On March 9, a colleague from Endangered Species Coalition and I published this op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal, identifying Arizona and New Mexico as major stumbling blocks to wolf recovery, “[B]ecause both are allowing the Fish and Wildlife Service only to conduct cross-fostering in their states.” We called out the urgency with which the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game must act to release well-bonded adult pairs into the wild this summer as a way of addressing the critical genetic crisis facing the wild wolves.

To our surprise, a former Chairman of the NM State Game Commission Paul Kienzle, wrote a responsive op-ed the same week, stating,

“It is not fair to suggest the State Game Commission is a major stumbling block for wolf recovery when all the tools are there for the Fish and Wildlife Service to utilize to accomplish the goal of recovery. That the Fish and Wildlife Service does not choose to make an application for releases of well-bonded wolf pairs into the wild or cannot adequately support its application via a public process is not the fault of the N.M. State Game Commission.”

Maybe so, but then who is the stumbling block over there in New Mexico? The US Fish and Wildlife Service reportedly has well-bonded pairs and release locations picked out – and if they don’t, we could help them! – so why isn’t the department encouraging the FWS to put in an application and get this project moving? (We note that the Commission and the Department are two separate things, and maybe that’s the issue?)

The 2020 release and translocation plan only calls for cross-fostering releases in Arizona and New Mexico, despite the realities that cross-fostering – if successful – will only improve genetic health slightly in the long-run and doesn’t provide a near-term necessary infusion of new genes into the expanding wild population. As we put it in our op-ed,

“Cross-fostering entails adding captive pups to wild dens and hoping the parent wolves don’t notice. Even when cross-fostering is successful, the low survivorship of puppies and the number of years until they will reach breeding age means that the genetic benefit of these little lobos is years away.”

Sure, there would be some political blowback from the usual suspects (cough * ranchers * cough) and less-informed sportspeople, but if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. We can’t have wildlife agencies too afraid of politics to allow a species to go extinct on their watch.

The genetics of the wild population are downright troubling, and we can’t wait for wishful thinking and crossed fingers to work their magic.

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.

3 Responses to What’s the hang up on releasing adult lobos?

  1. Megan says:

    Excellent article…thank you! What can we citizens do to get action? Call, write the NM Dept of Fish and Game? How about an Action Alert we can sign?

    • Greta Anderson says:

      Good question. As of right now, I don’t know of any organized efforts to contact NMDFG but it couldn’t hurt! Thanks. Maybe send a polite email to Stewart Liley, Wildlife Management Chief? stewart.liley@state.nm.us
      Let us know what he says! Thanks.

  2. Chris says:

    Consider contacting one of the wildlife conservation organizations that are members of the Fish & Wildlife’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the Mexican gray wolf. These people are fighting for the reintroduction of the MGW to the wild and can use all the help and advocacy they can get. They are also breeding MGWs for reintroduction, and pups will be born this spring. One such organization is the Wolf Conservation Center in New York State. Their website is: http://www.nywolf.org. I was a volunteer there for many years and I know they do outstanding work in advocating for more reintroductions. Visit their site and see how you can help.


March 2020


‎"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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