Efforts remain ongoing to protect Mexican gray wolf populations throughout the Southwest. But as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reexamines how those rules will be applied, local officials say one thing is certain — Those wolves aren’t wanted in Mohave County.
Endangered Mexican gray wolf populations were once hunted to near-extinction, but repopulation efforts have remained underway since 1998 in New Mexico and Arizona. Those efforts have seen success, according to federal officials, with goals for a population of 325 wolves throughout the Southwest by the beginning of this year. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is now pursuing revised rules for the species’ protection, with a comment process for participating parties that is scheduled to close later this month.
The Mohave County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether to approve comments for the program, which were submitted earlier this month by Mohave County Development Services Director Tim Walsh.
“Mohave County has always objected to the release of captive Mexican Wolves into the (Mexican Wolf Experimental Protection Area), and the designation of any area within Mohave County as part of that area,” Walsh wrote.
That area comprises three zones, which extend from Western Arizona and Eastern New Mexico, and is bordered in the north by Interstate Highway 40.
“The area south of I-40 in Mohave County was designated as part of that area, most of which is classified as … not suitable for wolf populations,” Walsh said. “Current releases of captive wolves are being conducted in (Central-Western Arizona), which is more suitable.”
According to Walsh, gray wolf populations throughout the Southwest exceeded 320 for the past three years, and populations could grow to 420 by 2030, according to estimates from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. According to Walsh, the lack of a maximum population limit could pose a future danger to ranch animals. As part of Walsh’s proposed comment to federal officials this week, he is requesting that federal agencies notify local ranchers if wolves make themselves present in Mohave County grazing areas.
Walsh also said that restrictions on hunting the animals should also be limited, allowing ranchers and hunters to defend livestock and big game - which Walsh says are economic drivers for Mohave County and Arizona as a whole.
The Mohave County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether to approve Walsh’s commentary on the county’s behalf at the board’s meeting Tuesday in Kingman.