As a conservationist and a lifelong desert resident, I would like to put in a few observations regarding the consistently hostile Arizona Game and Fish Department's (AZGF) statement on releasing wolves from captive breeding situations to wild spaces. First of all, it looks like they are speaking with a distinct lack of honesty and expertise.
While the AZGF wildlife science coordinator confuses readers by saying “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 fails to mention 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. Could his vested interest in avoiding the political challenges of adult releases have clouded his statistical training? When it comes to credibility, the Department spokesperson’s claims of “misleading and disingenuous statements” should acknowledge a little history: The initial reintroduction of Mexican wolves, over Arizona’s objections, came as a result of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
The current 2015 reintroduction rule came as a result of a 2004 petition for rule making by CBD followed by a successful lawsuit in 2012. In contrast, Arizona’s attempts to limit wolf reintroduction include the 2011 limitation on releasing only “replacement” wolves for those killed in Arizona – later followed by a complete refusal to release any adults no matter how well bonded a family unit. What is the real reason behind touting cross-fostering as the best (and only) remedy for Mexican wolf genetic recovery? By definition, and basic biology, captive born pups cross fostered into wild dens can only be placed in existing dens. They don’t involve public outreach to create awareness and acceptance of wolves being released into the thousands of square miles which the reintroduction rule specifies may be used for new releases and translocations. Far easier – and more politically expedient – to put pups into the same ol’-same ol’ and hope they survive, pair up, and conceive more wolves who will establish new territories – but not too far from the parents or too fast to cause problems for the current Department officials. We cannot let misinformation and laziness dictate our public policy when it comes to anything, especially wildlife management.