Wolf pups rescued; some found dead

Some worry that Mexican Gray wolf pups were abandoned due to human activity near densite.

Wolf pups rescued; some found dead
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN – Associated Press Writer





  1. Maska Avatar

    The article isn’t bad, but the statement that the 4+ million acre recovery area is interspersed with forests, private land, and towns gives the impression that there are more private inholdings and towns than actually exist. The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area consists of 95% public land (94% in the Arizona portion of the recovery area, and 96% in the New Mexico portion).

    The San Mateo pack, subject of the article, is one of the three packs with confirmed litters. Of course, this pack is down to only a single pup left in the wild to be raised by its parents.

    I hope DOI conducts a thorough (and unbiased) investigation of this incident and publishes the results.

  2. chris Avatar

    It is normal for wolves to move their litter to another den. Disturbance can cause such a move, but it’s also a natural occurrence that serves the purpose of protecting the pups from parasites and feces in a used den by moving them to a new one.

    To automatically suspect the biologists are to blame strikes me as naïve to the realities of nature and more friendly fire against the good guys/girls. The problem with the Mexican Wolf project is not the field biologists; it’s the policy makers further up the chain.

  3. Linda Hunter Avatar

    It seems like the biologists in this case are between a rock and a hard place. . .anything they do or don’t do will be scrutinized by one side or the other. If they don’t keep track of the wolves they are in deep do doo and if they keep track of the wolves they are bothering them. I wouldn’t want to be in their places.

  4. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I found the article to be a little confusing. A reference to “these people” doesn’t give one any information as to what kind of human disturbance might have caused the wolf to abandon her pups. I have a hard time believing that the mother wolf couldn’t entice the pups to come out of the den or go in and haul them out by the scruff of their necks. Was her radio collar catching on the sides of the den opening? The antenna equipped researchers were able to get the remainding pups out. Was someone camped on top of the den? A sheepherder wagon parked on the den opening? An oil rig drilling close by? Give me some more information.
    I spent several days in the mexican wolf recovery area this winter and there are roads everywhere. The one wilderness area is very small.
    I talked to a former mexican wolf recovery worker in Yellowstone this spring and she was concerned about the huge number of cattle that get turned out on public lands right on top of the mexican wolves each grazing season. She also thought that the folks in charge of the project didn’t know what they were doing. My own feeling, while there, was that the higher elevations, where all of the elk were, were more suited to gray wolves than the smaller mexican wolves that are more likely to prey on deer.
    The continued dumping of pen-raised, human fed, radio collared, deer eating, mexican wolves (over 200 wolves dumped so far) into elk habitat and expecting them to thrive is not well thought out. Many of the surviving 52 wolves keep leaving the area to find suitable prey, but are trapped and returned. This recovery project is not doing well and needs to be re-evaluated.

  5. Maska Avatar

    I appreciate Chris’s and Linda’s comments, and I’m fully aware that female wolves do move pups to different locations even absent human interference.

    I just want to point out that this pack was under more than ordinary scrutiny by the project. It wasn’t simply a case of a biologist checking on them now and then from a safe vantage point, or even just camping in the area. At one point numerous agency trucks (There have been reports of at least four.) were observed parked near the den site. (And if this is not accurate, it’s something that should come out in an investigation.)

    The reason for the intensity of observation and intervention was the fact that the alpha male had just been given a reprieve from removal under the notorious SOP 13.0, a policy that calls for the immediate removal (lethal or non-lethal) of any wolf involved in three or more livestock depredations in 365 days. This SOP is the reason that the single most important cause of loss of lobos to the wild population is not poaching, but management removals, most of them for depredations.

    Information contained in project decision documents shows that the permittee on the Canyon del Buey allotment whose cow was most recently killed had rejected a free range rider offered by New Mexico Game and Fish. The documents relating to the decision not to remove AM1114 can be found on the AZGFD website at

    Scroll most of the way down the page to the heading Management Decisions: Releases, Translocations, Removals

    Note particularly the chronology for 2009 in the IFT management recommendations, the third report from the top in that section.

    Clearly, project personnel were anxious to be sure AM1114 didn’t tangle with any more of this permittee’s cattle.

    The decision documents call for the removal of AM1114 if he depredates again, despite the presence of dependent pups. I certainly sympathize with the position of the folks in the field, however, I think it’s still appropriate to have an investigation, if only to improve responses to incidents like this if (and more likely, when) there’s a next time.

    In addition, a thorough investigation should reveal to what extent pressure from above dictated the specific response of the field team, and what effects that response may or may not have had on the animals’ behavior. Frankly, I wouldn’t begin to predict what in investigation may reveal. I’m not prejudging the outcome.

  6. Maska Avatar

    Larry, I’m afraid you have a few facts incorrect. Perhaps you misunderstood some of what the former employee said. First, the project has not released “over 200 wolves so far.” The precise number of new releases from captivity to date is 100, the most recent one being in late 2008.

    Second, it is simply not correct to suggest that the Mexican wolves must have great difficulty taking down elk. Approximately 75% of their diet consists of elk, with the remainder divided among white tail and mule deer, small mammals, and a small percentage of livestock. One of the first three pairs of lobos released in 1998 killed in elk within a couple of weeks of release. They may not be very big (50-85 pounds), but they seem to be pretty skilled hunters.

    Third, at the last end-of-year count, about 89% of the collared wolves were born in the wild, not initial releases from captivity.

    Fourth, few Mexican wolves have been trapped for leaving the boundaries of the recovery area in recent years. The main reason they are trapped and removed (or in 11 cases, shot by Wildlife Services) is for livestock depredations, as noted above. (This is not to say that the boundary rule shouldn’t be changed. It is purely political, and has no biological justification.)

    Fifth, your informant was right-on regarding the problem with cattle.

    What the project really needs is the following:

    1. A moratorium on shooting, trapping, and removing wolves, at least until the wild population reaches the reintroduction goal of approximately 100 animals. This recommendation has been proposed by both the American Society of Mammalogists and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (which oversees the captive breeding program in the US).

    2. More aggressive genetic management of the wild population, as suggested by Mexican wolf genetics experts Richard Fredrickson and Philip Hedrick. (The captive population is already well managed.)

    3. Simultaneous production by FWS of both a new recovery plan (The current, 1982 plan is both legally insufficient and scientifically out of date.) and a new Final Rule to govern the reintroduction–one that would remove the artificial boundaries now hampering wolf dispersal and address a number of other issues raised by the scientific community. This should be done without delay.

    As for my credentials–I am neither a project employee (past or present) nor an employee of any conservation group. I am a private citizen who has followed the program very closely since 1998 and who spends a considerable amount of time each year in the recovery area.

  7. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Maska….’the permittee rejected a free range rider’..What’s up with that? Pressure from the other cow growers?

  8. Maska Avatar

    Possibly. Or possibly he was hoping for another depredation and removal. Who knows? I wouldn’t attempt to get inside the heads of the livestock owners. Since the aid was to come from NMDGF, it can’t be because he objects to taking conservationists’ money (as with Defenders of Wildlife compensation) “on principle.”

    You can read the story yourself at the link I pasted above. Interesting stuff.

  9. Demarcated Landscapes Avatar


    If we may be so bold as to add another item to your list:

    #4. A federal grazing permit retirement program. If private money can buy livestock out of the picture (and thus end the major conflict for wolf recovery), the feds should let it. Instead of incentivizing losses by compensating depredations, the government and conservation groups should incentivize removing private livestock- which harm more than just wolves on our public lands- once and for all.

  10. Brian Ertz Avatar

    DL, comprehensive buy-outs will happen when the public land ranchers ask for them. consider the OI (passed) or CIEDRA (not passed yet). enviros calling for them just sets the ranchers against them.

    Maska, where the hell is bingaman on this ? and what’s the NEPA schedule like for the allotments in the recovery area ?

  11. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Maska…found the answer as to why a range rider was rejected…..Interesting story!!

  12. Maska Avatar

    Bingaman has been very, very cautious, as is his nature.

    As for the NEPA schedule, while I should be more informed on this, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave that question to those more directly involved in those issues. Recently, I simply haven’t had the time to keep up. Perhaps somebody will weigh in with that information.

    And thanks to Demarcated Landscapes for that fourth item for the list.

  13. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    It’s interesting/funny that rancher Aragon considers a historical federal program to eliminate wolves from the west as “nature getting rid of them”.

    You can find this gem in Jerry B’s link.

  14. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Demarcated Landscapes, that is a very good point.

    The Mexican wolf recovery program cannot afford to have moralities like this. That’s why I think they they should look at reintroducing them to other areas as well in case some more disastrous events happen with this population.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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