Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mexican Wolf Numbers on the Rise in the American Southwest

A female Mexican wolf in central New Mexico's Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

A yearlong survey recently released by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that the population of Mexican wolves has increased significantly in the American Southwest with at least 109 animals spread across forested areas in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. The numbers have more than doubled than in 2010. Last year's survey revealed at least 83 wolves in the wild. According to Benjamin Tuggle, the regional director of the wildlife service, the increase is a "monumental milestone" that culminated from a mixture of management adjustments, experiments like cross-fostering wolf pups among different packs, and more social resilience for the wolves. He also pointed to attempts which included more collaboration with ranchers, techniques for restricting livestock killings by the animals, and a compensation program targeted at facilitating the economic consequences of wolf predation. However, despite the rise in wolf numbers, federal wildlife agents are still worried about safeguarding genetic diversity. The reason is because inbreeding is known to cause several problems such as low survivability among pups. Officials indicated that 38 pups survived at least through the end of 2014, compared to only seventeen in 2013. Biologists recorded nineteen wolf packs between Arizona and New Mexico; out of which there were only eight breeding pairs. Federal officials stated that the Mexican wolf population is now comprised of four generations of wild-born animals with more than half of them equipped with collars to allow managers to track and observe their activities. They further added that the figures are anticipated to continue increasing because the wildlife service has currently finished changes that will grant the wolves more space to extend their territory.
Mexican wolves with pups

It is a major accomplishment of what wildlife officials have been doing to ensure the survival of Mexican wolves in the American Southwest that have resulted in a significant increase in their numbers. However, there is still an obstacle to ensuring the genetic diversity which conservationists need to consider in order to further help in reviving the Mexican wolf population in the U.S. Out of the nineteen wolf packs documented, there were only eight breeding pairs. This is why it is essential to further introduce more breeding pairs in the wild and also cross-foster wolf pups among different packs to decrease any risks of inbreeding among Mexican wolves. These efforts also need to be implemented in reviving the United States' red wolf population, especially among captive individuals kept for breeding. Furthermore, in order to further ensure the survival of Mexican wolves and wolves in other parts of the U.S, ranchers need to be provided with livestock guardian dogs to safeguard their livestock from wolves and further restrict any killings. Compensation alone is not always the solution to ranching communities. In addition, sport hunters need to be thoroughly educated about the importance of wolves as keystone species and that they are not trying to compete with their human counterparts for access to their prey but only helping maintain the ecological balance.

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