While the federal government develops revisions to the 10(j) rule for Mexican wolf recovery, the Arizona Game and Fish Department continues fulfilling its mission of restoring a self-sustaining population of wolves to Arizona through its dedicated, unwavering on-the-ground field management. Biologists are preparing to begin the annual winter population count that will determine the minimum number of wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.
Recently, at a public meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, several members of the public and environmental organizations chose to provide public comment on Mexican wolf recovery. It was of particular interest to the commission and department because it reflected some similarity in long-term goals.
“It was interesting to hear comments from a number of wolf advocates stating their goal of recovering the Mexican wolf. While there is some apparent disagreement on exactly what recovery means to each group and how to accomplish it, we do share a common goal of recovering the Mexican wolf. It seems that there is a place for dialog and working together,” said Jim deVos, assistant director for wildlife management at Arizona Game and Fish. “The commission and department have played an integral role in returning the Mexican wolf to its historic range in Arizona since before wolves were even released into the state. We are committed to continuing that role to establish a self-sustaining population of wolves.”
The commission reaffirmed its commitment to wolf recovery by asking the department to continue working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a 10(j) rule for Mexican wolf recovery. The commission wants a mutually acceptable rule that not only considers increased wolf numbers, but also the need to maintain healthy populations of all other wildlife species and consider the socio-economic impacts to those that live, work and recreate on the same land where wolves live.
“The department has a trust responsibility to manage all wildlife species, including Mexican wolves, but we must manage all of those species in balance. We should not allow the wolf population to grow to a point where it threatens the persistence of other species. That would be a dereliction of our duties,” said deVos.
Game and Fish biologists are responsible for monitoring wolves, assisting wolves with injuries, addressing citizen concerns and all aspects of daily management of the Mexican wolf reintroduction effort.
Game and Fish biologists will spend part of December and January conducting aerial surveys looking for individual wolves and packs. Results of the surveys are usually complete by early February. The department expects the 2015 count to reflect a healthy increase in the Mexican wolf population for the fourth year in a row. At last count, there were at least 83 wolves in Arizona and New Mexico when before 1998 there were none.
For more information on the Mexican wolf reintroduction effort, visit www.azgfd.gov/wolf