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Guest opinion: Cattle ranchers still falling prey to Mexican wolf program

It is long past time to dispense with the party line that constantly dribbles from the Mexican wolf public relations machine.

But since the agency’s own public relations person will not do it, producers must. And 12 years in the program has to count for something as ranchers have been involved longer than any wolf program employees. That qualifies us to answer some questions:

• Are Mexican wolves removed from the wild genetically indispensable and leading to a second extinction in the wild?

No, they are all surplus animals well represented in the captive breeding program. The genetically indispensable animals are housed, bred, fed and well-protected.

Those wolves produce pups to replace any wolf removed from the wild. As long as populations of captive animals exist, wolves won’t be extinct in the wild and the captive population is larger than it has ever been.

Despite claims made in recent media reports, mere suspicions have never been and will never be the cause of removal of a Mexican wolf from the land. There must be three confirmed wolf kills of livestock. Then, and only then, will one wolf in a pack possibly be subjected to removal.

Even with numerous bite sizes on a bovine or equine victim, often only one wolf is assigned the strike, (now called, livestock depredation incident) even when the entire pack is confirmed to have been involved in the attack on the dead animal.

• Is that fair, is it truthful? Does the public know about this manipulation of policy designed to raise the bar to slow wolf removals?

No they don’t know. The PR machine doesn’t tell them. Agency personnel are allowed to manage on a case-by-case, wolf-by-wolf, basis.

• Does manipulation of policy cause more livestock deaths? Yes.

• Has it required more wolf removals? Yes.

• Does it cause damage to human victims who see livestock, working dogs horses and pets killed? Yes.

• Has it caused ranches to go bankrupt? Yes.

Often despite indisputable proof of wolf attack, an incident doesn’t count toward removal or even towards the depredation tally creating “science.” Why? Because the calf or cow did not die outright.

• Is it scientific or in the public’s best interest?

It forces ranchers to suffer unlimited deaths, large vet bills, no compensation, no removal of wolves responsible. If your animal lives, it doesn’t count as a depredation because of policy manipulation to ensure problem wolves remain on the ground. You decide.

If this type of management is considered legitimate when the victim is a rancher, just wait until Harry Homeowner gets a notice from the IRS saying they just feel like he can pay more despite his income. Once one agency gets away with it, the barn door is open and the stampede begins.

• Were these policies put in place to placate ranchers as wolf advocates claim?

No. Nearly unlimited destruction of cattle and calves before one wolf at a time, removed piecemeal, results in the rest of the pack to becoming accustomed to killing livestock. This does not placate ranchers; it destroys their ability to make a living.

Uncontrolled and uncompensated wolf depredations have been the norm since standard operating procedures took effect in 2004. These policies, among others, were blatantly put in place to placate wolf advocates, not livestock producers. Yet the wolves didn’t comply and keep livestock kills under three head a year.

Ranchers observe that they loose anywhere from five to eight head of livestock before one animal falls firmly in the indisputable category.

Scientific studies support those observations – yet the agencies still turn a blind eye and allow killings to continue regardless of science, regardless of the rule requirements. Nor do the agency PR people explain to the public that wolf kills are usually more than they listed in press releases. This is what is known as “wolf politics.”

Another PR tactic is to blame lagging numbers on illegal killings. The known dead wolf tally since the beginning adds up to more dead wolves than I can count.

Every year a few wolves may be shot, perhaps mistakenly since most die near roads or camping areas. What about those wolves scavenging on the highway that were hit by cars? This year, animals that attacked horses in town a month prior to their deaths? Animals that were starving and hanging around a town when killed?

What about all the wolves that have just disappeared? What about multiple years worth of pups born in the wild and documented, but never captured or vaccinated by the agencies responsible for them?

Where did they go? Disease? Starvation? Not capturing and vaccinating all litters is a direct violation of the rule and law the program operates under yet they barely make the effort.

Why is it that when neglectful or nonmanagement, disease, starvation and disappearance kills wolves, the agency doesn’t put out a press releases?

It is evident that the media who report on this program have been bamboozled by status quo agency public relations and, of course, wolf advocates manipulation of both management and information to suit their thinly veiled anti-ranching agenda.

Example: Livestock carcass removal does not stop depredation. In fact, scientific studies available on the issue shows evidence that removal of items wolves scavenge, including livestock carcasses, may increase depredation of live animals.

But common sense dictates that and a study wasn’t needed to understand hungry animals kill other animals.

In a nutshell, this program cannot succeed if it is based on half-truths, manipulation of policy and outright lies that remain the driving force behind its management.

The machine is doggedly pushing agenda-driven gibberish rather than sound science, facts and objective statements. Both advocates and agency remain in denial. That is why the program is faltering and why it will never move forward.

That is not the fault of those living on the land.

Laura Schneberger is a member of the Gila Livestock Growers Association and lives in Winston, N.M., near the Arizona state line.

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