August 14, 2012
Secretary of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Dr. Benjamin Tuggle
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 1306
Albuquerque, NM 87103
Re: Request to Stay Order to Capture and Remove Mexican Wolf AF1188 from the Wild
Dear Secretary Salazar and Dr. Tuggle:
Thank you for rescinding the August 8, 2012, kill order for Alpha Female 1188 of the Fox Mountain Mexican wolf pack, who has five pups, including four young of the year. We now request that you also stay your subsequent order to capture and remove AF1188 from the wild to a permanent holding facility.
AF1188 is one of six breeding females in a population of less than 60 Mexican wolves. It is essential to preserve breeding females in the wild to support recovery of the species.1
Wolf packs that lose one or more their alpha animals typically disband, which leaves pups and yearlings to strike out on their own and they may likely starve (Creel and Rotella 2010). Wolves, highly sentient beings, suffer emotional trauma from the loss of members of a pack (Mallonee 2011), and in this instance, placing a wild wolf into captivity away from her pack will cause her to suffer as well.
After consultation with a former USDA-Wildlife Services official, we believe the Fish and Wildlife Service will use leg-hold traps to capture AF1188. This creates a crisis for two reasons: wolves captured during the height of summer can die from exposure.
1 While the Fish and Wildlife Service claims that AF1188 is genetically similar to her mate, it has done nothing to
further genetic diversity within the population; the agency has also not released new lobos into the Blue Range Wolf
Recovery Area in more than 1366 days to diversify the population. Yet, the Service has also not hesitated to remove
multiple wolves from the population in the past.
Second, leghold traps do not discriminate between animals. There is no way to target AF1188 specifically, and her young pups, who are naïve, will most likely will be the subjects caught in traps set out for AF1188 (see e.g., Iossa et al. 2007).
Wolves caught in traps can suffer feet and leg injuries, which can compromise their future ability to course after their swift-moving prey (Iossa et al. 2007). Already, too many Mexican wolves have suffered trapping injuries or death from traps – at the hands of both governmental entities (one mortality in a trap) and non-governmental entities (14 wolves in 15 different trapping incidents with these results: 2 died, 7 sustained injuries, of which 3 had amputation surgeries) (Turnbull et al. 2011).
The Service has ordered the capture and removal of AF1188 because she presumably led her pack to prey upon domestic livestock. But the livestock producer has been compensated for his losses and removing individual wolves from the wild will not resolve future livestock conflicts. Livestock operators should be required to keep livestock away
from the wolf dens and rendezvous sites, and the federal government should retire grazing allotments in Mexican wolf range.
After years of drought in the Southwest, it makes good sense to remove domestic livestock from the range for a myriad of reasons including the fact that cattle consume forage needed by native herbivores – the species preferred by wolves. AF 1188 may have killed four domestic stock animals, but she is only doing what any mother would do in distress: provision for her pups to keep them alive. Through no fault of her own, she has domestic stock in her territory, and those livestock push out native wildlife through forage competition and leave few menu options for hungry wolves.
Please stay your order to remove AF1188 from the wild and immediately implement solutions to prevent future negative wolf-livestock conflicts in the Southwest.
Wendy Keefover, Carnivore Protection Director
President Barack Obama
Senator Jeff Bingaman
Senator Tom Udall
Congressman Martin Heinrich
Congressman Ben Ray Luján
Top Photo: Courtesy WildEarth Guardians
Bottom Photo: USFWS
Posted in: Mexican Gray Wolf, Wolf Wars
Tags: Fox Mountain alpha female, keep her wild, no capture, remove cows, WildEarth Guardian