New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Marty Frentzel, (505) 476-8013
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
martin.frentzel@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, FEB. 8, 2008:

STATE TO WORK TO REVERSE WOLF DECLINE
NORTHERN NEW MEXICO ELK HOLDING THEIR OWN IN SNOW
PUBLIC MEETINGS SCHEDULED FOR G.A.I.N. EXPANSION PROPOSAL

 

STATE TO WORK TO REVERSE WOLF DECLINE

SANTA FE -- A recent survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a decline in the population of Mexican wolves found in New Mexico.   A January 2008 survey shows 52 Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, although the number and distribution of existing wolf packs offer promise for rebound with the next breeding season.

Of 52 wolves detected during the survey, 23 were in New Mexico distributed among 6 packs with 2 or more wolves. In addition, other wolves roaming as individuals could join packs or form new packs in the future. Biologists anticipate substantial pup production from these wolves in 2008.
 
The survey documents the wolves alive on Dec. 31 of each year. Unfortunately, two wolves from the Rim Pack in Arizona were killed by vehicles in January 2008.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish acknowledges that 2007 was a difficult year for Mexican wolf restoration but is entering 2008 with renewed emphasis on placing and keeping wolves in the wild in New Mexico.

"There were too many losses from the wild wolf population and there were too many unnecessary conflicts reported by people in wolf country," said Bruce Thompson, Director of the Department of Game and Fish. He added "The Department will work with citizens to ensure that more innovative wolf management is conducted in 2008, consistent with the multiple-partner wolf reintroduction effort, and any conflicts will be evaluated closely to determine resolution strategies that are most beneficial to wolf survival and  conservation."

Innovative wolf management will provide more options for dealing with conflicts and will emphasize a collaborative process for residents and public officials to work with the Department to maintain a healthy wolf population in southwestern New Mexico.

The Department of Game and Fish is working with residents to identify new ways to discourage nuisance wolf behavior and ways to allow wolves to roam where active livestock operations occur. Game and Fish has hired a wolf program biologist who will be responsible for identifying more innovative and effective ways to communicate and integrate wolf program needs among people living in wolf country. Game and Fish worked diligently in 2007 to temporarily place at least 10 wolves in captivity for release at strategic times and places to bolster the wolf population in New Mexico. A continued emphasis on revising the federal rule for wolf reintroduction is necessary to improve wolf restoration capabilities.

M. H. "Dutch" Salmon, State Game Commissioner for the Southwest district, added that "New Mexico is one voice among the collaborative group making wolf management decisions, but we are strongly committed to adaptively and more effectively restore Mexican wolves to their place in the Southwest ecosystem."

Other agencies participating in reintroduction of Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Wildlife Services, and USDA Forest Service.

Those interested in suggesting innovative wolf conservation practices are encouraged to submit ideas to the Department's Conservation Services Division at (505) 476-8118; Matthew.Wunder@state.nm.us/.

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NORTHERN NEW MEXICO ELK HOLDING THEIR OWN IN SNOW

SANTA FE -- It has been a tougher than normal winter for some elk in northern New Mexico, but herds appear to be healthy and finding enough food, Department of Game and Fish biologists report.

An aerial survey of northern New Mexico on Thursday found that elk herds were moving into lower elevations and into areas where they could find food, said Darrel Weybright, the Department's Big-Game Project Coordinator.  Most of the animals have moved out of areas of the extreme northern regions of the state where most of the heavy snowfall occurred over the past few weeks.

"Elk are strong, large animals with long legs, and can travel quite a ways to find the best groceries," Weybright said. "They'll make their way through heavy snow, over fences, wherever they have to go for food. We're not too worried about them starving, especially since we're well into February."

Thursday's aerial survey found large elk herds in valleys and sagebrush country along the Rio Grande and Rio Chama, and in areas of less snowfall 10 miles or more south of the Colorado border.

In Taos, at least two small herds of elk traveled out of the higher elevations into town in search of food. Department officers worked five hours Friday to herd two groups of elk -- each more than 40 head -- into less-populated areas south of town.

"Hopefully, they'll decide to stay there," Officer Greg Medina said.

Motorists in and around Taos are urged to watch for elk that may wander onto roadways, especially at night.

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PUBLIC MEETINGS SCHEDULED FOR G.A.I.N. EXPANSION PROPOSAL

SANTA FE, N.M. -- The State Game Commission will consider establishing Gaining Access Into Nature fees and activities for Commission-owned State Wildlife Areas during its Feb. 21 meeting in Santa Fe.

The Department of Game and Fish is proposing requirements that all GAIN visitors to the wildlife areas be required to purchase $15 GAIN permits and $4 habitat improvement stamps annually. The fees would be implemented April 1.

In preparation for that meeting, the Department of Game and Fish is seeking comments on the opportunities and the fees. Comments may be submitted via the Public Comment tab on the Department’s web site, www.wildlife.state.nm.us, or by attending public meetings scheduled across the state.

Meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the following locations:

Silver City -- Feb. 11 at the National Guard Armory, 11990 U.S. 180, Santa Clara.
Albuquerque -- Feb. 12 at the Department of Game and Fish office, 3841 Midway Place NE.
Cimarron -- Feb. 13 at Philmont Scout Ranch, Beaubien Classroom.
Portales -- Feb. 15 at the Memorial Building, 200 East 7th St. on the Eastern New Mexico University     campus.

For more information, please call Mike Gustin, (505) 476-8101.

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