Afraid of the big, bad wolf – ranchers want to kill off all the wolves (again)

06/12/2011  – Las Cruces Sun-News


It appears as if members of the New Mexico State Game Commission based their decision on the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program on what was in the best interests of members of the New Mexico State Game Commission.The commission voted unanimously Thursday during a meeting in Las Cruces to discontinue a partnership with the federal government on the program that has dated back to 1999.

“We have been keeping peace between all people,” Commissioner Thomas Dick Salopek said. “So, you know what, if both sides are unhappy, then let s suspend it and let the federal government do it. I am frustrated at both sides, especially with the federal government.

To some extent, I can understand. Having spent time talking to passionate advocates on both sides of the issue, I can attest that they can flat wear you out. But, that comes with the job of being a game commissioner.

The decision won’t have any real impact on the program, said Tom Buckley, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Opponents of the reintroduction program won the battle, but as for the war … the wolves will remain.

“The program won’t change,” Buckley said. “Its unfortunate that they determined at this time to step back from the program, but we will still will work toward Mexican wolf reintroduction. It’s our mandate.”

I can understand the economic impact wolves and other predators pose to local ranchers, and why they would oppose the reintroduction program. It’s the hysteria I have a hard time with, the notion that murderous gangs of wolves are roaming western New Mexico and eastern Arizona looking for small children to kill and eat.U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, fed that hysteria in a press release praising the Game Commission’s decision.

“New Mexicans know that to protect the wolf, we don t have to harm livestock and risk the lives of our children,” Pearce said.

In 2007, Catron County went so far as to build wolf-proof school bus shelters. How many young children were victims of wolf attacks before they went to such extremes? Well, none.

An article at that time by the Albuquerque Journal cites a study by the Office of the Medical Investigator, which found there were 63 animal-caused deaths of humans in New Mexico from 1993 through 2004. The vast majority of those, 43, were caused by interaction with horses. None were caused by wolves.

In fact, the only evidence the killer-wolf crowd can point to is an incident in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. A coroner’s inquest found that a 22-year-old was killed by wolves, though some biologists disputed the finding. If true, it is the only known case in North America in the last 100 years.

By contrast, about 40 people a year die from being stung by bees, wasps and other insects. I don’t suppose they’re raising money to construct bee-proof bus stops.

We’re all familiar with the fairy tale of the homicidal wolf who “gobbles up” Granny, “lets out a satisfied burp” and then dresses in her nightgown in a ruse to deceive and then eat the innocent, young Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a scary story that has given children nightmares for generations.

But it’s just a fairy tale.


Walter Rubel has been a newsman for more than 25 years and is managing editor of the Sun-News. He can be reached at


Afraid of the big, bad wolf – Las Cruces Sun-News.

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