UA graduate works to bring wolves into the environment

By Heather Urquides
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 2, 1996

Tanith L. Balaban
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Standing outside the Gould-Simpson Building, Marci Tarre, a University of Arizona alumna and member of the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife, shows off a wolf's skull as a way to educate the public on the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf.


A woman sits at a table waiting for curious students to wander over so she can tell them of the struggle to get Mexican wolves reintroduced into the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico.

The woman is Marci Tarre, and she said many people do not understand the struggle of the wolves. She said she urges people to learn about wolves and educate themselves.

About 50 students stopped by her table Thursday, she said. It was located in an area between the Gould-Simpson Building and Bio Sciences West.

A lot of people stopped to look at the Mexican wolf skin she had draped across the table or the specimens of animal droppings. It is just a fun way to get people to stop and talk about the Mexican wolf, she said.

Last week, Tarre spoke to a conservation biology class, and she said she plans to be on campus again this week.

Tarre is a member of Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit organization that focuses mainly on saving larger mammals, she said.

"If you protect the habitat of larger mammals, you protect everything underneath," she said.

She is trying to get students involved and have them write letters to congressmen and the Department of Interior in hopes they will expedite the process of getting the wolves reintroduced.

The proposed reintroduction sites include an area along the Arizona and New Mexico border, an area near the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and an area near Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Now extinct in the wild, there are only 152 Mexican wolves in the 24 captive breeding centers across the United States, Tarre said.

There are six Mexican wolves at the Arizona Sonora-Desert Museum here in Tucson. Two of the wolves are on exhibit in a mountain habitat, said Karen Krebbs, assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology.

Krebbs said institutions that hold and breed Mexican wolves have to meet strict guidelines set by the American Zoological Association in regards to their holding pens, sanitation and general protocol.

"It's a very controlled program-everything's watched over with scrutiny," Krebbs said.

She said she believes Mexican wolves may be reintroduced into the wild as early as next year.

Tarre said plans to reintroduce them into the wild have been postponed, mainly because of opposition from the cattle industry, she said.

The wolves were put in captive breeding centers because their numbers had dwindled to almost nothing, she said. A drop in the Mexican wolf population occurred because cattlemen and settlers were killing them. She said the wolves were the number one predat ors of their cattle.

Wolves were forced to turn to cattle as their source of food, she said, because elk and deer numbers declined with the arrival of European settlers.

Tarre, a 1996 UA graduate, also said the federal government played a major part in the eradication of the Mexican wolf. There were federal programs that provided settlers with poison to kill the wolves and hired people whose sole job was to protect cattle from the wolves. The government also helped Mexico rid itself of its Mexican wolf population, she said.

She said the livestock compensation fund will keep the cattle industry from suffering with the wolf reintroduction. The fund, set up in 1987 by the Defenders of Wildlife, comes from private contributions and will compensate the owners of any livestock tha t was verifiably killed by a wolf.

"I just want to let people know about the programs so people don't have to feel financially threatened," she said.

Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt will be making a decision on the fate of the wolves in the next couple of months, she said.

Tarre said she feels the reintroduction can be very successful. A survey done in Arizona and New Mexico showed that about 70 percent of the population in the two states was favorable to the reintroduction, she said.

"Wolves stay away from people," she said. "Historically, problems with them are far fewer than people ever imagined."