Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mexican Wolves - A Human Problem

Copyright © 2011

The Mexican wolf problem is actually a people problem rather than an animal problem. Mexican wolves are a subspecies of gray wolf that have been chosen for protection under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA). Unfortunately, the ESA has been used as a political weapon rather than an environmental tool, and the Mexican wolf issue is a case in point.

The Mexican wolf reintroduction program has from its inception failed to take into account a number of critical issues which bear directly on the program's capacity for success. The points below may be verified with just a little research at the Mexican wolf program's own website - the program does not seek to hide this information, just doesn't make it very public, and doesn't incorporate these points in its management of the wolves.

1. The area chosen for "reintroduction" in the United States was in fact never native denning habitat or prime hunting territory for the Mexican wolf;
2. The program has not taken into account the humans who live and work in the "reintroduction" area;
3. All wolves in the program descend from just a handful of wolves; no research has been published to demonstrate that it is even possible to rebuild a viable subspecies from such a limited gene pool; and
4. Almost all Mexican wolves are not actually wild, but are feral. They do not act like normal wild wolves. Almost all of the wolves are either captured or raised from conception in zoos and refuges. They are hand-fed in captivity (never learning to hunt) and routinely handled by humans (veterinary care including regular vaccinations, frequently transported from zoo to zoo and refuge to refuge, collars put on and batteries regularly changed). Perhaps worst of all, the wolves rarely are allowed the full pack experience; they do not get to choose their mates and go through the normal mating ritual (breeding matches are determined by the wolf program, not the wolves), young wolves are not taught to hunt by their parents or members of the packs they were born into since if born in the wild, many of the pups are removed from their mothers and raised in captivity.

Wolves that do eventually get turned out into the wild have no idea how to act like normal, wild wolves. Several years of independently collected data demonstrates that Mexican wolves are attracted to human areas of activity, and naturally end up killing livestock and pets. Ranchers are somehow blamed for their own losses, when those losses are being enabled by Mexican wolf program management.

Mexican wolves are not in danger of going extinct at this time, as there are hundreds of them living in captivity and that number could be increased at any time. However, Mexican wolves are not given a chance to live naturally in the wild, nor does the Mexican wolf program seem inclined to give them that chance. There is no way to know whether Mexican wolves could thrive on their own as a subspecies in a wild habitat that is native to them given the current management of this program. The Mexican wolf problem is thus entirely a human management problem.

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