Mexican Gray Wolf Livestock Kills Are Rising Rapidly in Arizona and New Mexico

Published July 8, 2019

Endangered Mexican gray wolves, reintroduced by the federal government to parts of the Southwestern United States, have killed nearly as many cows and calves in the first four months of 2019 as they did all of last year, causing an increase in tensions among U.S. wildlife managers, environmentalists, and rural residents.

The federal government reports the wolves killed 88 domestic animals in Arizona and New Mexico from January through April of this year.

If this pace of livestock killings continues, the wolves will far surpass the nearly 100 livestock kills confirmed in 2018. They have already eclipsed the livestock deaths record attributed to wolves over the same four-month period in any year since they were reintroduced in the region in 1998. 

History Repeating Itself

Ranchers in New Mexico and Arizona are experiencing what ranchers and farmers elsewhere have suffered as the federal government has reintroduced gray wolves, says Brian Seasholes, an independent scholar whose research focuses on endangered species.

“While rural people bear the very real costs of living with a destructive predator, they have been relatively powerless against distant urban masses who lobbied vociferously against state control of wolf populations,” Seasholes said. “For decades, farmers in the upper Great Lakes region, especially northern Minnesota, have suffered from federally protected wolves eating their livestock, hunting dogs, and pets.

“Now, unfortunately, this same pattern is being repeated in Arizona and New Mexico,” said Seasholes. “If environmental lobbyists sincerely cared about wolf conservation, they would use their deep pockets to establish a meaningful compensation fund for ranchers and others who have had animals killed by wolves.”

Ranchers Paying the Price

The federal government should take responsibility for the harm wolves cause farmers and ranchers, says Paul J. Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation.

“The federal wolf reintroduction program is a heavy-handed federal program supported by urbanites who will likely never see a wolf in the wild and who will not experience losses to wolves,” Gessing said. “Because the reintroduction program is not going away, constant effort by the federal government is essential to ensure rural residents who lose livestock to wolves are not unfairly impacted.”

Spreading the Costs

It’s not right for ranchers to bear the cost of livestock kills from Mexican gray wolves, says Daren Bakst, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

“Some environmental extremists appear to think ranchers should accept Mexican gray wolves attacking their livestock,” said Bakst. “This mentality undermines species conservation. If society wants to protect the Mexican gray wolf, then society as a whole, not ranchers who are doing nothing wrong, should bear the cost.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.