Thursday, June 30, 2011

NM: Wolf vs. State

The Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program has a simple premise: reintegrate an endangered species into its natural habitat. In practice, however, bringing the wolf back to the Southwest has proven to be anything but easy, with environmental groups and ranchers maintaining a heated debate during the 13 years the program’s been in existence. The state’s Game Commission voted unanimously on June 9 to withdraw from the reintroduction effort. Gov. Susana Martinez appointed four new members to the six-member board in March. Bill Montoya is one of those new members. “It was costing us a lot of money,” says Montoya, who worked for the Game and Fish Department for 28 years. “We didn’t think we were going in the right direction.” Laura Schneberger is the president of the Gila Livestock Growers Association. Her cattle ranch has been in her family since 1964, though it’s more than a century old. She lost three calves to wolves in the spring, she says, and in 2003 she lost six. Schneberger’s main contention with the program is that she’s not allowed to treat wolves the same way she treats other large predators in the area. “The wolves don’t bother people nearly as much as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s and the environmentalists’ handling of it,” she says. She adds that she wouldn’t mind the wolves as much “if I could shoot the ones that cause problems.” When black bears or mountain lions kill a calf, ranchers are allowed to shoot them, she says. But because the wolves are endangered, there’s not much ranchers can do to stop them. Ranchers are supposed to be financially reimbursed for the cattle they lose due to wolves, but proving a wolf is responsible for a kill can be tricky. Schneberger says she’s only been reimbursed for two out of the nine calves she’s lost. But it’s not just about money. She says when wolves are staking out a ranch, “sometimes you lose a cow and calf pair a day. It’s very stressful. ... There’s an emotional response to what you see, what gore is inflicted on you and your kids.”...more

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