The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Dave Harper (right) and friendAnimal Hotline is a nonprofit service to help reunite lost and found pets with their people.
P. O. Box 100, Placitas, NM 87043

If you find or lose an animal in Placitas or the surrounding area, call Dave Harper at the Animal Hotline. Placing a lost or found notice in the Hotline is a free service.


Cat: Black-and-white cat lost from Pine-D-Ranch Road area, about one mile north of the Village of Placitas. Lost March 17. Neutered male, ten to twelve pounds. #2074

Cat: Grey-and-black tabby, male, lost from the Tunnel Springs area, about one mile west of the Village of Placitas, on March 17. About twelve years old, in good health, but has a damaged right eye. Has a microchip. Lost from Quail Meadow Road. #2075

Dog: Yellow Lab, male, lost from Anasazi Trails, in the western Placitas area, on March 21. Three-year-old neutered male named “Jefferson.” #2079


Dog: Little dog that looks like part Husky (possibly part wolf), female, found near I-25 and Highway 165 on March 11. #2068


Dog: Reddish-colored small dog with very long hair, running loose in Placitas Trails, spotted in late February off Trails Road West. #2058

Numerous dogs: Running loose in Placitas Trails, in the western Placitas area, in March. Black dog with red collar, Shepherd mix with white tip on its tail, cream-colored Shepherd mix.

3 dogs: One black, one black-and-white, and one cute little dog with longer hair, seen near the north end of Camino de las Huertas, about three miles north of the Village of Placitas on March 11. #2065-2067

5 dogs: A pack of strays seen running loose in Sundance Mesa, in the northwestern Placitas area, on March 16.

• Thanks to Arlene and Terri for helping get the horses home!
• Thanks to Karen and Marianne for getting the Shelty home!

Animal News

Chimpanzee born at Rio Grande Zoo

The Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque welcomed a baby to the chimpanzee group in February, bringing the total number of chimps at the zoo to eleven. Thirty-year-old Elaine and her newborn will be on exhibit when the weather is mild. The father is nineteen-year-old Alf. This is the first chimpanzee birth at the Zoo since the new Adventure Africa exhibit opened in 2004.

Chimpanzees are native to Africa and the most intelligent nonhuman on the planet. Newborns weigh approximately four pounds. Their diet includes fruits, leaves, stems, bark, resin, insects, eggs, and meat, and their lifespan is about sixty years. Their natural habitat is tropical rainforest, forest-savannah, and mixed and montane forest. They are presently on the endangered status list.

Like people, chimpanzees have learned to use tools. They use stones as hammers and anvils to crack nuts. They use sticks as weapons, as hooks to pull down fruit-laden branches, and for various other purposes.

The BioPark is an accessible facility and a division of the City of Albuquerque’s Cultural Services Department. There is no fee for access to Tingley Beach. Combo admission to the Zoo, Aquarium and Botanic Garden is $12 for ages thirteen to sixty-four; $5 for ages 65 and older; $5 for ages three to twelve; and children aged two and under are free. For assistance in visiting, please call (505) 768-2000 or 311 (NM Voice/Relay or 711), preferably with three days advance notice. Visit the BioPark website at more information about our facilities and programs.

The Albuquerque Biological Park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. With its more than two hundred accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.

Conservation groups warn Catron County of suit for wolves

In response to a recently passed Catron County wolf killing ordinance, a coalition of conservation groups sent the county a formal notice of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act.
In their notice, Forest Guardians, Sinapu, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Rewilding Institute state that the ordinance unlawfully undermines federal wolf management by authorizing a county contractor to kill Mexican grey wolves, contrary to the January 12, 1998 Federal Register notice authorizing the reintroduction that year and the 1973 Endangered Species Act, under which those regulations were promulgated. The ordinance would increase wolf killing over the already-unsustainable current rate driven largely by federal predator control.

Catron County Ordinance No. 001-2007 seeks to ratchet up wolf killing on behalf of the livestock industry under the guise of protecting people from wolves. Yet the Endangered Species Act already allows the killing of wolves to protect human life.
While mountain lions, black bears, rattlesnakes, and other animals present in Catron County have been known in various locations to attack people, Mexican wolves—the smallest subspecies of grey wolf in North America—never have.

The Catron County ordinance is one of a series of anti-wolf political gestures undertaken by the livestock industry. A state bill that also conflicts with federal law, dubbed the Little Red Riding Hood Act, fared no better this year than it did when first introduced in the legislature in 2003. An equally histrionic anti-wolf memorial also died due to widespread public opposition. The livestock industry has twice sued to remove all the wolves from the wild, and twice been rebuffed by the courts.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, a co-signatory to the notice, warned that Catron County must respect federal supremacy under the United States Constitution, stating, “We will not allow vigilante justice to further imperil the lobo.”

Wolves have a reputation that’s larger than life

Ever since he ate Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma and blew down the houses of two-thirds of the little pigs, the wolf has been Big and Bad. Everyone knows what big teeth he has. But can those gleaming incisors explain the startling decline of elk herds in the Yellowstone area?

Some people think so. Hunters and some wildlife managers are howling that the wolf, reintroduced into the ecosystem in 1995, is responsible for the roughly 50 percent decline in the northern Yellowstone elk herd.

Here are the numbers, as compiled by the Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group: In December 2006, there were 6,738 elk on Yellowstone’s northern range. This was lower than the January 2005 number of 9,545, and it’s a whole lot lower than the 19,359 elk counted in January 1994, the year before wolves were introduced.

Case closed, then. Before wolves, nearly 20,000 elk; after wolves, less than 7,000. Wolves are obviously a threat to both elk and the hunters who want to kill elk. But upon closer examination, that conclusion is premature at best. “People give wolves these supernatural powers,” says Ed Bangs, Yellowstone wolf recovery coordinator. “It’s not about reality, and it’s not about wolves. It’s about what people think reality is and how they perceive wolves.”

One reality is that the state of Montana deliberately reduced the Yellowstone area elk population by issuing a larger number of hunting permits. The state made that decision because 19,000 elk—or even 9,000—can’t be supported by the area. In fact, the Montana elk plan calls for a winter population that’s only 3,000-to-5,000 elk north of the park.

Another reality is the climate. In a 2005 paper in the journal Oikos, Michigan Tech University biologist John Vucetich and coauthors found that drought and hunters killing elk accounted for almost all of the decline in elk in the northern Yellowstone area between 1995 and 2004. But they considered hunting much less an impact than drought, estimating that for every elk shot by hunters, the population declined by 1.55 elk.

“To the extent that harvest and climate largely account for the decline in elk abundance,” they wrote, “wolf predation would have been ... numerically minor.”

Which is not to say wolves have no effect on game populations. Each adult wolf kills an average of 22 elk a year. There are now about 96 adult wolves in Yellowstone, so they take just over 2,000 elk a year. But the overall impact on population is less than the total number would suggest, because research shows that wolves often kill prey animals that are less likely—for one reason or another—to contribute to the elk gene pool in the following year. If the elk population is declining, wolf predation may accelerate the decline. If it’s growing, they may slow the growth.

One thing is sure: Wolves cause their prey to act more like wild animals. Elk spend a little more time in cover in the presence of wolves, and are more wary on open ground. This chivvying around has other impacts as well: It makes it harder for hunters to find them.

Oregon State University forestry professors William Ripple and Robert Beschta found that wolves prevent elk from spending too much time in Yellowstone’s degraded stream banks and riparian areas munching on tender saplings, with the result that these areas are recovering nicely from years of overgrazing. Ripple and Beschta call this situation, unfortunately, “the ecology of fear,” which may spur wolf advocates to come up with a happier description.

Before the federal government brought wolves back to Yellowstone, there was one beaver dam in Yellowstone. Now there are 10, because willows are growing better. Beavers have something to eat, streams are healthier, and we can thank wolves for the improvement.

The wolf controversy “isn’t about wolves or predators,” says Bangs. “This is about human values and what people think they want. People want to reduce elk density by shooting elk, not by having wolves. It’s a social and philosophical question. How much hunter success is enough? How much do you share with mountain lions and grizzly bears and wolves? The questions aren’t really biological.” For now, at least, we can’t target wolves as the primary elk killers. Blame that old standby, the weather, and Montana hunting policy for baring the bigger teeth.

Dan Whipple is a contributor to “Writers on the Range,” a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ( He is a writer in the Denver area of Colorado.







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