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Trapping Ban Gives Lobos Breathing Room

Editorial from the Albuquerque Journal
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Mexico’s few remaining Mexican gray wolves are in a battle for their lives, and Gov. Bill Richardson is granting them a partial truce.

Richardson has ordered the state Department of Game and Fish to prohibit trapping for six months on the New Mexico side of a federal wolf reintroduction area. The temporary ban will allow studies on the risks traps and snares pose to wolves.

After the re-introduction effort in the Southwest began in 1998, biologists predicted there would be a self-sustaining wild population of 100 wolves by now. The latest count at the end of 2009 found just 42. 

Re-introduction has been plagued by illegal shootings and complaints from ranchers who have lost cattle to wolves and environmentalists who bemoan the federal government’s management of the program.

And traps.

In the last eight years, there have been six confirmed and three probable Mexican gray wolves trapped in New Mexico’s portion of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. Five wolves were injured by traps, two severely enough to require amputations. Ultimately this hurts ranchers because injured wolves are more likely to prey on livestock as they won’t be able to bring down elk and deer.

The trapping ban gives wolves a reprieve while the U.S. Forest Service reviews a petition by environmental groups calling for an emergency halt to trapping and snaring in the recovery area.

The Mexican gray wolf is perilously close to extinction. If that happens, the only “lobo” cry New Mexicans will hear will be at a University of New Mexico sporting event.

READ MORE on the Albuquerque Journal website (requires subscription)