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.