Monday, June 14, 2010
Groups Battle Wolf Recovery Area Traps
By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
LAS CRUCES — Two conservation groups filed petitions Friday asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service to halt trapping and snaring in the New Mexico portion of the federally managed recovery area for the endangered Mexican gray wolf.
The petition, filed by the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians, says that 14 Mexican gray wolves have been trapped, either illegally or inadvertently, in recent years.
Twelve of the cases occurred in New Mexico, where three-fourths of the wolf recovery area lies in the Gila National Forest, the rest being in southeast Arizona. Arizona has prohibited trapping by individuals on public lands since 1994.
In two cases, wolves had a leg amputated after suffering injuries from traps, and in seven of the 14 cases the wolves apparently did not suffer injuries.
"Trapping on the range of a highly endangered species is simply irresponsible and preventable," said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians, noting that traps capture animals indiscriminately.
Officials with the New Mexico Trappers Association said they considered the petition an attack on trapping more than an effort to protect wolves.
Federal officials counted 42 wolves in the wild at the end of 2009, less than half the number expected at this point when the reintroduction effort was launched 12 years ago. Federal officials have begun the process of reviewing rules governing the recovery project in an effort to boost the wild wolf population.
Andrea Martinez, spokeswoman for the Gila National Forest, said U.S. Forest Service officials had not had a chance to review the application Friday afternoon.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, said Albuquerque-based spokesman Jose Viramontes, will be "taking it into consideration and work with our wolf conservation partners to determine how to move forward."
Viramontes said federal officials would work with the state Game and Fish Department, which issues permits to trappers and is involved in wolf management decisions, on the application.
The intentional trapping of wolves by the public is prohibited by federal and state law, but incidental trapping is not, as long as it is reported to Fish and Wildlife within 24 hours.
But, given the challenges to the growth of the wild wolf population, the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians petition argues the presence of traps "poses a risk of real harm to the wolf's recovery."
Tom McDowell, secretary of the New Mexico Trappers Association, questioned the reliability of the number of wolves that have been caught, but Viramontes said Fish and Wildlife confirmed the data. "This is just another issue to try to eliminate trappers from the landscape," McDowell said.