The Making of a Mexico-to-Canada Wolf Corridor

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

McAfee101314Part 1: Mex­i­can wolves can dev­as­tate a ranch eco­nom­i­cal­ly in ways not read­i­ly appar­ent or under­stood by the pub­lic

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice (USFWS) is delist­ing and relin­quish­ing man­age­ment of their import­ed Cana­di­an gray wolves back to state wildlife offi­cials while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly propos­ing “new rules”1 to “save” the Mex­i­can gray wolf. These pro­pos­als include:

  • Keep­ing the Mex­i­can gray wolf (Can­is lupus bai­leyi) on the endan­gered list as a sub­species. A conun­drum. The Mex­i­can wolf is a gray wolf that breeds with oth­er gray wolves and is not a sub­species. A griz­zly and a black bear are sub­species.
  • Issu­ing per­mits to pri­vate landown­ers to kill wolves killing live­stock on their prop­er­ty based on the num­ber of Mex­i­can gray wolves that exist in the wild, not imme­di­ate or con­tin­u­ing wolf depre­da­tions.
  • Han­dling Mex­i­can wolves killing live­stock on pri­vate lands are not includ­ed in the USFWS’s new ‘prob­lem’ wolf pro­pos­als. Mex­i­can wolves killing live­stock on pri­vate land are prob­lem wolves.
  • When wolf depre­da­tions occur on pri­vate prop­er­ty, the num­ber of ani­mals killed have been report­ed in the past. The USFWS intends to replace the term “depre­da­tion” with the term “depre­da­tion inci­dent.” A “depre­da­tion inci­dent” is defined as “… the aggre­gate num­ber of live­stock killed or mor­tal­ly wound­ed by an indi­vid­ual Mex­i­can gray wolf or pack at a sin­gle loca­tion with­in one 24-hour peri­od.” Under this def­i­n­i­tion, wolves can wipe out a herd like the 176 head of the Sid­doway Sheep Company’s sheep that died on the west slope of the Tetons in Ida­ho when a pack pan­icked them off a ridge­line and they were tram­pled or suf­fo­cat­ed.
  • The Siddoway’s lost an esti­mat­ed $35,000 when Wildlife Ser­vices ‘com­pen­sat­ed’ them at $200 a head after eye wit­ness­es con­firmed the killings.2 Mul­ti­ple live­stock loss­es like this would be record­ed as a sin­gle “depre­da­tion inci­dent” under the new pro­pos­als, and the true num­ber of indi­vid­ual live­stock killed or injured by wolves—plus the accom­pa­ny­ing finan­cial losses—will not be accu­rate­ly record­ed or report­ed pub­li­cal­ly by the USFWS.
  • The USFWS states its intent is to “… con­sid­er state owned lands with­in the [new] bound­aries of the Mex­i­can Wolf Exper­i­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Area (MWEPA) in the same man­ner as we con­sid­er lands owned and man­aged by oth­er pub­lic [fed­er­al] land man­age­ment agen­cies.” The USFWS does not have the enu­mer­at­ed pow­er to cir­cum­vent state Con­sti­tu­tions and con­sid­er state owned lands the same as fed­er­al­ly man­aged lands for the pur­pose of releas­ing pen-raised Mex­i­can gray wolves.
  • McAfee101314-1Expand­ing the Mex­i­can gray wolf’s Ari­zona-New Mex­i­co “exper­i­men­tal pop­u­la­tion area bound­ary” south past IH-10 in New Mex­i­co and Ari­zona to the Mex­i­can bor­der and east to the Texas state line in West Texas and up along the Pan­han­dle bor­der, west to the Neva­da state line, and north towards Utah and Col­orado. This expan­sion will allow the Mex­i­can wolves to roam areas void of enough wildlife to feed them. South­ern and south­east­ern New Mex­i­co that bor­ders Texas is at least a third dry land farms that disc, plant, cul­ti­vate, har­vest, and graze year-round with lit­tle past or present pre­da­tion on live­stock and pets oth­er than an occa­sion­al coy­ote. And because fed­er­al land bound­aries have no mean­ing for Mex­i­can wolves, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of them drift­ing south and east out of south­ern New Mex­i­co, and north out of Mex­i­co, is high.

These pro­pos­als, if adopt­ed, open the door for Mex­i­can wolves whose weights range 60–80 pounds—and whose gene pool has been pol­lut­ed by coy­otes, dogs, and inbreeding—to cross­breed with Canada’s north­west­ern gray wolves that were import­ed into Yel­low­stone (31 wolves) and Ida­ho (35 wolves) in 1995–1996 by the USFWS, and set loose as an exper­i­men­tal wolf pop­u­la­tion with an “endan­gered” free pass for unlim­it­ed pre­da­tion; wolves that now num­ber in the thou­sands.

These Cana­di­an wolves, whose weights range 100–135 pounds—the heav­i­est ever record­ed, killed on 70 Mile Riv­er in east-cen­tral Alas­ka on July 12, 1939, weighed 79.4 kilo­grams (175lb)3—have no preda­tors and were nev­er endan­gered because there are thou­sands of them in Cana­da and the far North­west.

mcafee101314-2Dumped in the mid­dle of America’s world class wildlife herds, they repro­duced rapid­ly, expand­ed their ter­ri­to­ries, and dec­i­mat­ed Yellowstone’s and the sur­round­ing area’s big game herds. The Park’s tra­di­tion­al moose herd of 1,000 is gone and its elk herd that his­tor­i­cal­ly aver­aged 19,000 is at 3,000 (+) and declin­ing, as are mule deer, moun­tain sheep, and moun­tain goats.

From Ida­ho and Mon­tana, these Cana­di­an wolves spilled out­ward into adja­cent states like Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and north­ern Cal­i­for­nia, and south towards Col­orado, Utah, Ari­zona, and north­ern New Mex­i­co wreak­ing hav­oc on west­ern wildlife and live­stock and vir­tu­al­ly destroy­ing the west­ern states’ mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar a year hunt­ing indus­try.

In 1998 cap­tive Mex­i­can gray wolves were rein­tro­duced in Ari­zona by the USFWS. Short­ly there­after they spread into New Mex­i­co. Over the next decade the USFWS trans-locat­ed sev­er­al more pen-raised packs into New Mexico’s sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed 558,065-acre Gila Wilder­ness. These releas­es includ­ed wolves with con­firmed depre­da­tions in Ari­zona that, upon release, con­tin­ued killing live­stock on New Mex­i­co ranch­es.

Jess Carey, Catron Coun­ty Wildlife Inves­ti­ga­tor, doc­u­ment­ed how these Mex­i­can wolves affect­ed his com­mu­ni­ty, Reserve, New Mex­i­co, and the sur­round­ing ranch­es over the next decade.4 Among his obser­va­tions were that habit­u­at­ed Mex­i­can wolves released deep inside the Gila Wilder­ness didn’t stay long; choos­ing instead to migrate to human activity—ranches, homes, com­mu­ni­ties. He found that habit­u­at­ed wolves:

  • Seek out humans and human use areas,
  • Don’t use or want ide­al habi­tat unless it includes homes, com­mu­ni­ties, and peo­ple, and
  • Teach off-spring (by their actions) to become habit­u­at­ed.

Through May 2014 there were 28 con­firmed and prob­a­ble wolf-live­stock depre­da­tions in Catron Coun­ty.

Between 2006 and 2014, Carey received 359 wolf-ani­mal com­plaints and179 wolf-human inter­ac­tions on pri­vate prop­er­ty that includ­ed wolves uri­nat­ing on vehi­cle tires and an ice chest locat­ed out­side an occu­pied camp trail­er; leav­ing wolf scat in yards, porch­es, and door­ways of occu­pied homes; and leav­ing ter­ri­to­r­i­al claim­ing scrapes near occu­pied residences—23 times at one home.

The bold­ness of these wolves in Catron Coun­ty also forced cit­i­zens to build enclosed pro­tec­tion sheds for the safe­ty of school chil­dren and adults wait­ing with them at school bus stops.

The sig­nif­i­cance of these encoun­ters is that wolves kill people.5 Coun­tries like Rus­sia and India record these attacks annu­al­ly. In North Amer­i­ca they’ve killed a woman and a man this cen­tu­ry, both of which were par­tial­ly eat­en. 6,7

Carey not­ed that for every head of live­stock con­firmed killed by wolves, there are 7–9 head (depend­ing upon the study) of live­stock killed by wolves that aren’t because:

  • Wolves often con­sume the whole carcass—especially calves—including skull, hooves, bones, and hair.
  • What the wolves don’t eat, Coy­otes and oth­er scav­engers wait on the periph­ery to fin­ish once the wolves leave.
  • Live­stock killed in rough or remote ter­rain can go days with­out dis­cov­ery.
  • Hot weath­er decom­pos­es car­cass­es fast.

Carey also not­ed that when ranch­ers find a fresh kill, wildlife bureau­crats often make it dif­fi­cult for them to con­firm it as a wolf kill by set­ting high ‘con­fir­ma­tion standards’—delaying what­ev­er pay­ment they decide is due the rancher—while ranch­ers strug­gle to pro­tect ‘evi­dence’ and find car­cass­es before they’re con­sumed or decom­pose. Evi­dence ‘require­ments’ often include:

  • Mea­sur­able canine spreads with cor­re­spond­ing hem­or­rhage
  • Mas­sive hem­or­rhage in the mus­cle tis­sue
  • Large bones bro­ken
  • Mea­sur­able com­pres­sion canine spreads
  • Blood trail
  • Ground dis­tur­bance
  • Uprooted/torn/tramped veg­e­ta­tion
  • Wolf tracks
  • Wolf scat
  • Attack site
  • Feed­ing site
  • Drag marks
  • Ground and aer­i­al teleme­try doc­u­ment­ing wolves at the scene or in the area and/or
  • Oth­er con­firmed live­stock depre­da­tions in the imme­di­ate area

Cary point­ed out that Mex­i­can wolves can dev­as­tate a ranch eco­nom­i­cal­ly in ways not read­i­ly appar­ent or under­stood by the pub­lic. For exam­ple:

  • Wolf-caused chron­ic stress in cat­tle leads to loss of body con­di­tion, cows birthing weak calves, pre-mature birth of calves, abor­tion of calves, immune sup­pres­sion, decreased preg­nan­cy rates and open cows, increased sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to dis­ease, major weight loss­es, plus altered demeanor of cows from docile to aggres­sive after wolf attacks and encoun­ters that make them dif­fi­cult or dan­ger­ous to han­dle to the point they have to be shipped.
  • Maimed or deformed cat­tle that sur­vive a wolf attack are great­ly deval­ued by the mar­ket.
  • Rev­enue lost from long-term pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of uncom­pen­sat­ed wolf kills puts seri­ous finan­cial bur­dens on ranch­ers.

And real estate bro­kers report buy­ers shy away from prop­er­ties in wolf ter­ri­to­ries.

Ref­er­ences:

  1. Pro­pos­al to Delist Gray Wolf and Focus ESA Pro­tec­tion on Mex­i­can Wolf
  2. Wolves respon­si­ble for death of 176 sheep on Sid­doway Ranch in Ida­ho
  3. Lopez, Bar­ry H. (1978). Of Wolves and Men. J. M. Dent and Sons Lim­it­ed. p. 18. ISBN 0–7432-4936–4.
  4. Carey, Jess (2011) Com­pa­ra­bil­i­ty of Con­firmed Wolf Depre­da­tions to Actu­al Loss­es: Wolves Den­ning in Calf/yearling Core Areas, Catron Coun­ty, New Mex­i­co,
  5. Wolf Attacks On Humans  By T. R. Mad­er, Research Direc­tor, Abun­dant Wildlife Soci­ety Of North Amer­i­ca
  6. McNay, M. E. (2007) “A Review of Evi­dence and Find­ings Relat­ed to the Death of Ken­ton Carnegie on 8 Novem­ber 2005 Near Points North, Saskatchewan”. Alas­ka Depart­ment of Fish and Game, Fair­banks, Alas­ka.
  7. But­ler, L., B. Dale, K. Beck­men, and S. Far­ley. 2011.Find­ings Relat­ed to the March 2010 Fatal Wolf Attack near Chig­nik Lake, Alas­ka. Wildlife Spe­cial Pub­li­ca­tion, ADF&G/DWC/WSP-2011–2. Palmer, Alas­ka.