Like it or not, more wolves are coming

USFWS/Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->A Mexican wolf at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

USFWS/Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->A Mexican wolf at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

KINGMAN - Mexican gray wolves are a highly controversial species of predators that are the subject of much discussion and litigation over just how many of these alpha predators should be on the landscape in Arizona.

At a recent Arizona Game and Fish Commission meeting in Flagstaff, Mohave County Supervisor Gary Watson and I attended the meeting specifically to hear a presentation by Jim DeVos, who is a special assistant to the director. DeVos gave an update on the department's status as it pertained to the introduction of wolves in Arizona.

Well over 100 people were at the meeting, including a number of pro-wolf advocates.

Wolves were at one time a species that was found in Arizona. But over the years their numbers dwindled and finally they were not on the Arizona landscape anymore.

However, through the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act, there has been an active program that was designed to put wolves back on the landscape in both Arizona and New Mexico.

Game and Fish is not opposed to the reintroduction of the wolves. It's is the number of wolves proposed for the Arizona landscape that is the subject of the many lawsuits that have been filed.

DeVos made it clear that the agency is actively working to assess and help in the reintroduction effort, but at the same time he cautioned commissioners that if too many of the wolves are in the state, and without state management jurisdiction, Arizona's other wildlife species could be in danger.

Elk are the preferred food of wolves, but they are adept at killing deer and they also have been known to take cattle and sheep, which is a concern of the Arizona livestock industry.

And despite the testimony of some of the wolf advocates, there have been documented cases of threats by wolves to humans.

DeVos noted that initially that the proposed wolf recovery plan called for about 110 wolves in Arizona.

That number has been reached, DeVos said, but it has been determined that more wolves may be needed to complete the recovery.

DeVos noted that wolf advocated are calling for the expansion of the wolves' recovery area to include land north of Interstate 40, and even onto the Kaibab Plateau.

Advocates are also calling for a huge increase in wolf numbers. Wolf advocates would like to see as many as 1,700 wolves on the Arizona landscape.

Game and Fish suggests that wolf numbers could increase to as many as 300 or so without damaging Arizona's other wildlife populations.

DeVos also said that the department is not recommending the expansion of the wolf recovery area to include other areas on Arizona where wolves do not currently live.

DeVos noted that the department is actively working with officials in Mexico, where the wolves were native, to increase the numbers of animals there, which would help in the recovery effort.

One interesting point was at the call for public comments - a small troop of Girl Scouts made a very well-orchestrated statement to the commissioners stating that more wolves are needed in Arizona.

And to show just how passionate or how ludicrous advocates for wolves can be, one speaker claimed that wolves were beneficial to everything on the landscape, and even helped climate change, which brought a lot of laughter from the audience.

Watson presented the commission with a proclamation from the Board of Supervisors in opposition to expanding the wolf recovery area to include Mohave County.

I read a statement from the Mohave Sportsman Club, which believes that Game and Fish should determine how many wolves should be in Arizona.

The department also should establish the wolf recovery area boundaries, while considering all of Arizona's wildlife.

After the meeting, a small number of wolf advocates stood out on the street waving banners and signs in support of increasing wolf numbers in Arizona.

This issue is not over, and the battle will continue. In the end it could be the courts that decide this issue, and that is probably bad.

Sound scientific data should be the basis of determining just how many wolves and where they are going to be allowed to roam.

I, like many sportsmen, trust that the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the commission are going to insist that they be the ones to lead the effort for any wolf recovery projects in Arizona.