What are wolves supposed to do? Order a pizza?
The federal agency charged with restoring this endangered predator to the wild wants to retain a death penalty for wolves that kill livestock and impose a new capital offense for eating too many deer, elk and other wild ungulates.
What are the wolves supposed to do? Call out for pizza?
(Click on the links below to see what has been editorialized, so far)
BAHR: Rule makes it too easy to kill wolves
OUR VIEW: State has wolves in its crosshairs
The proposed rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn't all bad.
It would vastly expand the wolves' range from a relatively small area straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border to span both states from Interstate 40 south to the Mexican border. Much of this is not suitable wolf habitat, but the expansion sets the stage for establishing new wolf populations.
The proposed rule also would allow reintroduction of captive-bred wolves into new areas, adding badly needed genetic diversity to the wild population. This month, six wolves were released into the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. But there are still more Mexican wolves in captivity than in the wild.
A bigger wolf footprint could result in more conflicts with human activities, so it may make sense to expand the circumstances under which wolves can be removed.
But, gee whiz.
Some ranchers have opposed the wolf reintroduction effort since it began in 1998. The killing and recapture of wolves on their behalf helped keep the wolf population lower than anticipated.
A reimbursement program pays ranchers for any cows the wolves eat. But there is no requirement that ranchers remove livestock carcasses or treat them with lime so wolves won't scavenge and acquire a taste for beef.
The proposed rule does nothing to change that. Instead, it will make it easier to target wolves for attacking livestock and domestic animals.
What's worse, the new rule also includes a provision to kill, capture or relocate wolves that have "an unacceptable impact" on deer, elk or other game populations. The same Arizona and New Mexico wildlife agencies that issue hunting licenses get to say if wolves are eating too much game.
The conflict-of-interest meter is sparking and flashing. Hunters are a core constituency of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. A wolf's dinner is their sport trophy.
The Mexican wolf reintroduction effort serves a long-standing goal of preserving and restoring endangered species, and reflects a shared national value for species diversity.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment on the proposed rule change until Sept. 23. More information is available at fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf.
Two public hearings are scheduled. One is 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Hon-Dah Conference Center in Pinetop. The other is in Truth or Consequences, N.M. Few Arizonans will be able to travel to these remote locations. More hearings should be scheduled in urban centers.
Mexican wolves are the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America. They deserve protection that respects the value they bring to the ecosystem.