Mexican Wolf Tourism Not So Far Fetched, Says Woman Who’s Tried It

Jean Ossorio insists she doesn’t have any special mystical gift for seeing Mexican wolves even though she’s seen these critically endangered animals 40 times, probably more than anybody. “I dont have any magic recipes for seeing wolves,” she says. “I just have a lot of staying power.”
Since 1998 she’s put in 250 days in the field, using maps and data from the weekly wolf-tracking flyovers that the state of Arizona Fish and Game

mexicangray

Mexican gray wolf (captive) - Arizona Zoological Society

publishes (and some think lead to wolf shootings). Even with her experience, that amounts to, on average, staying out a week for one wolf sighting. So when she’s lead small groups in recent years to find them, she’s prepared consolation prizes–hearing wolves howl and making casts of wolf tracks. She recommends people stop by the Albuquerque Bio Park Zoo, one of many around the country that’s in a captive breeding program. Which would work if the wildlife service ever got around to releasing more wolves.  The pen is so large that even here you might not get to see them.
The Apache tribe is about to start offering tours to go try to see the Mexican wolf, a program expected to make both the tourists and guides appreciate the wolves more.
Whether you can see nearby wolves depends on the terrain. Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley is famous for wolf watching precisely because it’s such and open plain. The hills, mountains and forests of Gila and Apache National Forests and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation don’t cooperate much. A few open fields in the vast area provide the best viewing, but also create a danger the wolves will be shot by hostile locals.
“It’s probably pretty limited until we get more wolves,” she says. That’ll be hard if cowboys keep shooting them. So far at least 32 of this endangered species have been found shot since they were first reintroduced in 1998, including three this year. Only about 40 live in the wild. And many more have mysteriously disappeared. Some do show up later in other locations, Ossorio says. But others, where two collared wolves go missing at once, are beyond suspicious. She thinks that some wolves are killed by guys going off into the woods with a six pack on at ATV, but others may be part of an organized effort.
Local ranchers never wanted the wolves, saying they attacked cattle. (It’s true they do, but they get reimbursed. Another reason locals hate wolves is that they are likely to eat deer and elk that hunters want to shoot themselves.) Instead, they’d like to usurp federal lands to perpetuate their God-given right to cheap cattle grazing.
“You can buy 100 acres of bottom land somewhere and based on that, you will be allotted the privilege of grazing a certain area maybe 20,000 acres,” she says. Right now the going rate on grazing on forest service land is $1.35 per AUM or animal unit month–the cost to feed one cow and calf per month.  Think of how much it costs to keep your pets fed and you’ll see how absurdly low that number is. “You can feed a cow-calf pair for less than it costs to feed your hamster,” Ossorio says.

Where to Go See Wolves

Read about the Apache tribe’s effort to offer a Mexican wolf tour.

What Else is Wildlife Services Killing?

Comment on the proposed separate listing of the Mexican wolf under the Endangered Species Act by email.

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