IMPROVING THE MEXICAN GRAY WOLF RECOVERY PLAN GRAY WOLVES · PDF file However, reintroduction...

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Transcript of IMPROVING THE MEXICAN GRAY WOLF RECOVERY PLAN GRAY WOLVES · PDF file However, reintroduction...

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    IMPROVING THE MEXICAN GRAY WOLF RECOVERY PLAN

    THROUGH ANALYSIS OF SUCCESSFUL REINTRODUCTION OF

    GRAY WOLVES IN THE NORTHERN UNITED STATES

    by

    Kari M. Schoenberg

    A Thesis Submitted in partial fulfillment

    of the requirements for the degree of Master of Environmental Studies

    The Evergreen State College June 2012

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    © 2012 by Kari M. Schoenberg. All rights reserved.

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    This Thesis for the Master of Environmental Studies Degree

    by

    Kari M. Schoenberg

    has been approved for

    The Evergreen State College

    by

    ________________________ Timothy Quinn

    Habitat Program Chief Scientist, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Adjunct Member of the Faculty

    June 30, 2012 ________________________

    Date

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    ABSTRACT

    Improving the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan Through Analysis of Successful Reintroduction of

    Gray Wolves in the Northern United States

    Kari M. Schoenberg

    The wolf continues to be one of the most controversial wildlife species in the U.S. Once persecuted to the point of near extinction in the U.S. the gray wolf was one of the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Reintroduction programs as part of recovery efforts for this endangered species have generally been successful as measured by increasing wolf populations and the number of breeding pairs in the wild in the northern U.S. Indeed, the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park is regarded as one of the best-known recovery successes in the U.S. However, reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf in the southwestern U.S. has not been as successful by most measures. The Mexican gray wolf recovery plan called for 100 Mexican wolves in the wild by 2006, yet there have never been more than 60 wild Mexican wolves in the recovery region. Failure of the program is likely due to a mixture of biological and social reasons.

    The purpose of this study was to identify factors that facilitate successful wolf recovery. In particular, I conducted a literature review of gray wolf recovery in the northern U.S. in an attempt to understand why some wolf reintroduction efforts are relatively successful compared to Mexican wolf reintroduction efforts. Further, I developed a questionnaire survey and sent it to biologists working with wolves in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, and Arizona. The intent of the survey was to better understand what biological and social factors biologists think may be related to successful reintroduction programs.

    Two main stakeholder groups, the scientific and rancher community, have widely

    varying opinions and perceptions about wolves and wolf recovery. To better understand these differences I sent questionnaires to ranchers affected by gray and Mexican wolf reintroductions in each of the seven states mentioned above. My intent here was to explore: a) how attitudes about wolves may have shaped wolf management, and b) how perceptions of wolves may affect the success of reintroduction. Biologists believed that avoiding wolf/human conflicts was the most important social component of successful wolf recovery plans. Biologists also believe that the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan has not been successful because the recovery region was too small and because ranchers were generally intolerant of wolves. Ranchers associated with Mexican wolf recovery were more negative about recovery success than ranchers dealing with gray wolves. Compensation programs associated with wolf recovery were found to be inadequate by both biologists and ranchers but for different reasons. Importantly, ranchers believed that they are undercompensated for true loss of their livestock. However while biologists agreed with ranchers that compensation programs

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    are inadequate they still believed that compensation was fair in contrast to ranchers who believed them to be unfair.

    Ranchers dealing with Mexican wolves thought there would be less cooperation between biologists and ranchers through time while ranchers dealing with gray wolves were slightly more positive and believed the relationship would stay relatively unchanged. Interestingly a majority of ranchers would be willing to learn more about wolves and wolf recovery as well as be willing to ranch with wolves if provided certain compensation or tools such as guard dogs, barriers, range riders, and scare tools.

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    TABLE OF CONTENTS   LIST OF FIGURES  ................................................................................................................  vii   ABBREVIATIONS  ..................................................................................................................  xi   ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  ..................................................................................................  xii   CHAPTER ONE  ........................................................................................................................  1  

    INTRODUCTION  ..............................................................................................................................  1   CHAPTER TWO  ......................................................................................................................  5  

    REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE  ................................................................................................  5   GENERAL GRAY WOLF BIOLOGY  .....................................................................................................  5   MEXICAN WOLF BIOLOGY  ....................................................................................................................  7   THE ERADICATION OF THE GRAY WOLF  ..................................................................................  10   THE ERADICATION OF THE MEXICAN WOLF  .........................................................................  12   GRAY WOLVES MAKE A COMEBACK  .........................................................................................  13   THE IMPORTANCE OF WOLVES FOR RESTORING ECOSYSTEM STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION  ..........................................................................................................................................  18   MEXICAN WOLF RECOVERY EFFORTS  .......................................................................................  21   HOW CONFLICTS BETWEEN WOLVES AND RANCHERS AFFECTS RECOVERY  24   ATTITUDES TOWARDS WOLVES  ....................................................................................................  26   COMPENSATION FOR WOLF DEPREDATION  ...........................................................................  28  

    CHAPTER THREE  ................................................................................................................  30   METHODS  .........................................................................................................................................  30  

    OVERVIEW  ....................................................................................................................................................  30   LITERATURE REVIEW  ............................................................................................................................  31   QUESTIONNAIRES  ....................................................................................................................................  31  

    CHAPTER FOUR  ...................................................................................................................  34   RESULTS  ...........................................................................................................................................  34  

    OVERVIEW  ....................................................................................................................................................  34   BIOLOGIST SURVEYS  .............................................................................................................................  34   RANCHER SURVEYS  ...............................................................................................................................  55  

    CHAPTER FIVE  .....................................................................................................................  76   DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION  ............................................................................................  76  

    DISCUSSION  .................................................................................................................................................  76   BIOLOGICAL ISSUES  ...............................................................................................................................  76   SOCIAL ISSUES  ...........................................................................................................................................  77   METHODOLOGICAL CAVEATS  ........................................................................................................  82   FUTURE STUDY AND SUGGESTED IMPROVEME