Home News Local News Mexican wolf plan up for discussion at Roswell meeting

Mexican wolf plan up for discussion at Roswell meeting

A recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf includes reintroducing more into New Mexico in 2019. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Submitted Photo)

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Plans to import Mexican gray wolves into the state will be discussed at a Friday meeting, reintroducing a subject that historically has caused tensions between New Mexico ranchers and those who want to preserve the animals.

The New Mexico Game and Fish Commission has announced a meeting to begin 8 a.m. Friday at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center, 912 N. Main St.

Other agenda items include public hearings on five proposed rule changes and a discussion about 2019-2020 special hunt lotteries.

An agenda briefing indicates that the upcoming Mexican gray wolf discussion will provide an update on efforts to raise cross-fostered pups, or those raised in captivity to be released as adults. The department also talked about the release of wolves into New Mexico in 2019 to provide more genetic diversity for southwest populations.

A predator of sheep, calves, other livestock and horses, the wolves have been on the federal endangered species list since 1976, three years after the Endangered Species Act went into effect.

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Because of livestock kills, wildlife management specialists originally engaged in trapping and poisoning efforts in the southwest, which eliminated most of the wolves by 1976 from Arizona and New Mexico. At one time, according to conservation groups, more than 2 million gray wolves and the subspecies Mexican gray wolves could be found in North America.

Political changes and lawsuits led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to switch to a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf species. The first written plan was developed in 1982 and the first reintroduction of wolves into Arizona and New Mexico, aided by state game departments, began in 1998.

The recovery effort often has led to legal and legislative clashes between wildlife conservationists and ranchers, as well as debates between various political and scientific groups.

Now the federal agency, according to its revised 2017 recovery plan, predicts that the species will be able to be downlisted to threatened in about 20 years and full recovery achieved within 35 years. Downlisting can occur when the U.S. population averages 320 animals over a four-year period and genetic diversity has been achieved. The cost of the full recovery effort is estimated at more than $178 million.

A September 2018 status report of the Fish and Wildlife Service indicated that 114 wolves had been counted in Arizona and New Mexico, where they live in mountains and woodlands. In New Mexico, they were located in the Gila National Forest, the Gila Wilderness and the Cibola National Forest.

From January to September of this year, the status report stated, 11 wolves had been found dead from various causes and 58 documented incidents in New Mexico and 26 in Arizona had occurred in which wolves killed, harmed or harassed livestock or pets.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.