If the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s spokesperson were less eager to accuse the bearers of bad news and to prevent Mexican wolves from expanding beyond the territories already occupied, they might have avoided misleading the public in their recent press release reprinted here.
After a lawsuit invalidated Arizona’s effective control of management practices, including an inflexible kill or remove policy which paid no attention to the genetic value of the wolf, it is true that there was a “period of strong population growth ... with almost the entire population being wild-born wolves.” What they left out was that during this same period the scientists and conservation organizations criticized in the article consistently warned that the inbreeding of the wild population was getting worse, and that the time to inject new genes was before the population grew too large to influence.
The coordinator scolded: “The sobering truth is that in the last decade, no captive-raised adult wolf released in the wild has subsequently raised pups in the wild to contribute to the gene pool.” What he doesn’t tell the reader is that in the last decade there have been no releases of well-bonded adult wolves with pups. In fact, not only was the last adult release in 2015, there were only four other adult releases during the period 2008 through 2014.
His attempt to demonstrate the superiority of cross-fostering ignores the fact that despite the best efforts of the Interagency Field Team in 2015, there were no cross-fosters of captive-born pups into wild dens. More importantly, he disingenuously ignores the facts that in 2016 the IFT cross-fostered only six pups, in 2017 only four pups, and in 2018 only eight pups. He glosses over these numbers because the simple fact is the USFWS recovery implementation strategy calls for not 0, 6, 4, or 8 cross-fostered pups a year but 12 pups – not just once or twice, but every year for 16 years. He wants the reader to believe that cross-fostering should be the only technique for solving the inbreeding crisis of the wild population. This is Arizona’s position, regardless of the fact that for the first quarter of those 16 years, four consecutive years, the IFT has fallen short – not just a little, but by an average of over 7 pups a year.
That’s why Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations are pressing for release of well-bonded adult wolves with pups. Unlike Arizona’s claim that only the cross-fostering tool should be used, CBD is not asserting that only adult releases matter. Given the genetic crisis, CBD and other organizations just want the Mexican wolf program to use all available management tools to solve the problem.