The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s decision to grant itself a “recovery permit” to live-capture endangered wolves that may enter New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico or the Rocky Mountains. Mexico recently released nine Mexican gray wolves near the U.S. border in the Sierra Madre, and wolves from the northern Rocky Mountains could make their way south at any time.
“It’s fantastic that Mexico’s working to restore wolves to its northern wilds,” said Michael Robinson, the Center’s wolf specialist. “And of course, these wolves in northern Mexico don’t recognize political boundaries. If they’re able to set up a home range that crosses the border, it would be tragic and wrong for Fish and Wildlife officials to then capture them and snatch them out of that home.”
Captured wolves will be placed into the captive-breeding program, returned to where they came from, or relocated into the Mexican wolf recovery area. Right now the only Mexican wolves in the two states are in the “Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area,” an area between Interstate 40 and Interstate 10 where wolves are considered an experimental, non-essential population and therefore enjoy fewer safeguards. But any wolves entering from Mexico or the north will be fully endangered. The Center’s notice argues that Fish and Wildlife failed to give the public an opportunity to comment, conduct an environmental review, or show that capturing wolves would enhance the recovery of wolves.
“Without any review or public notice, the Fish and Wildlife Service has given itself autocratic authority to capture fully endangered wolves,” said Robinson. “Taking wolves out of perfectly good habitat makes no sense. We need to recover wolves to the Sierra Madre and Sky Islands, as well as the mountains of northern New Mexico.”
Over the past month, the Center has filed two other lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Mexican wolf — one to compel reform of the stalled reintroduction program in the United States and another to give protection to the Mexican wolf as a subspecies, or distinct population, of the more widespread gray wolf, deserving of its own, modern recovery plan.
The Mexican gray wolf is the smallest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America, and the most imperiled. Trapping and poisoning by the Fish and Wildlife Service, in both the United States and Mexico, prior to the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act reduced Mexican wolves to just seven remaining animals. These were caught alive and bred in captivity, enabling future reintroduction efforts in the two countries.