ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – “Problem wolves” are plaguing cattle in New Mexico and the state and federal governments refuse to do anything about it, say ranchers who want to kill the wolves. Two New Mexico counties signed on as co-plaintiffs in complaining about the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program.
Catron and Otero Counties joined as plaintiffs with the Americans for Preservation of the Western Environment, a group based in the anti-wolf hotbed of Reserve, N.M., along with two ranches and The Gila National Forest Livestock Permittees’ Association.
The ranchers claim the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish violate environmental law by refusing to remove “problem wolves,” which have killed cattle or become accustomed to humans.
Reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf into the Blue Range Wilderness Area in the Apache and Gila National Forests defined the species as a “nonessential, experimental population.” The designation allows ranchers and wildlife authorities to kill and remove wolves that prey on cattle.
National Forest land in the reintroduction area is public, but ranchers can graze cattle there for nominal fees. But since wolves’ understanding of property boundaries is rudimentary at best, they wander from public land onto ranches and leased public lands.
Wolves had killed 20 head of cattle by 2008, 10 years after the program began, according to government reports. At least seven kills or injuries were traced to a single wolf from the San Mateo pack, the ranchers say.
The ranchers say that due to budgetary shortfalls, wolf monitoring was reduced from 2007 to 2009. They also claim that hybridization with domestic dogs has occurred, against goals of the reintroduction program.
The ranchers, represented by Daniel Bryant with Bryant of Schneider-Cook of Ruidoso, seek full funding for wolf monitoring, and removal of problem wolves.
The reintroduction program began in 1998. By the end of 2007, 60 wolves were estimated to live in the wild forests of western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. About 300 additional wolves are being held in captive-breeding facilities.