Friday, October 12, 2012

Gov. Martinez: Relocate Mexican gray wolf pack from southwestern New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An endangered Mexican gray wolf pack linked to recent killings of cows in southwestern New Mexico should be captured and moved out of the area, the governor told federal officials.

In a recent letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gov. Susana Martinez wrote that the Fox Mountain Mexican wolf pack in Catron County has created significant concerns and is affecting the psychological well-being of families, and the agency should use a clause in the reintroduction program to remove the endangered wolves.

"I request that the USFWS immediately capture and relocate the entire pack to an area where they will not negatively impact the lives of New Mexico citizens," Martinez wrote. "The livestock owners who have been impacted need to be made whole as allowed by the program."

News of the letter came just as federal officials captured an elusive female Mexican gray wolf Wednesday wanted for killing too many cows in the disputed area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said federal trappers finally caught the elusive pack leader and mother of pups in Gila National Forest. The wolf was listed and found to be in good condition.

According to officials, she is scheduled to be handed over to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, which has offered to take the wolf into captivity.

Four cattle deaths linked to the pack happened outside the wolf recovery boundaries within four months, with the most recent reported Aug. 1.

Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, praised the governor for sending the letter and listening to ranchers' concerns. "We are pleased that the governor chose to stand in solidarity with ranchers and to request that this pack be relocated," she said.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has been critical of wolf management, said the pack largely hunts elk and rarely attacks livestock. There has not been an escalation of wolves attacking livestock, he said

"This is just an excuse to relocate the wolves into extinction," he said.

The Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, was added to the endangered species list in 1976. A captive-breeding program was started and the first batch of wolves was released into the wild in 1998.

Legal battles, illegal shootings and other problems have stalled efforts to re-establish the predators in the Southwest. A survey done at the beginning of the year showed there were at least 58 wolves in the wild along the New Mexico-Arizona border.