08 May 2015
One of the largest, most persistent threats to the recovery of Mexican gray wolves is low levels of genetic diversity. Every Mexican gray wolf in the world today is related to just seven individuals – a very close brush with extinction. Without the introduction of new genes, Mexican gray wolves – indeed, any animals or plants – are vulnerable to the effects of inbreeding. To solve this problem, wildlife biologists are looking at new strategies; one of the most promising techniques is something called “cross-fostering.” In simple terms, this strategy involves putting newly born pups from one litter into a different, similar-age wild litter with the hope that the receiving pack will raise them as their own. This allows pups from captivity, or pups from inexperienced moms, a better start at life in the wild.
Right now, wildlife biologists are looking for denning females in the Apache National Forest that they believe could be good candidates for fostering new pups. This new technique has been successful once before with Mexican gray wolves. In May last year, the Service cross-fostered two pups into a den with a single mother — part of the Dark Canyon Mexican gray wolf pack in New Mexico. We are hopeful that cross-fostering continues to improve the genetics of wild Mexican gray wolves. But, it cannot make up for what the Service must continue to do if lobos are to survive and thrive: develop a detailed, long range plan for “genetic rescue,” including releasing many more wolves, and a science-based recovery plan.
Dances with Wolves Screenwriter Michael Blake Passes Away
Few people know of Oscar winning screenwriter Michael Blake’s contributions to wolf recovery beyond his role as the author and screenwriter of the award winning film Dances with Wolves. Blake was also involved with wolf reintroduction efforts in Yellowstone and Idaho at a crucial turning point in the mid-90’s. His public support and advocacy for wolf recovery was critical in thwarting congressional interference that would have prevented wolf populations from recovering in the region. We hope that Blake’s contribution to gray wolf recovery will always be remembered as vividly as his famous film.
Congress Continues its Campaign Against Wolves
Congress’ animosity towards wolves burns brighter by the day. Since January, Representatives have introduced three separate bills in the House of Representatives to delist gray wolves in certain states. On top of that, last week 36 Representatives signed a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, requesting the Department move forward with its proposal to remove federal protections for wolves across most of the lower 48 states. The Service’s delisting rule was originally proposed in June of 2013. A final decision on the proposal was delayed after the Service received more than one million comments in opposition to the rule, the highest number of submissions ever to the agency on an endangered species issue. It is unclear when or if the Service will attempt to finalize a national gray wolf delisting rule. We feel strongly that science, not politics, should guide listing decisions and we oppose all congressional attempts to interfere with the species listing or delisting process. You can help us by also telling Congress it must keep politics out of wolf recovery!