New Mexico ranchers worried their livestock could be at risk after the federal government announced plans to increase the amount of Mexican gray wolves allowed to dwell in the state.
The wolf, listed as endangered in 1976, presently dwells in portions of southern New Mexico and eastern Arizona.
While the species was being recovered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency previously capped the wolf’s population at 325.
But in an amendment proposed by the Service last week, that cap was removed, and the federal government said it intended to see the animal’s population grow to 320 or more by 2028.
Ogden said dangers from the wolves amid increased conservation efforts, coupled with market tensions, could create difficulty for New Mexico’s ranchers if the proposal was approved.
He said it was unfair for the federal government to continually adjust it population goals for the Mexican gray wolf, to the detriment of local ranchers.
“On a daily basis, ranching families contend with unpredictable weather, fluctuating markets, and increasing regulations,” Ogden said “Now, the federal government is moving the recovery plan goalposts once again.
“Removing population limits allows a concentration of wolves that could totally decimate a herd and a rancher’s livelihood. Our state’s ranchers are being sacrificed to achieve an ever-changing goal with no real finish line in sight.”
But the proposal was supported by environmental groups that argued the wolf’s population should be allowed to grow beyond 320, and those wolf killings intended to control their numbers were inhumane.
Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity contended the Fish and Wildlife Service should take another step to increase the breeding and genetic diversity of the wolves.
The proposed rule called for 22 captive-born wolf pups to be released into the wild by 2030, and survive to the breeding age of two, but did not contain requirements that they breed.
“It’s disappointing that the federal government still refuses to replenish the priceless genetic diversity lost through its own mismanagement of these wolves,” Robinson said. “Mexican gray wolves have won a reprieve from a planned massacre, but their hopes to find unrelated mates are being dashed at the same time.”
The Service was also criticized for its ongoing practice of releasing wolves born in captivity to join wild dens, a process known as “cross-fostering,” instead of breeding bonded wolves and releasing them together with their parents to increase their chances of survival and reproduction.