Often, the sound of howling, yelping coyotes awakens me. I sit bolt upright in my bed as my sleep-filled brain tries to calculate where my critters are and whether or not they are safe.
In the years that I’ve lived in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, I’ve lost three cats and three ducks to coyotes. I know coyotes are natural predators, and if my pets are outside there is a chance they’ll fall prey.
Coyotes could be the least of New Mexicans’ worries under a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to expand the area for the Mexican grey wolf reintroduction. The plan calls for virtually all of southern New Mexico to become wolf habitat – but wolf advocates at a hearing about the plan, held in Truth or Consequences on Aug. 13, repeatedly expressed their desire to have wolves introduced north of I-40. Others want wolves released in the Grand Canyon and Four Corners areas.
Wolves are master predators – the enemies of coyotes. Wolves attack bigger prey: deer, elk, horses and cattle – but are known to carry off a dog or cat as well. They are not afraid of people and will come right up to a house if they are hungry.
Supporters of the expanded plan plead for people to “open their eyes and hearts to wolves, to remove boundaries.” One claimed: “The big bad wolf isn’t so bad after all,” and added: “There’s no proof a wolf has ever harmed a human.”
Most opponents of the plan live in areas already impacted by the current wolf reintroduction.
One woman told of growing up on her family’s farm. She remembers being able to play by the stream without fear.
But now, with wolves around, it is a different story for her grandchildren. They came to visit one day. They brought their new puppy. As they bounded out of the car toward the house, two wolves emerged from the creek and snatched the puppy as the shocked children helplessly watched.
They are now afraid to go to grandma’s house. They have nightmares.
Others told similar stories.
Children waiting for the school bus sit in cages to be protected from wolves. Nine ranches in the current habitat area have been sold due to wolf predation – too many cattle are killed and ranchers are forced off the land.
Had I been called to speak, I would have addressed the lunacy of the plan.
After huge amounts of effort and resources have been invested to save the sand dune lizard and the lesser prairie chicken in and around the oil patch of southeastern New Mexico, they now want to introduce a master predator that will gobble up the other endangered species? After all, as many proponents pointed out, “wolves don’t have maps.” They don’t stay within the boundaries of the Fish and Wildlife Service plan, they go where the food is.
As I listened to the presenters, I wondered: “Why do they do this?” People and their property need to be protected.
Instead, supporters whined that capturing wolves and moving them away from communities “traumatizes” them. What about the harm to humans; the traumatized children? Does human blood need to be shed to consider that they have been harmed?
Perhaps the answer to “why?” came from one person who opened with this: “I am from New York. I don’t know anything about ranching or wolves.” And then added: “Ranching will be outdated in 10-15 years. We can’t keep eating meat.”
State Sen. Bill Soules, from Las Cruces, supports the new, expanded plan. He said: “I’ve had many people contact me wanting wolves protected. I’ve had no one contact me with the opposing view.”
Calls to our elected officials do matter. Contact yours and tell him/her that you want people protected, that humans shouldn’t be harmed by an expanded wolf reintroduction territory.
People shouldn’t lie awake in fear for their families and property.