*Post authored by Greta Anderson and Emily Renn 

Mexican Wolf running

Photo courtesy of NY Wolf Conservation Center, https://nywolf.org

In the Arizona Republic article, “Anubis, a Mexican gray wolf found outside his territory, is relocated amid outcry from scientists, advocates,” (August 18, 2021), Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Jim deVos provided his agency’s justification for removing Anubis, a young wolf who wandered around Flagstaff for nearly four months without any issues. But for each of the agency’s excuses to justify removing this wolf from suitable Mexican gray wolf habitat, there were other ways to address the ‘problem,’ had the agency actually wanted to restore wolves to their rightful place on the broader landscape.

Mr. deVos used the fact that four wolves in 20 years have been roadkill in and around the Flagstaff area as one of the reasons for removing Anubis. It’s true that Mexican gray wolves can be hit by cars; twelve percent of lobo mortalities between 1998 and 2018 were caused by vehicle strikes, mostly within the designated recovery area. Removing Anubis doesn’t protect him from cars, but the agency’s justification reveals something else: wolves are regularly moving north of Interstate 40, the politically established boundary line intended to prevent wolves from re-establishing populations in certain parts of their original range. Rather than translocating the wildlife, the agency could be looking at creating safe wildlife passages for all of Arizona’s animals across highways like I-40. Deal with the problem – roads – rather than trying to block the natural processes of wildlife dispersal and migration.

The Department also used the presence of other wolves in the existing recovery area as a good reason for moving Anubis: “Now he’ll be back in an area with females, finding a female partner, forming a pack and contributing to wolf recovery.” There could be females up around Flagstaff if the Department wasn’t opposing management rule changes that could expand the recovery area to include areas north of I-40. Anubis was contributing to wolf recovery by demonstrating that there is suitable and abundant habitat, and the agency could have instead allowed females to join him. It may take some time for it to manifest on the landscape, but we know that wild wolves are capable of taking care of themselves and finding mates in new territories.

Additionally, the Department rationalized that Anubis’ proximity to people would put him at risk of being intentionally or accidentally shot by people. Killing an endangered species is a crime, full stop, and these unfortunate crimes also happen in the designated recovery area. If the agency had wanted to protect Anubis, it could have made public statements, advising people of the criminal penalties for ‘taking’ an imperiled wolf and educating people about the difference between a coyote and a wolf. Even more proactively, the game agency could have closed the area entirely to coyote hunting during Anubis’ foray or expand such a the closure to everywhere wild wolves roam. Address the issue – human ignorance and criminality – rather than trying to limit where wolves can recover.

The reality seems to be that even though Anubis wasn’t causing any problems, had moved away from the highway, was localized in an area with abundant prey, and was largely staying out of human sight, the Department resented his transgression of their arbitrary boundary and needed to shove him back south across the imaginary line. It’s a shame for Anubis and a shame for the all of Arizona’s critters that our wildlife managers can’t tolerate and try to accommodate wild life.

Greta Anderson is the deputy director of Western Watersheds Project (Twitter: @wildadvocate) and lives in southern Arizona. Emily Renn is the executive director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project (Twitter: @GCWolfRecovery) based in Flagstaff.

About The Author

Greta Anderson

Greta Anderson is a plant nerd, a desert rat, and a fan of wildness. She is the Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project and lives on the land of the Tohono O'Odham and Yaqui people in what is now called Arizona. Greta's opinions and world views are not necessarily reflected in the posts of other authors on this blog.

25 Responses to Agency excuses don’t fly for Mexican gray wolf’s removal from northern Arizona habitats

  1. avatar Maximilian Werner says:

    Excellent piece. Will this run in the Flagstaff paper and in the Arizona Republic?

    This sentence says it all: “Deal with the problem – roads – rather than trying to block the natural processes of wildlife dispersal and migration.”

    Thank you for your work on the Mexican gray.

    • avatar Greta Anderson says:

      We submitted this to the Arizona Republic in response to their article last week but didn’t hear affirmatively that they intended to publish it, so I posted it here to at least get the piece some eyes. Please share widely!

  2. avatar Maggie Frazier says:

    Doesnt it blow your mind that these agencies (& others) expect wild animals to comprehend the border limits that humans put in place? For crying out loud, HUMANS dont seem to comprehend them nor much else at times. Past time for this kind of outdated baloney to be put back into the past.
    I hope, Greta that the Ariz. Republic editors wake up & print this article!

  3. avatar Maggie Frazier says:

    Point Reyes – Tule Elk water update! Shown below on Western Watershed Projects:
    This situation continues as though no one cares! Video well worth watching…

  4. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Oh how awful. Did you see that awful looking trough?

    Thanks for posting for the Mexican wolves and the Tule elk update too. 🙁

    • avatar Maggie Frazier says:

      It is terrible. I’ve been reading about & commenting & sent postcards to the supposed people in charge – Feinstein & another Senator – Dems – who apparently are all in for the ranchers there.
      The ranchers that were BOUGHT out several years ago given a time span to leave BUT stayed & leased the sites – sounds like the Park Service is at THEIR service! Kind of like the BLM with the ranchers & wild horses.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        Thank you.

        The worst thing is that the ranchers, who are leasing on the public lands, want to expand their operations, when there isn’t much water to begin with. That part at the very least should be nixed, if bipartisan politicians don’t want to cancel the leases. It’s insulting.

        It was sad to see elk with ribs showing, and getting stuck in the mud trying to get water. People are better than this, or so I am led to believe!

      • avatar Robert Goldman says:

        Where were the lawsuits to enforce the agreement to get the cows out when the damn leases expired?

        • avatar Maggie Frazier says:

          I read somewhere that the tribes that were originally from that area were, I think, either suing or preparing to sue. But yeah, WHERE are the lawsuits? The other question should be to the two Senators, Feinstein & ?, both Democrats. They are very much in support of the “ranchers”! When I sent postcards several months ago (through a conservation organization) 2 of the names were the 2 senators. The livestock lobby is very much in force!

  5. avatar Monica S says:

    Print the article please other’s need to know. Save the wolves

  6. avatar Kim Boss says:

    I have completely lost faith in mankind. I am a wolf advocate and supporter of all wildlife. I don’t understand how the cattle industry with a 96 million head count has the nerve to say wolves pose a risk to their livelihood and for a wolf to be killed in the name of cattle is shamefull.The way I see it, wolves should be allowed to kill cattle because they are grazing on public land without any protection measures in place. They also should be allowed a certain amount of cattle kills due to the injustice they have endured by mankind. They should be given a break from relentless persecution and allowed to thrive. Cows are a dime a dozen, not important. Americans are gluttons and waste enormous amounts of food. No wolf should die so there can be a cow on your plate 3 times a day, seven days a week!I lives in Flagstaff, AZ from 2016 to 2019. It is a perfect place for wolves to thrive. Within Flagstaff city limits the speed is 35, maybe 40.There is no place that is above 40 mph. The people are already carefully watching while driving because of the risk of deer and elk being on the road. With that in mind it is a perfect place for wolves to thrive.

  7. avatar Robert Goldman says:

    When will this awful situation change for the better, for Mexican wolves and all wolves. What will it take for real change to come? The Democrats get into office and are as stupid and corrupt and unethical as the republicans, when it comes to wolves and wild horses and all the rest.

  8. avatar Jim deVos says:

    I have read with interest this article and recognize that they have a strong interest in Mexican wolf recovery as does the Arizona Game and Fish Department. It is important to look at all of the circumstances related to the decision to translocate m2520 back to the MWEPA. I was localizing very near housing developments, which heightened the potential for the wolf to be killed. I crossed I-40 on multiple occasions; I-40 is a high-volume high speed transportation corridor where on a recent field trip, three coyotes were road-killed in a 3-mile stretch of the interstate. The AZGFD works closely with the Arizona Department of Transportation on wildlife crossings and support the idea of more crossings on highways like I-40 but these structures are not cheap. The AZGFD help support a wildlife crossing near Tucson (highway 77) and the structure cost was well over $10 Million. To close, the AZGFD has supported the Mexico wolf recovery program since its inception and has a dedicated core of wildlife professionals that are in the field daily working on balanced wolf recovery program.

    • avatar Greta Anderson says:

      Yes, indeed, we were also worried about Anubis crossing I40 and on reconnaissance trips, we noticed lots of dead elk on the roadside too, which may have been what kept him in the area. This suggests again that the AGFD should be prioritizing wildlife crossings, and yes we are aware they are expensive, and in the meantime perhaps removing roadkill/scavenger attractants in key areas would be beneficial. Does AGFD do that?

      Speaking of expensive, your capture plans couldn’t have been cheap. Up to three days in June with a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter, staffed with agency personnel and a veterinarian, plus food caches and monitoring from at least June to mid-August, sending someone out to track and dart him, and then moving him back south into the arbitrary wolf recovery area. That’s an awful lot of work for one wolf who wasn’t actually habituating or causing any depredations…. his only ‘offense’ was crossing an imaginary line that your agency insists on enforcing for the sake of cattle growers, hunters, and Utah politicians.

      It’s painfully obvious that AGFD only supports wolf recovery in places where wolves can be “managed” as a 10j population and kept in designated habitat. But you might have a hard time convincing Anubis to cooperate with your plans…. and getting the public to believe that it’s in the best interest of the wolves to artificially limit their recovery and range.

  9. avatar Chris says:

    “Killing an endangered species is a crime, full stop, and these unfortunate crimes also happen in the designated recovery area.”

    Is this correct? I thought wolves outside the 10(j) area were not protected.

    • avatar Jim deVos says:

      Good evening Chris, actually any wolf outside the current 10(j) is fully protected under provisions of ESA. All of the agencies involved in Mexican wolf recovery work to reduce mortality from all sources. It is important to note that the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department have the authority to manage wolves within or outside of the 10(j) as does the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in Mexico. While killing of wolves does occur in a variety of ways including shooting and vehicle collisions, the good news is that the Mexican wolf population continues to grow at about 14% per year and has nearly doubled in the last 5 years. Genetic management is also important and the agencies have completed 72 fostering events since 2016, which is a program where pups from captive locations are placed with similar aged pups in the wild. While there is a lot of recovery efforts to complete, it is great news that recovery efforts are paying dividends and progress will continue.

      • avatar Greta Anderson says:

        It is important to note that the Fish and Wildlife Service is currently abdicating a lot of its authority to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, who have consistently blocked adult releases, limited cross-fostering efforts, thwarted the establishment of additional release sites on national forests, and insisted on the politically imposed boundary of I40. Recovery efforts are paying dividends DESPITE Arizona’s efforts.

        • avatar Jim deVos says:

          Interesting that the perception is that AZGFD is blocking cross-fostering for nothing could be less accurate. AZGFD has been the leader in cross-fostering effort and in fact in 2020 the Fish and Wildlife Service did not participate due to covid and the AZGFD helped foster litters into not only Arizona but New Mexico as well as NMGFD had no experience in fostering. If it were not for the AZGFD in 2020 there would not have been 20 pups from captivity fostered into the wild. Hardly impeding cross-fostering. Were it not for the steadfast effort of the AZGFD recovery would not be as advanced as it is. The AZGFD has contributed over $10 million to direct recovery efforts and maintains a field crew of 4-6 working tirelessly for recovery. Recovery is being made within historical range as required by the Endangered Species Act itself with I-40 being designated by the federal agency in charge of recovery not the AZGFD although this agency does support both the legal and biological aspect of historical range. By the way, what other non-federal entity has the same commitment of financial and staff resources for recovery of the Mexican wolf; easy answer, no one. The AZGFD is a leader in endangered species recovery and the Mexican wolf is no exception.

          • avatar Greta says:

            I said LIMITING cross-fostering. The AZGFD has placed a cap on the number of cross-fosters allowed every year, has it not?

            • avatar Jim deVos says:

              There is a cap of 12 animals in AZ. Only met once and AZGFD is working in NM and AZ in the foster program so in total, there is no limit numeric limit on the number of fosters able to be introduced.

              • avatar Greta Anderson says:

                Your answers are obfuscating. Counting New Mexico’s policies as a counterbalance of your own cap seeks to hide the ball of AZ resistance. Why only 12 Jim? And why was it only met once? And why is there a cap in AZ at all, if NM doesn’t need one anymore?

                And anyway, you and I both know that cross-fostering is just one tool and isn’t really a success until those animals grow up and breed — but you’d rather talk about numbers of pups put into dens than the number that are successfully reproducing and contributing to the genetic diversity in the wild. What’s the percentage of success as measured that way, and, projected out, how long is this going to take to rescue lobos from genetic inbreeding, esp. in context of the ongoing inbreeding occurring in the wild over the same time period? I mean, those are the numbers that matter. Dollar signs and person hours are irrelevant if you won’t use tools that could actually work, like adult, well-bonded pair releases into suitable parts of the habitat, allowing range expansion to the north for the creation of another subpopulation, and helping to retire grazing allotments which are a key source of conflict for the program.

                Don’t get me wrong, Jim. I think AZGFD is a critical player in lobo recovery. I just think you are using the wrong metrics to claim success, when the crisis of genetics is real and the opposition to adult wolves is wholly political. We can agree to disagree, but let’s at least talk about the facts that matter.

                • avatar Mark L says:

                  I.e. how many red wolves have been cross fostered in the last year -anywhere-? It’s a shame that a species can be held hostage to the whims of a few politicians

  10. avatar Kirk C Robinson, PhD, JD says:

    As a conservation activist in Utah of many years who is interested in Mexican wolf recovery, I have followed the recovery efforts nearly from the beginning. There is an abundance of hard evidence that Utah has done its best to politicize and hamper the recovery effort to make sure that Mexican wolves never populate Utah, which would allow the population expand north of I-40. Former Senator Orrin Hatch played a big part in this, as did a former Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Jim Karpowitz and others. I have official documents that verify this. Furthermore, this meddling has nothing at all to do with the requirements of the ESA. Everyone who knows the ESA well knows that it allows for reintroducing experimental populations into suitable unoccupied habitat if the best scientific evidence indicates that that is what it will take for true recovery to occur, which in this case would be a self-sustaining viable population of Mexican wolves. And the best available science does say this. The top wolf scientists in the world have been saying so for a dozen years. They recommend additional populations of Mexican wolves in the greater Grand Canyon area, which extends into the Paunsaugunt Plateau of southern Utah, as well as into SW Colorado. And Jim deVos knows this very well. If he wants to be completely honest, he will acknowledge this fact. But that would be to expose the additional fact that the rest of his talk is basically political propaganda to try to justify the politically motivated status quo. Or: If deVos thinks he knows more than the recognized top experts, let’s have him prove it. Good luck with that.

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August 2021


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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