Animal activists fire back in defense of
ALBUQUERQUE (AP) -- Wolves belong in the wild,
and ranchers should find a way to coexist,
said a supporter of an effort to reintroduce
Mexican gray wolves to the wild.
Officials with the federal government's
reintroduction program in southwestern New
Mexico and southeastern Arizona held four
public meetings last week to gather feedback
on the recovery program, which began in March
"If you're going to graze (cattle) on
public lands, you're going to do it at your
own risk," Oscar Simpson, New Mexico Wildlife
Federation president, said at the meeting here
Simpson and Dave Foreman, an Albuquerque
resident who directs The Rewilding Institute,
suggested that the government buy out grazing
leases from ranchers who don't want to
continue running livestock on public lands
where there are wolves.
"This comes down to a philosophical debate
that's not resolvable between those of us who
love the wolf and those who hate the wolf,"
The meeting in Albuquerque took on a much
different tone than one held on Wednesday in
Reserve, where dozens of residents blasted the
wolf reintroduction program.
On Saturday, many in attendance were
wearing wolf T-shirts and buttons that said,
"More Wolves, Less Politics."
About 60 people attended the meeting to
discuss proposed new rules and a recent review
of the program.
Biologists have recommended allowing the
wolves to set up territories outside the
current boundaries, and the U.S
. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a
one-year ban on some new wolf releases.
The federal agencies running the program
are also considering a new "standard operating
procedure" that spells out how to handle
During the first meeting in Reserve,
ranchers said the government needs to make
drastic changes to the program or stop
If the program continues, they say any wolf
that strays out of the Gila Wilderness in
southwestern New Mexico should be fair game
The recovery program was meant to
re-establish wild populations of the species
that had been hunted to the brink of
extinction in the early 1900s. There are now
about 50 wolves in the wild.
Ranchers say the government is dramatically
undercounting the number of cows and calves
killed by the wolves.
Don Jones of the Y Canyon Ranch read a
35-day log written by his wife, including this
entry: "June 3. Found another dead cow. ... We
just cannot find them as quick as the wolves
At a meeting in Silver City on Thursday,
only two people spoke against the wolves.
In Truth or Consequences on Friday, the
speakers mostly opposed the reintroduction.
The two ranchers that spoke in opposition
at the Albuquerque meeting said cattle are
being killed in large numbers.
Fred Galley, owner of Rayny Mesa Ranch in
the Gila, described a grisly attack in which
wolves grabbed a cow from the back and
"proceeded to eat on her till she bled to
Galley said he and several of his neighbors
would take a buyout of their Forest Service
"Why is death by wolves more reprehensible
than death by slaughterhouse?" Jane Ravenwolf
of Sandia Park asked. "Wolves are doing it
because they need to live. We're doing it
because we don't have a conscience to know
Eva Sargent, Southwest director of
Defenders of Wildlife, said her organization
wants to expand its efforts to help ranchers.
"Defenders is ready to put money on the
table," she said.
The group already compensates ranchers for
livestock killed by wolves and has hired
riders to help protect cattle.