Return of gray wolves to Southwest slow going

February 14, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Mexican gray wolf No. 1105 was shot dead by wildlife managers after having a tryst — and puppies — with a common ranch dog. No. 1188, an alpha female, was almost executed, then taken away from her pups and pack, for killing cattle. And wolf No. 1133 was returned to captivity after failing to woo his intended mate.

Fifteen years and more than $25 million after the federal government set about trying to return the endangered species to the American Southwest, the program drastically lags those credited with saving their cousins in the Northern Rockies, bald eagles and even the American crocodile.

The reason, critics say, federal wildlife managers are being too heavy-handed with the wild animals, picking and choosing which wolves get to mate, which get a spot at the front of the line for a chance at freedom and which need to be shot or rounded up and returned to captivity for indulging in cattle — easy prey in the rugged mountains of southern New Mexico and Arizona.

“They’re going by an old rubric, that there are good wolves and bad wolves,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups critical of wolf management. “The good wolves are the ones that stay out of trouble so to speak and the bad wolves are the ones that prey on livestock.”

Federal wildlife officials defend their handling of the program, saying one of the keys to wolf recovery is finding ways to reduce conflicts with people and livestock. The other is genetics. Without a diverse pool of genes, wolf packs become susceptible to inbreeding and that could lead to smaller litters and more pup deaths.

The goal, federal officials say, is to Login to read more

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