Based on specific decision criteria, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to reintroduce Mexican wolves, classified as nonessential experimental, into the White Sands Wolf Recovery Area or the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, followed by a second reintroduction into the other area if necessary and feasible. Wolves will be released into primary recovery zones and allowed to disperse into secondary recovery zones.
Map from Wolftracks, Summer 1996
In 1996, the FWS proposes to begin releasing family groups of captive-raised Mexican wolves into the White Sands Missile Range of south-central New Mexico or the Blue Range area of east-central Arizona. The order of use and the need to ultimately use both proposed recovery areas will be determined according to criteria discussed below. The FWS will gradually release up to five family groups into the White Sands Wolf Recovery Area (WSWRA) or up to 15 family groups into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA). The projected total population, after the two subpopulations expand throughout the designated wolf recovery areas, if both areas are used and fully occupied, will be approximately 120 wild wolves distributed over 6,000 miles by about the year 2004. The FWS and cooperating agencies will monitor, research, evaluate, and actively manage the wolves, including preventing dispersal outside the wolf recovery areas and removing or translocating wolves causing significant conflicts.
The FWS and the cooperating agencies will use a flexible, adaptive, management approach to implementing the Proposed Action. This will include adjusting the numbers actually released according to the needs and circumstances at the time.
Initial release stock will be "surplus" Mexican wolves from the U.S. captive population. A surplus wolf is one whose loss or removal will not significantly adversely affect the genetic or demographic make-up of the population. Thus, death of one or more surplus wolves would not jeopardize the continued existence of the subspecies. Use of surplus wolves will allow the FWS to designate the wild population as "nonessential experimental". This provides greater management flexibility than full ESA protection.
The adaptive management approach built into the Proposed Action also provides flexibility in decision-making about whether ultimately both the WSWRA and the BRWRA will need to be used and, if so, in the order of their use. A key factor will be whether natural Mexican wolf recolonization is occurring - in these designated wolf recovery areas or elsewhere - at the time of the proposed releases.
Prior to any releases, the FWS will determine whether recolonization has occurred or appears likely to occur within the U.S. portion of the subspecies' former range. Natural recolonization would contribute to meeting the FWS's recovery objectives and could eliminate the need for releases of captive animals into either the WSWRA or the BRWRA, or both.
The following future circumstances also will be considered in the adaptive management approach to decision-making about using the proposed recovery areas:
Wolf recovery will be supported only in the designated wolf recovery areas. Within these recovery areas, wolves will be released only in the primary recovery zones, but they will be allowed to disperse into the adjacent secondary recovery zones. The chief significance of the experimental population area is to distinguish the legal status of any wolf that might be found there. A wolf in this large area will be considered a member of the nonessential experimental population. The flexible management measures in the draft Proposed Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Rule (see below) will apply throughout this area. Any wolf found within the experimental population area, but outside of a designated wolf recovery area, will be captured and returned for re-release or placement into the captive breeding program. Any wolf found outside the Mexican wolf experimental population area will be presumed to be of wild origin with full endangered status under the ESA unless evidence such as a radio-collar or identification mark establishes that it is a member of the experimental population.
A federal regulation, to be published in the Federal Register, will designate the reintroduced population as experimental and nonessential to the continued existence of the subspecies. In summary, the draft Proposed Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Rule provides:
On public lands leased for grazing, livestock owners or their agents: (1) may harass wolves for purposes of scaring them away from livestock provided the harassment is promptly reported, and (2) may be allowed to take (injure or kill) wolves actually engaged in attacking livestock.
Permission for private parties to take wolves on public grazing lands may be granted provided the following conditions are met: 1) six or more breeding wolf pairs occur in the BRWRA, or three or more breeding wolf pairs occur in the WSWRA; 2) previous livestock loss or injury by wolves has been documented by an authorized FWS, ADC, or State employee and efforts to control the offending wolves have been undertaken but have not succeeded; 3) physical evidence exists that an attack occurred at the time of the take; and 4) the take is promptly reported.
On private or tribally-owned land, regardless of location, property owners and livestock owners may harass wolves near livestock, people, buildings, facilities, pets, or other domestic animals at any time and may injure or kill wolves attacking livestock. However, physical evidence that an attack occurred at the time the wolf was injured or killed must be present and the take must be promptly reported.
Authorized FWS, ADC, tribe, and State employees may capture and translocate reintroduced wolves consistent with a FWS-approved management plan or special management measure.
These may include wolves that: (1) prey on livestock, (2) attack domestic animals other than livestock on private land, (3) impact game populations in ways which may inhibit further wolf recovery, (4) prey on State-endangered desert bighorn sheep on the White Sands Missile Range, (5) are considered problem wolves, (6) are conflicting with a major land use, or (7) are necessary for research.
Post-release management will follow an interagency cooperative management plan. This will include working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to meet the requirements of its Cooperative Reintroduction Plan and working with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. A wolf management team representing the FWS, the State Game and Fish departments, and other cooperating agencies will determine whether particular actions are necessary. The interagency management plan will cover issues such as release pen siting, veterinary management, depredation control, capture and relocation, research, radio tracking, aerial overflights, prey monitoring, and prey habitat management. Field staff will conduct monitoring and research, trapping, depredation investigation, mortality investigation, control, and other on-the-ground actions.
All of the White Sands Missile Range including Holloman Air Force Base, the White Sands National Monument, and the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge, and the area adjacent and to the west of the Missile Range bounded on the south by the southerly boundary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Jornada Experimental Range and the northern boundary of the New Mexico State University Animal Science Ranch; the west by the New Mexico Principal Meridian; the north by the Pedro Armendaris Grant boundary and the Sierra-Socorro County line; and the east by the western boundary of the Missile Range.WSWRA primary recovery zone
The area within the White Sands Missile Range bounded on the north by the road from former Cain Ranch Headquarters to Range Road 16, Range Road 16 to its intersection with Range Road 13, Range Road 13 to its intersection with Range Road 7; the east by Range Road 7; the south by U.S. Highway 70; and the west by the Missile Range boundary.WSWRA secondary recovery zone
The remainder of the WSWRA not within the primary recovery zone.
All of the Apache and Gila National Forests.BRWRA primary recovery zone
The area within the Apache National Forest bounded on the north by the Apache-Greenlee County line; the east by the Arizona-New Mexico State line; the south by the San Francisco River (eastern half) and the southern boundary of the Apache National Forest (western half); and the west by the Greenlee-Graham County line (San Carlos Apache Reservation boundary).BRWRA secondary recovery zone
The remainder of the BRWRA not in the primary recovery zone.
The portion of Arizona lying north of Interstate Highway 10 and south of Interstate Highway 40; the portion of New Mexico lying north of Interstate Highway 10 in the west, north of the New Mexico-Texas boundary in the east, and south of Interstate Highway 40; and that portion of Texas lying north of US Highway 62/180 and south of the Texas-New Mexico boundary.
Based on specific decision criteria, reintroduction of wolves, classified as nonessential experimental, into the White Sands Wolf Recovery Area or the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, followed by a second reintroduction into the other area if necessary and feasible. Wolf dispersal from the primary recovery zones will be prevented.
In 1996, the FWS will begin releasing captive-raised Mexican wolves into the WSWRA or BRWRA primary recovery zones and actively prevent the populations from expanding beyond these zones. In the WSWRA primary recovery zone the FWS will release about four family groups over two years with the goal of reaching a long-term sustainable population of 14 wild wolves by 1998. In the BRWRA primary recovery zone the FWS will release about eight family groups over four years with the goal of reaching a long-term sustainable population of 20 wild wolves by 2000. The WSWRA primary recovery zone represents about two-thirds of the area the wolves would occupy in the whole WSWRA under Alternative A. The BRWRA primary recovery zone represents only about one-fifth of the area the wolves would occupy in the whole BRWRA under Alternative A.
The FWS will designate the population as nonessential experimental under the ESA. The FWS and cooperating agencies will follow the same decision criteria and the same release, monitoring, and management procedures as under Alternative A, but on a smaller scale due to the smaller area involved.Control will be accomplished through a combination of aggressive monitoring and management methods to promptly recapture wolves that leave the primary recovery zones.
Based on specific decision criteria, reintroduction of wolves, classified as endangered, into the White Sands Wolf Recovery Area or the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, followed by a second reintroduction into the other area if necessary and feasible. Wolves will receive full protection under the Endangered Species Act.
In 1996, the FWS will begin releasing captive-raised Mexican wolves with their current full-endangered status into the WSWRA or the BRWRA following the same procedures and decision criteria as under Alternatives A and B. In the WSWRA, the FWS will release about five family groups over three years. Alternative C in the WSWRA will be completed when the population reaches 20 wild wolves, expected to occur by 1998. In the BRWRA, the FWS will release about fourteen family groups over four years. Alternative C in the BRWRA will be completed when the population reaches 100 wild wolves, expected to occur by 2001.
The ESA allows unrestricted dispersal; that is, the FWS will not restrict the population to the designated wolf recovery areas, as under Alternative A, or to the smaller primary recovery zones, as under Alternative B. No attempts will be made to recapture or return wolves with the possible exception of individual depredators.
The wolves will have the full protection against "take" by humans provided by the ESA. Anyone who would "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct" against a Mexican wolf will be violating the ESA. The only exceptions will be takings to protect human life or by special permit "for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species", 16 USC sec. 1539(a)(1)(A).
No action/natural recolonization.
Under the no action/natural recolonization alternative, the FWS will continue its present course of action. It will neither release captive-raised wolves nor take any other action to directly ensure Mexican wolf recovery. The FWS will not designate an experimental population. The agency will encourage protection and expansion of wild wolf populations if any are discovered. Based on historical wolf abundance, recent sighting reports of "wolves", proximity to Mexico, and other factors, the most suitable potential natural recolonization areas are the mountainous parts of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, and Big Bend National Park in southern Texas. This alternative analyzes these three areas. Nevertheless, natural recolonization is considered highly speculative as no confirmed sighting reports have come from these areas or from Mexico in recent years.
BACK to Current Status &
Captive Breeding Page
BACK to Mexican Wolf