New Mexico kids wait for the bus inside "kid cages" because... wolves?

In Reserve, New Mexico, children huddle together inside "kid cages" while waiting for the school bus. The wood and mesh structures, pictured below, were ostensibly built to protect young ones from being preyed upon by local wolf populations. Sound ridiculous? That's because it is.

Above: A captive Mexican wolf at New Mexico's Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge

New Mexico kids wait for the bus inside "kid cages" because... wolves?

Photo credit David Spady

"I think the 'kid cages' are a publicity stunt designed to stoke opposition to Mexican wolf recovery in general and to the federal government in particular," said Daniel MacNulty, a wildlife-ecology professor at Utah State University who's been studying wolves in Yellowstone National Park for close to 20 years, in an interview with National Geographic. "Why else would the anti-federalist group Americans for Prosperity be circulating photos and videos of the cages?"

The cages have become the latest nucleation point for a longstanding political debate between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity. The former is pushing for the Endangered Species Act to protect about 75 Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. The latter calls this protection government overreach, and the wolves a threat to humans and livestock.

Livestock? Sure. But the claim that wolves are a threat to children is a baseless one, and foregrounding the threat to school kids with these chicken-coop like structures is just stupid, stupid, stupid. Hell, the livestock is technically more dangerous to the kids than the wolves.

Says MacNulty:

Are they a meaningful threat? No. Is the probability of wolves hurting someone zero? No. Is it close to zero? Yes, very close. [Ed. Note: To date, not one wolf attack has been documented in New Mexico or Arizona.]

A child in a rural area is more likely to [be hurt or killed in] an incident with an off-road all-terrain vehicle, or in an encounter with a feral dog, or in a hunting accident. There are very, very few instances in North America of wolves hurting anybody, let alone children.

Another thing to keep in mind: Mexican wolves are not very large—they weigh just 60 to 80 pounds. Compare that to wolves up in Yellowstone, which can be upward of 130 pounds. As a result, [Mexican wolves are] more easily intimidated by people, livestock, and wild prey.

So I think people are overreacting here, as is often the case with wolves.

Get a grip, people. These scrawny little wolves aren't going anywhere with your kids.

Read more at National Geographic.