Activists want more wolves in Arizona
By Jim Klinker, Arizona Farm Bureau
More than 300 people attended the wolf hearing held by U.S. Fish and Wildlife in Pinetop, Arizona on December 3rd. The hearing was on the delisting of the gray wolf and establishing the Mexican gray wolf as a subspecies, continuing its protection and expanding its range into central and western Arizona. Wolf advocates did not stop at that expansion but argued that all of Arizona and New Mexico and into Utah and Colorado should be declared habitat. They also emotionally argued several times that the gray wolf should not be delisted in the upper plains states and in the northwest. They believe when the wolf is delisted and management is turned over to the states, “wholesale slaughter” of the wolf will take place.
Local ranchers testified to the loss of some 400 head of livestock since the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf to the Blue Ridge Wolf Recovery Area of northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. Carey Dobson, who ranches in the Vernon area, told the hearing panel that the Dobson family had confirmed losses of 12 head of livestock just this last summer.
Eight sportsmen, wildlife managers and ranchers including Leland Hogan, President of the Utah Farm Bureau, flew down from Utah for the hearing. They were supporting delisting of the gray wolf and emphatically opposed any consideration of the Mexican gray wolf recovery area being expanded into Utah. In a commentary to his Utah members after the hearing, Hogan called on the federal government to turn management of the wolves to the states. He shares an example of a Utah sheep producer who was witnessing the attack of a pack of wolves on a band of his sheep. He got permission from the state wildlife agency to kill a wolf. Federal Fish and Wildlife Service contacted him after he had killed a wolf and said, “Don’t do it again!” The ranching family lost 225 lambs in two months.
Jim Parks, President of the Coconino County Farm Bureau and Cattlegrowers, told the panel that the “Reality of the Wolf” is entirely different than the “Spirit of the Wolf” that runs free across a snow covered field and captivates the emotions and imagination of urban dwellers. “A dangerous predator is exactly what the wolf is naturally, genetically, predisposed to be,” said Parks. The wolf kills to eat and kills as a reflex by killing or maiming three to four in a herd for each one eaten.”
Ana Kennedy, AZFB’s Government Relations Manager, submitted comments to the panel that said, “In and out of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, ranchers must be allowed to protect their livestock from wolves and should be provided with legal means for doing so.”
The Arizona Farm Bureau is part of a large coalition of ranchers, sportsmen groups and local government officials, spearheaded by the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association that supports delisting of the gray wolf in the lower 48 states and allowing those states to take over management. The coalition is supporting the listing of the Mexican gray wolf as a subspecies, finishing the recovery plan that began in 1982 calling for a population of 100 wolves in the Arizona/New Mexico defined area and opposes expanding the wolf’s recovery area. U.S. Fish and Wildlife indicates there are now 75 wolves in the area. Upon achievement of the recovery, the group wants the Mexican wolf delisted and management turned over to Arizona.