Texas wolf caught in a steel trap (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Photo). Prior to the extinction of Canis lupus baileyi in the wild, the last confirmed sightings of Mexican wolves in the United States were in 1970 when two wolves were trapped and killed in West Texas. One wolf was documented on the Cathedral Mountain Ranch approximately 17 miles south of Alpine, Texas and 64 miles north of Big Bend National Park (approximately 230 miles southeast of El Paso – see picture of Cathedral Mountain on the cover of facebook.com/returnthewolftotexas). A second wolf was trapped and killed on the Joe Neal Ranch about 10 miles southwest of Sanderson, Texas about 60 miles northeast of the park.
TAKE ACTION – UPDATE – July 23, 2016 Please tell Texas Parks and Wildlife to support wolf reintroduction efforts in Texas.
April 4, 2015
by Rick LoBello
The other day as a young boy walked past the large map at the entrance to the El Paso Zoo he yelled out to his mother and brother and said “look they got wolves!” Little did he know that it is very possible that unless those of us who can make a difference today dedicate ourselves to making it happen, children in Texas will never experience wolves living in the wilds of the Lone Star State. Today Texas has thousands of square miles of potential habitat that could support a viable wolf population, in areas where wolves used to live.
Unfortunately before we knew any better, Canis lupus baileyi often called the Mexican wolf, was systematically killed by government trappers during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today we know that wolves play a critical role in maintaining the ecosystem that we are a part of and it is possible to return wolves to their former homes. Here in the southwest thanks to a federal reintroduction project now underway in the mountains of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, wolves are making a comeback just hours away from Texas. But why can’t wolves re-inhabit their former habitats in Texas? That is a long story to tell, but let me say for now what I have been saying for the past 35 years. If given a chance wolves can return to Texas, there are large areas of habitat available and the only thing holding them back is politics and government bureaucracy. If wolves can return to Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Washington, Arizona and New Mexico they can also return to Texas. The big Texas problem in 2015 is an overall lack of leadership and passion for the wild. Too many Texans, including those in high positions who could make a difference, are too relaxed and disconnected from the ecosystem themselves. They do not understand the important role predators play in maintaining the biodiversity of ecosystems. And sad to say most do not have the guts to stand up for what is true and what is right.
Former Big Bend Chief of Interpretation Roland Wauer who went on to become the Chief Scientist of the National Park Service had this to say during the years that wolf advocates in Texas were trying to get the support of state and federal officials. Prior to the formation of the Mexican Wolf Coalition of Texas in early 1990, Texas A&M University Press published Wauer’s book entitled Naturalist’s Big Bend. In his book Wauer states that “the recovery of a wolf population, if it occurs, would be definite evidence of the restoration of Big Bend National Park to conditions as they were before the appearance of Europeans and cattle.”
When the Mexican Wolf Coalition of Texas called on Big Bend National Park to develop a reintroduction plan for the park Wauer stated in a letter to the Coalition on June 22, 1990 “I believe that reintroduction of Mexican wolves into the Big Bend country is both feasible and proper, and every effort should go into the program.”
Today Wauer has little influence on what happens in the park and park staff have shown little interest in publicly speaking out for wolves like many of us did when I worked in Bend Bend from 1975 to 1992. I’ll never forget Chief Naturalist Bob Rothe, Park Superintendents Jim Carrico and Rob Arnberger and Texas Governor Ann Richards who either spoke out on behalf of supporting the return of wolves to Texas or helped to carry on the conversation. My hero back in those days was NPS Director Bill Mott who made wolves a cause célèbre. Where are the conservation heroes working in National Parks today?
There is some promising news to report. Students from America’s High School in Socorro, Texas just east of El Paso are planning a Earth Day presentation on wolves to be followed by a field a trip to former wolf habitat in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. A few days ago I was encouraged by a rancher in West Texas who wants to help get wolf conservation back on the radar screen in Texas. I wonder how many other ranchers in Texas think positively about wolves. A facebook post promoting the Sierra Club’s Return of the Wolf to Texas Education Initiative on the Friends of Big Bend facebook page was also encouraging with over 41 likes and some positive comments. Thanks to Betty Alex who recently retired from the park for making it happen.
A new Texas Wolf Action Team offers many opportunities for people to get involved. For more information contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sierra Club Announces new effort to help return the wolf to Texas
Like and Share on Facebook – Return the Wolf to Texas Educational Initiative