Deal Will Help Get Wolves Back Into the Wilderness

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March 28, 2002  

Deal Will Help Get Wolves Back Into the Wilderness

Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Officials working to reintroduce the endangered Mexican gray wolf into the wild signed an agreement Wednesday with members of the White Mountain Apache Indian tribe to let as many as six wolf packs roam over 1.5 million acres of Indian land.

There are thought to be 30 reintroduced wolves in the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico.

"The reservation provides a much-needed sanctuary for wolves that are having a difficult time surviving," said Craig Miller, regional director of Defenders of Wildlife, a national wildlife conservation organization. "Humans are shooting these wolves. The reservation has far fewer humans and fewer chances for conflicts." Many ranchers consider the 4-year-old program a failure that causes headaches for them and misery for unprepared wolves let loose in a harsh environment.

The wolves, raised in captivity and unprepared for life in the wild, are being released into areas traditionally used by ranchers, said C.B. Lane, director of natural resources for the Arizona Cattle Feeders Assn.

"I don't think they really thought about what they were doing when they started this thing," he said.

The Mexican gray wolf, a German shepherd-sized predator that once roamed the U.S. Southwest and central Mexico, was hunted to the brink of extinction in the 1950s.

Of the 200 or so wolves left in the world, most are housed in breeding programs in U.S. and Mexican zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.

While ranchers complain that the wolves kill livestock and raid garbage and pet food, Miller said the 30 animals thought to be in the wild have successfully established pairs, reproduced and hunted on their own.

"Biologically, this program exceeds our expectations," he said. "The biggest problem has been the conscious decision by a few humans to slaughter these animals."
 

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