Let’s start with some facts:

  1. The majority of New Mexicans want to see Mexican wolves recovered.
  2. Public lands livestock are a leading source of conflict for the wolf recovery program.
  3. Livestock on public lands displace native wildlife through competition for food and driving them out of preferred habitats.
  4. Public lands livestock permittees are getting a screaming deal: $1.35 per month per cow/calf pair for an all-you-can-eat buffet.
  5. There are multiple programs in multiple agencies that compensate ranchers for livestock lost to wolves. (e.g. here and here)

These facts provide some important context for a situation happening right now near Reserve, N.M. on the Gila National Forest. One rancher – who shall remain nameless – is experiencing significant levels of wolf predation grazing their livestock on public lands. This rancher is requesting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remove the culpable wolf or wolves and raising a stink online about their losses, generating a whole lot of sympathy for their heavily-subsidized livestock operation, and gaining some support from regional elected officials.

But here’s the thing. For reasons that aren’t quite clear, this particular rancher repeatedly places bred cattle onto the same public lands pastures, year after year, in full knowledge that calves dropping in December, January, and February are disproportionately likely to die of natural causes, and are irresistible to wolves. The ranch has been losing cows and calves every winter, yet nothing has changed with the livestock management regime to avoid this conflict. The ranch, in turn, demands that wolves be removed each year.

Thus far, between 2018 and 2020, seven endangered wolves have been “removed” (lethally or to captivity) by the Fish and Wildlife Service to accommodate this one ranch, including two who were caught in private traps and died in captivity from their injuries and stress. At least six additional wolves have also been caught in private traps on the allotment and released. An entire pack of wolves has been removed from the area, and yet the problems persist.

Now, the ranch is pushing for wolf removal number eight. It’s a black hole for wolves.

It’s also a black hole for taxpayer dollars. This particular ranch has received tens of thousands of dollars in federal money over the last few years to compensate for the livestock losses, paid from a variety of programs that require varying levels of proof of wolves’ involvement in the cattle deaths, not to mention the ridiculously low federal grazing fee that underpins the whole operation.

Which raises the questions: If this rancher really wanted to prevent livestock deaths, why do they repeatedly use the same high-elevation winter pastures for calving in the dead of winter, leaving vulnerable calves and birthing mother cows at risk? If the Gila National Forest is truly a partner in Mexican wolf recovery, why does the agency allow problematic management year after year? And why, if we’re paying for the dead livestock anyway, do we – the American public – also have to pay with the priceless lives of rare Mexican wolves by removing them from wild lands through death or captivity?

Wolves are apex predators who depend on public lands’ habitat. It’s the ranchers who need to change their management to reflect responsible stewardship of wildlife habitat on public lands grazing allotments, and it’s the Forest Service who needs to ensure that this occurs. The public wants wolves to be restored to their natural range in New Mexico, and the Forest Service must require that multiple uses of the forest don’t impede the recovery mandate of the Endangered Species Act.

Which leaves us with this final fact: One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Stop the insanity. Leave the wolves wild and demand more of the humans.

 
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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.

17 Responses to Wolves will be wolves, so manage the humans

  1. avatar Kirk C Robinson says:

    Killing the wolves that may or may not have preyed on this rancher’s livestock clearly does not work as a preventive measure. It is pure revenge killing. At American taxpayer expense and the expense of Mexican wolves. There is nothing right about this picture.

  2. avatar Maggie Frazier says:

    Yup the definition of insanity seems to be incomprehensible for the FS, BLM & other guvmint agencies AND certain politicians, who are supposed to be “managing”? our wildlife – including wolves, bears, mountain lions, AND – wait for it – wild horses!! None of these agencies get it-obviously. So the overwhelming livestock lobby continues to over-run our western lands & forests. Now, I, as a NY great grandmother, can see the issue – why the hell cant our “guvmint” (so to speak)?

  3. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    To me, there’s a dichotomy between what the public says it wants, and what they do to ensure it.

    As long as beef producers rule, and there’s an overwhelming demand for it, these things will continue. People have to show they mean it by either consuming less beef, or giving it up entirely, and making their voices heard about it. It threatens the very existence of wolves, wild horses, bison and other wildlife.

    I was following up reading about Jeff Siddoway and his proposed bill to declare war on wolves, and I read that he not only raises sheep, but bison too. How did he manage that when supposedly bison are a threat of brucellosis (we know it is exaggerated), but how did he manage to do this? Also, as a former legislator, how was he able to submit the proposal on more wolf hunting?

    It’s just not enough just to say we want wolves on and protected on the landscape, especially in a time of climate change.

  4. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    ^^It’s an elk and bison hunting preserve. But elk carry brucellosis too, and bison are claimed to. What’s good for me and not for thee, I suppose. 🙁

    • avatar Maggie Frazier says:

      “whats good for me & not for thee” seems to be the goal for far too many! In many areas.

  5. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    And scum will be scum. In case anyone has ever wondered, (I know I have!), wonder no more (per Wolf Patrol):

    “In another portion of the national forest, Wolf Patrol discovered a whole beef calf carcass that was being used to attract wolves to a number of traps strung out along the road to the carcass. Once again, we were told such baiting was legal but when further pressed for an explanation WDNR officials told a Wolf Patrol member that the disposal of livestock was not under WDNR authority, but that of county officials. Ironically, one of the argued justifications for this hunt was livestock depredations caused by wolves, yet in Forest ad Florence counties none have been reported, but livestock can be used to bait wolves by licensed trappers.”

    https://wolfpatrol.org/2021/03/09/convicted-poacher-unlicensed-hunters-participated-in-wisconsins-3-day-wolf-hunt/

    • avatar Maggie Frazier says:

      Thats just so wrong – and the justification & sliding out from under responsibility makes me sick! Wildlife just is NOT a priority in far too many Western states.

  6. avatar Rick says:

    Its sad FWC and greedy politicians are deciding the fate of these animals!I agree, let wolves be wolves!! Humans?? Please..thx

  7. avatar BenThereMan LongIgnored(too) AltSoluHere says:

    My suggestion is to focus more on what best will encourage groups to care and follow your suggestions. Unfortunately most people don’t like ackowedging the cold or ugly truth, however will ackowedge the inversely framed same truth divorsed from the overwhelming, guilt inducing negativity. Wolves need our help. There are more practicle solutions for farmers. The emmense reward will be well worth the bit of hard, honest work it requires. Please.

  8. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Wisconsin’s ‘wolf hunt gone wrong’, more bad press :):

    https://otherwords.org/the-fraught-politics-of-wolf-hunting/

  9. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    ^^A few comments:

    I agree that hunters and wildlife advocates have some things in common, and joint goals, such as preservation of the public lands. But I do not consider these people in Wisconsin to be hunters, but destroyers – and I have nothing at all in common with them, could never even be in the same room with them, never mind trying to find common ground.

    Not that this articles says it, but other articles have, and I am offended when it is said that the wildlife advocates that are the bad guys, or inflexible, when it is the other way around!

    No matter if we were impeccable in our behavior, we’d still be called radicals and whatever else they call us because we do not agree with them, and challenge their status quo. It makes me feel that I cannot speak up for fear of their retaliation in some way, which is what I believe happened in Wisconsin, for whatever reasons, current politics or what have you. I also cannot believe the cavalier attitude of the WDNR over this killing spree. They have the nerve to say despite going over quota by 82%, that the wolf population is ‘resilient’ and basically shrugging it off. It may affect the population of the entire region’s wolves?

    This was a disgusting display and I want something done about it! 🙁

  10. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    How can this be? The WDNR did not have to allow for every unethical hunting method known, and should have not allowed such a free-for-all. They share the blame in this mess:

    “A full accounting of the hunt’s biological toll is impossible, as the state declined to inspect carcasses.”

  11. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    From the Sierra Club:

    “Dr. Adrian Treves, a professor of environmental studies at UW-Madison and founder of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab, says the hunt was problematic for many reasons, but a few stand out. First, it throws off last year’s wolf count, which would have been used to create a new wolf management plan. “The data is now unreliable because a wolf that might have been counted could very well be dead by now,” says Treves. Second, the hunt started at the height of the breeding season, hampering the population’s ability to recover since pregnant females were likely among the wolves killed. Third, the hunt failed to factor in the effects of poaching, a practice Treves warns is drastically underestimated. When accidental deaths and natural mortality are factored in, Treves estimates a population reduction when compared with last spring of 30 to 38 percent—a level of mortality far beyond what scientists say wolf populations can sustain.”

    https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/other-states-seek-emulate-wisconsin-s-wolf-massacre

  12. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Is this another, new killing?:

    https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/37000-reward-offered-for-info-on-slain-mexican-wolf-in-arizona-2021-03-17/

    It’s just so disappointing, not only for the irrational hatred directed at an innocent animal, but disappointing in seeing just how ugly human nature can be. 🙁

  13. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Even Field & Stream weighs in:

    Wolf hunt outrage threatens 2022 season:

    https://www.fieldandstream.com/story/hunting/wisconsin-wolf-hunt-outrage-threatens-2022-season/

  14. avatar Linda says:

    It just sickens me to no end. Slaughtered wolves who just want to live their lives like all earth’s creatures. Why isn’t there more opposition against willful
    Annihilation of wolves.😫😫

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‎"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."

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