Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mexican gray wolves bite domestic dogs in Gila Hot Springs area


SILVER CITY — Two domestic dogs were bitten by Mexican gray wolves in the Gila Hot Springs area around Thanksgiving day, according to New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Service public outreach specialist Jeff Humphries. The wolves belong to the Coronado Pack, which were originally released at McKenna Park in the Gila Wilderness during the summer. Neither of the wounded dogs was seriously injured, Humphries reported.

The two domestic dogs that were attacked are a retired sheep dog and a dog of unknown breed, though the second dog is believed to be a pet. The dogs had puncture wounds in their flesh and the Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the bites came from Mexican gray wolves. The bites occurred on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29. “Wolves have different behavior with canids,” Humphries explained. “They’re marking their territory. They’re not particularly looking to feed.” 

Humphries added that a field crew went into the Gila Wilderness area on Nov. 24 to get a handle on wolf movement. Two of the adults in the pack wear collars which transmit the wolves’ location via satellite. By early December, the field crew was able to drive the wolf pack back into the Gila Wilderness area through the use of yelling, firecrackers and horns.

New Mexico Cattle Growers Association Executive Director Caren Cowan said that as more Mexican gray wolves are released into the wild, there will be more conflict between wild animals and people.
In November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a proposal that would increase the number of sites where wolves can be released and increase the number of Mexican gray wolves to 325 in wilderness areas in New Mexico and Arizona. Currently, there are only 83 in the wild.

However, under this new proposal, livestock owners could kill any wolf that is biting, wounding or killing livestock on federal land. Pet owners could do the same on federal land.

Humphries said he didn’t know if the pets that were bitten around Thanksgiving Day were out roaming or if they were on farm or residential property. “These (wolves) are accustomed to people and they seek people out,” Cowan said. She added that there are wolf cages in Catron County because of reports of Mexican gray wolves following school children to the school bus. 

Village of Reserve Town Clerk Andre Giron said there are two “wolf shacks,” located in Catron County that were built in the last decade. Reserve Independent School Superintendant Bill Green confirmed that the Reserve Independent School system contracted to have four-to-five wolf shacks built under a previous school board administration. He said one was auctioned off last year to be repurposed into a chicken coop. He confirmed only two are left. “I’m not a wolf supporter; we have no business reintroducing them,” Green said. “It’s a failed program. The dollars could be spent on something else. It’s a waste of time for this country.” However, Green added the wolf shacks are not something his administration is focused on or a part of.

WildEarth Guardians Wild Places Program Director Bryan Bird called the wolf shacks a scare tactic.
“Those wolf shacks are a stunt that were built to scare people and generate opposition to wolf protection,” Bird said. “Children are not in harm’s way.”

Bird added that while his group is sorry that someone’s pet was injured, people need to realize it’s a privilege to live in the wolves’ habitat. “People are going to have to make lifestyle changes to protect their pets and property,” Bird remarked. 

Humphries said the owners of the dogs injured Thanksgiving week can seek compensation for their veterinarian bills from the Mexican Wolf Livestock Coexistence Council.