Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mexican wolf pack blamed for cattle killings


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A female endangered Mexican gray wolf will be permanently removed from the wild in southwestern New Mexico because she has been involved in the killing of at least five cows, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday.

The male and female that make up the Nantac Pack were placed in the wild April 25. The male was killed Sunday by the wolf recovery team under a permanent removal order, and efforts to either trap or kill the female continued Monday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began releasing wolves into the wild on the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998 to re-establish the species in part of its historic range. The agency estimates 32 to 46 endangered Mexican wolves live in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico.

The agency said the animals are designated as a "nonessential, experimental population." That gives the recovery team greater flexibility to manage the wolves under the Endangered Species Act and allows permanent removal - by capturing or killing a wolf - after three confirmed livestock deaths.

Conservation groups sent a letter to the U.S. Interior Department on Monday, asking Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to issue an emergency moratorium on predator control directed against the endangered wolves until the goals of the reintroduction program are reached.

The groups said the population has declined from 55 in 2003 to 35 at the end of 2005.

"The Mexican wolf is the engine of evolution for southwestern ecosystems, contributing to the strength and vigor of elk, the alertness of deer, the agility and sense of balance of bighorn sheep and the speed and keen eyesight of pronghorn antelope," the groups said in their letter.

"In sum, reintroduction of the Mexican wolf is part of this generation's commitment to generations yet to come that we will leave them some landscapes teeming with life," the letter said.

Officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment on the groups' request.

In early June, a wolf that officials said was involved in at least three livestock killings was shot and killed in the Gila National Forest.

In May, Fish and Wildlife officials said the alpha male of a pack that had been killing cattle on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona had been shot to death, and that eight other wolves captured from that pack had died - including six pups killed by a surrogate parent wolf.

  • Arizona Daily Star