Wolf Relocation Plan Creates Debate in Rural New Mexico

by: By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated Press

Posted: May 25, 2021 / 7:32 AM MDTUpdated: May 25, 2021 / 12:27 PM MDT

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) – Monday marked the last day that people could comment on U.S. wildlife managers’ plans to relocate a pair of wolves and their pups to one of Ted Turner’s New Mexico properties as part of a decade-long return effort threatened predators in the American Southwest.

Wolves find a new home at Ted Turner’s ranch in New Mexico

Environmental groups are pushing for clearance. They took advantage of a recent New Mexico Game Commission meeting to make their support public, and via email and social media urged their followers to join the campaign and send letters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before the deadline .

But ranchers have concerns about the wolf couple’s previous conflicts with livestock. Some have sent their own letters to the federal agency, expressing frustration that they did not hear about the plan until recently and that ranchers and local residents who will be affected have not been properly informed.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association said it had contacted a few dozen of its members in the area and none of them informed about the plan from federal officials.

The group claims the two adult wolves were removed from other ranch areas due to multiple deaths of cattle and horses.

“The relocation of wolves with this killing story is a threat to New Mexico livestock and is insincere to producers and other citizens,” the group wrote in a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service. “Relocating wolves with this story to private land will only add to the animosity between producers and the Fish and Wildlife Service over the administration of the Mexican gray wolf program.”

The proposal to let the wolves go to the ladder ranch comes as federal managers seek to increase genetic diversity in the wild populations in New Mexico and Arizona.

Ranchers argue that nothing can stop wolves from migrating to other parts of the Gila National Forest. They found that the previous conflicts took place about 15.4 miles from where the wolves were released.

Ladder Ranch officials applaud the plan, saying the offer to let wolves roam the property was made years ago. Mike Phillips, director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, said the couple and their pups deserve a chance to try it in the wild.

The Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately say how long it would be for the agency to consider the comments. The plans were to release the wolves next month.

According to the proposal, the wolves and their pups would be moved from their temporary home in a game reserve in central New Mexico to the Ladder Ranch, where they would be kept in a secluded chain-link pen for a few weeks to allow them to acclimate to the area.

Officials expected the wolves to set up a home near the relocation site.

North America’s rarest subspecies of the gray wolf, the Mexican gray wolf, was listed as Endangered in 1976 after it was driven to the brink of extinction.

The population has grown since the first wolves were released under the reintroduction program in the 1990s, with the most recent annual census finding about 186 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.

Closure order to protect bighorn sheep

The latest quarterly report from wildlife managers shows that eight wolves have died since the beginning of the year. One died after being arrested for his GPS collar to be replaced, another was hit by a car, and the other deaths are still under investigation.

The report also shows that more than three dozen cattle were killed by wolves between January and March, and federal officials recorded more than 130 efforts to keep the wolves away from cattle and other livestock during the period.

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