ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has six months to develop new language in its Mexican gray wolf recovery plan, after a judge ruled the problem of illegal killing of wolves was not adequately addressed.
The judge's ruling was in response to a lawsuit by conservation groups, including Defenders of Wildlife. Defenders' Southwest Program Manager Bryan Bird said one of the highest sources of wolf mortality is poaching by humans, and protections are needed for that.
"Whether that's increased law enforcement or increased education of the public," said Bird. "They have to put those in their recovery plan, explicitly."
The group's 2018 lawsuit claimed that the federal agency's plan failed to meet basic requirements of the Endangered Species Act. Mexican gray wolves or "lobos" became one of the most endangered mammals due to federally sanctioned hunting, trapping, and poisoning.
According to Bird, the centuries-long coexistence conflict between wolves and humans - especially over territory and livestock - has nearly led to their extinction.
"You're never supposed to shoot a wolf unless you're under extreme threat for personal safety or property," said Bird. "And when you lose a wolf to poaching, it's very likely it could be highly valuable from a genetic perspective."
Bird said genetic diversity has decreased dramatically among the Mexican gray population and a proper recovery plan could help save the wolves from extinction.
He added that 105 gray wolves are known to have been killed unlawfully between 1998 and 2019 following their reintroduction to New Mexico and Arizona.
Source: New Mexico News Connection