New Mexico ranchers' use of technology to track wolves debated

Only 39 Mexican wolves remain in the wild after several poaching incidents.

Conservation groups are asking the USFWS to retrieve telemetry equipment from ranchers and change the frequencies of the radio collars on the wolves so that people with receivers cannot find wolves and kill them. They argue, correctly in my estimation, that the radio frequencies are compromised.

New Mexico ranchers’ use of technology to track wolves debated
El Paso Times



, ,



  1. Maska Avatar

    “The Fish and Wildlife Service provided the receivers at the beginning of the program ‘to elicit support’ and give ranchers a method of depredation control, Buckley said.”

    USFWS’s spokesperson Buckley simply re-writes history in this statement. The Service did NOT lend out receivers “at the beginning of the program,” as Buckley states, but only began doing so after the retirement of the original Mexican wolf recovery coordinator, David R. Parsons, in the fall of 1999. It is unclear at this point exactly who originated this idea of receiver loans to local livestock permittees.

    As for “eliciting support” for the program, that has worked about as well as has removing wolf pairs for as few as three livestock depredations, the evidence being repeated, unsuccessful legal actions attempting to stop the program by livestock growers and their allies.

  2. Kathy Sanders Avatar
    Kathy Sanders

    With only about 38 Mexican wolves remaining in the wild and 3 killings this summer, it seems insane for the FWS to allow radio receivers that could help even one lobo hater to track and kill a wolf in the hands of anyone who doesn’t work for them. has a good action alert up for those who want to urge their members of Congress to lean on the FWS to take these receivers back and make other needed changes.

  3. davej Avatar

    Amazing that USFWS would lose track of 4 telemetry receivers. How could that happen?

    1. Jeff N. Avatar
      Jeff N.

      Willful ignorance would be my guess..

  4. Billie Avatar

    Radio receivers belong only in the hands of the field team. Livestock producers can be alerted by other means if wolves are in the area. A number of those issued receivers are knows to hate wolves. Thirty-five wolves are known to have been killed illegally, while an additional 46 wolves have disappeared, many under suspicious circumstances. Retrieving programmed government telemetry receivers and changing the frequencies will make the wolves less vulnerable. After all, the Fish and Wildlife Service identifies illegal killings as a major problem affecting the success of the program. Economic considerations should not trump ecologically sound decision. Wolves are important to our ecosystems; livestock are not.

  5. Demarcated Landscapes Avatar

    Too many collared animals have been killed for this to be considered a coincidence. We hope the USFWS is conducting a full investigation of the killings that have happened this summer, starting with the folks with access to the radio frequencies and telemetry equipment. USFWS needs to get those receivers back NOW and change the frequencies of the collared wolves. The collars are bad enough for lots of reasons, but now they seem to come with a death sentence.

  6. fettered Avatar

    its time to uncollar all wolves and let mother nature only know just how many there and where they might be – the mystery.

  7. Nicole Lampe Avatar
    Nicole Lampe

    Thank you Ken for helping to shed light on this critical issue. No one other than scientists should be able to track the movement of these animals, and the number of wolves that are known to have been killed or have disappeared under mysterious circumstances speaks for itself! It’s high time to address this problem and get the Mexican Wolf Recovery program back on track. The more people understand about the important function wolves and other top predators play in nature, and the threats to their survival, the more positive pressure we can exert on agencies to be good stewards!

  8. inthefurwest Avatar

    it may be virtually impossible to to stop tracking even if all the telemetry units are rounded up. speaking from experience many uhf and vhf digital scanners can be programed to cover the freq’s that are used by radio collar producers. a simple 4 element directional receiving antenna (aka beam antenna) can be assembled within just a few minutes. once the desired signal is found it is simply a matter of recording it for future reference and then begin tracking the signal. any armature radio operator that works the higher frequency bands can and will point out that receiving a signal is not illegal, as long as you don’t transmit your in the clear. and possessing a scanner is legal as well.
    for several hundred dollars you can track anything the fws has put a coller on

    1. Davej Avatar

      How many ranchers are really going to put together a directional antenna? Seems a bit far-fetched. And furthermore, the USFS could issue a special order making it illegal to possess radio tracking equipment (i.e. directional antenna of the relevant wavelength) on National Forest lands except in an official capacity. (Not to imply that the Forest Service really cares if anyone shoots a wolf.)


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.

We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ken Cole