In Arizona and New Mexico, the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program affects many people for a variety of reasons. Understanding the various viewpoints allows for all sides to understand the complex relationship between wolves, wildlife, and humans. [From A Patchwork of Perspectives by Julie Hammonds (Arizona Wildlife Views, Special Issue 2014). The views and opinions expressed are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rangelands West.]
Wolf advocate Bobbie Holaday (founder of Protect Arizona’s Wolves) was a key force behind wolf reintroduction. “We very much need a top predator in the wild. Unfortunately, when the wolf was destroyed, the coyote moved into that niche. But coyotes couldn’t do the job the wolf had done. Wolves keep a healthy population of deer. With the wolf back, deer and elk have to be on the alert and move around. They have more exercise and are healthier. Putting the wolf back into its niche was a way of maintaining a healthy balance among the whole ecological system and every species in it. This not only benefits advocates who wanted to have wolves in the wild, but hunters and those who enjoy taking advantage of all the opportunities in nature. We have wolves that were born in the wild now, which we didn’t before, and that’s what I wanted: wild wolves.”
Sportsmen, including Steve Clark (president of the Arizona Elk Society), foresee impacts to wild ungulates, particularly elk, and to hunting opportunities. “Being an elk lover, elk hunter and a conservationist that specializes in elk, the loss of elk is the number one issue to me personally… The Mexican gray wolf’s diet is 80 percent to 90 percent elk. This could easily affect the wildlife of Arizona unless we keep the wolf population in check… Currently we’re losing hunting opportunity. Hunters spend money not only on licenses and tags but on food and gas and hotel space and laundry. It all adds up in those small communities.”
The re-establishment of a top predator in a landscape that’s no longer wild concerns livestock growers. “Ranchers didn’t want the wolves in the first place and for them to bear most of the financial burden of wolf presence – that’s not fair.” Barbara Marks, a Rancher in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. (Wolves have attacked livestock and cattle dogs. Livestock are moved to minimize conflicts with wolves, which requires additional expenses such as supplemental hay and range riders to stay with herds during critical times, such as calving). “[Arizona Cattle Grower’s Association] roughly estimates it costs $20 a head more to raise cattle [annually] in the Blue Range than in other parts of Arizona.” Patrick Bray, Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association.
Two Apache tribe reservations are near the wolf recovery area in Arizona. Dave Parsons (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) recounts how each tribe responded to the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction. “From the beginning, the San Carlos Apaches unwaveringly opposed wolves moving out of the recovery area onto their reservations… A couple traditional San Carlos Apaches were interested in doing a blessing of sorts for the wolves when they were first released from crates into acclimation pens in 1998... As far as I know, they still feel the same way: They have no intention of hosting wolves on their reservation. [White Mountain Apaches also showed interest as the program began] but it never turned into a request or an agreement at the time, to allow the wolf population to expand onto their reservation… [later] there was an agreement foraged with the tribe and they do allow wolves to come onto their reservation, at least in some numbers. That continues to this day. We have one tribe participating, and one tribe not.”