to ensure that this distinctive wolf survives,” saidJoseph Cook of the American Society of Mammalogists. “Small populations withlimited genetic variability often suffer from the consequences of inbreedingdepression, Small populations with limited genetic variability also are generallyless resilient to changing environmental conditions and less resistant to theintroduction of novel pathogens.”

According to the latest census number, 110 wolves, includingjust eight breeding pairs, live in the combined Gila National Forest in NewMexico and Apache National Forest and Fort Apache Indian Reservation inArizona. Fewer than 15 wolves live in the wild in Mexico.

“When you have only a handful of founders and limitedgenetics to recover a species, you cannot afford to take your time with recoveryefforts,” said Maggie Howell of the Wolf Conservation Center, which houses andbreeds Mexican wolves for reintroduction. “The wolves are ready and the wild iscalling. It’s time to release some lobos.”

“Mexican wolves are part of the natural heritage of all Americans,” said MaryKatherine Ray of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande chapter. “The Endangered SpeciesAct, which requires the protection and recovery of imperiled animals, continuesto be a very popular national law. Though a vocal minority at the statelevel is attempting to obstruct the return of wolves to the Southwest, the Fishand Wildlife Service should proceed to release more wolves to safeguard theirstill fragile population.”

“As the principal agency responsible for ensuring loborecovery, U.S. the Fish and Wildlife Service cannot sit idly by while onestate’s anti-carnivore rhetoric and political scheming attempts to obstructreintroduction efforts,” said Kelly Nokes, carnivore campaign lead forWildEarth Guardians. “It is past time that Service takes control and carriesout its duty to recover lobos in New Mexico, as the Endangered Species Actdemands.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing Mexican wolves in 1998but only permitted itself to release wolves from captive breeding facilitiesinto a small portion of the Apache National Forest, whose most productivehabitats were quickly occupied by wolf families, leaving little room foradditional releases.

This past January the Fish and Wildlife Service expanded thearea where captive-bred wolves could be released to include the3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest. The Gila is the fourth-largest nationalforest in the country and encompasses the world’s first official wildernessarea, designated in 1924, that was protected from construction of roads. TheGila also supports thousands of deer, elk and other animals on which wolvesprey, thereby overall strengthening such animals’ herds and preventingovergrazing. Yet more than half of this national forest has no wolves.

The Center forBiological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization withmore than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection ofendangered species and wild places.

The American Societyof Mammalogists is a non-profit, professional, scientific and educationalSociety consisting of nearly 3,000 members from all 50 of the United States and60 other countries worldwide. The American Society of Mammalogists was founded in1919 and is the world’s oldest and largest organization devoted to the study ofmammals.

The Wolf ConservationCenter is an environmental education organization committedto conserving wolf populations in North America through science-basededucation programming and participation in the federal Species Survival Plansfor the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf and red wolf. For moreinformation visit www.nywolf.org.

WildEarth Guardiansis a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring thewildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and the health of the American West.

Other Contact
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, (914) 763-2373, maggie@nywolf.org Dr. Joseph Cook, American Society of Mammalogists, (505) 506-8606, tucojoe@gmail.com Mary Katherine Ray, Sierra Club, (575) 740-2858, mkrscrim@gmail.com
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