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Monthly Status Report: February 1-28, 2017 - From the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team

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Endangered Species Updates
March 13, 2017


Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project Monthly Update
February 1-28, 2017


The following is a summary of Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project (Project) activities in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in Arizona, including the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR), San Carlos Apache Reservation (SCAR), and New Mexico.  Additional Project information can be obtained by calling (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653, or by visiting the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at www.azgfd.gov/wolf or by visiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf.

Past updates may be viewed on either website, or interested parties may sign up to receive this update electronically.

This update is a public document and information in it can be used for any purpose.  The Project is a multi-agency cooperative effort among the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), USDA Forest Service (USFS), USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS WS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service USFWS) and the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT).

To view semi-monthly wolf telemetry flight location information please visit bit.do/mexicanwolf or www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/RWL.cfm.

Please report any wolf sightings or suspected livestock depredations to:(928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653. To report incidents of take or harassment of wolves, please call the AGFD 24-hour dispatch (Operation Game Thief) at (800) 352-0700.


Overall Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Monthly Update


The Fish and Wildlife Service convened a Mexican wolf recovery planning workshop in Queretaro, Mexico February 7-10, 2017 to continue discussions on biological information for the Vortex model and habitat niche model.  These models will inform the FWS' development of a revision to the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan.  The workshop was attended by representatives from Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Mexican government agencies CONANP and SEMARNAT, the Forest Service and independent scientists from the U.S. and Mexico.

The Fish and Wildlife Service met with the New Mexico State Director of Wildlife Services on February 13, 2017, to discuss the Mexican wolf range maps on the Service's website, which inform the public on where due care is needed for trapping.

On February 21, 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department met with the Arizona Cattle Growers Association in Phoenix, Arizona to discuss the status of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, including the 2017 proposed initial release and translocation plan, status of revision to the 1982 recovery plan and depredation compensation programs.

The Fish and Wildlife Service met with the Forest Service in Albuquerque, NM on February 23, 2017 to discuss communication issues and the status of the Forest Service's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review for proposed release sites in Arizona and New Mexico.

Numbering System: Mexican wolves are given an identification number recorded in an official studbook that tracks their history.  Capital letters (M = Male, F = Female) preceding the number indicate adult animals 24 months or older.  Lower case letters (m = male, f = female) indicate wolves younger than 24 months or pups.  The capital letter “A” preceding the letter and number indicate breeding wolves.

Our note:  You will notice that some of the wolves also have names associated with their identification numbers.  For the last five years we had a Pup Naming Contest for Kids to name the pups born in the Spring.  The names that you see are the winning names that we have assigned to the pups.  Follow these links for all the entries and results from the 2012 contest, 2013 contest, 2014 contest, 2015 contest and 2016 contest.

Definitions: A “wolf pack” is defined as two or more wolves that maintain an established territory.  In the event that one of the two alpha (dominant) wolves dies, the remaining alpha wolf, regardless of pack size, retains the pack status. The packs referenced in this update contain at least one wolf with a radio telemetry collar attached to it. The Interagency Field Team (IFT) recognizes that wolves without radio telemetry collars may also form packs. If the IFT confirms that wolves are associating with each other and are resident within the same home range, they will be referenced as a pack.


CURRENT POPULATION STATUS

The IFT completed the annual year-end population survey which started in November 2016 and concluded with helicopter count and capture operations conducted in late January through early February 2017. The IFT documented a minimum of 113 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2016. At the end of February, there were 67 wolves with functioning radio collars that the IFT was actively monitoring. Wolves with functioning radio collars are listed by studbook number in the pack updates below.

Annual surveys are conducted in the winter as this is when the population is experiencing the least amount of natural fluctuation (i.e. in the spring the population increases dramatically with the birth of new pups and declines throughout the summer and fall as mortality is particularly high on young pups). Thus, the IFT summarizes the total number of wolves in the winter at a fairly static or consistent time of year. This allows for comparable year-to-year trends at a time of year that accounts for most mortality and survival of young pups.


IN ARIZONA:

Bear Wallow Pack (collared Poco-AM1338, Bailey-AF1335 and Zyanya-fp1548)
In February, the Bear Wallow Pack was located within their traditional territory in the east central portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF).

Bluestem Pack (Fuerza-M1382, Faith-F1488, Atira-fp1562, Moonlight-fp1563, Keystone-mp1568, and Chico-mp1573)
In February, the Bluestem Pack continued to use their traditional territory in the east central portion of the ASNF. Some wolves from the Bluestem Pack continue to travel separate from the pack. F1443 continues to be documented with m1447, of the Diamond Pack, in New Mexico near the Arizona border. This pair has remained together for three months and is now considered a separate pack and will soon be given a name. F1488 was documented traveling with another wolf near Alpine. M1382 was documented traveling with AF1339 of the Panther Creek Pack. Bluestem male pup, mp1568, was found dead in Arizona and the incident is under investigation.

Elk Horn Pack (collared AF1294, AM1342, Blaze-mp1471, and River-mp1474)
In February, the Elk Horn Pack was located within their traditional territory in the north eastern portion of the ASNF. The temporary studbook number, fp147X, for the female pup that was captured, collared and released in January will be replaced with the correct studbook number once genetic analysis results are available to determine if the pup was wild born or a captive born pup that was cross-fostered into the Elk Horn Pack in April of 2016.

Hawks Nest Pack (collared AM1038)
In February, the Hawks Nest Pack consisted of one collared wolf, AM1038. AM1038 previously made wide dispersal movements within the north central portion of the ASNF and was then located in New Mexico in the GNF toward the beginning of the month. By the end of February, AM1038 was documented back in Arizona and traveling with the Diamond Pack.

Hoodoo Pack (collared Copper-AM1290, Verde-AF1333, Kiko-m1441, Willow-fp1549, Moon Beam-fp1550 and Lupin-f1567)
In February, the Hoodoo Pack remained in the north central portion of the ASNF. Sub-adult wolves m1441 and f1567 were documented traveling together and apart from the Hoodoo Pack. The IFT is conducting prey carcass investigations as part of a kill rate study for both the Hoodoo Pack and the new pair m1441 and f1567 during the month of February.

Maverick Pack (collared Sandy-AF1291)
In February, the Maverick Pack was located within their traditional territory both on the FAIR and east central portion of the ASNF.

Panther Creek Pack (Esperanza-AF1339, AM1394, Rakesh-mp1483, Centinela-fp1484, Da-Kari-mp1486, and mp148X)
In February, the Panther Creek Pack was located in the east central portion of the ASNF. Bluestem M1382 continues to be located traveling with AF1339. AM1394 was not located during the month of February. Pups m1483, fp1484, mp1486, and mp148X have all been traveling separately from AF1339 and M1382 during the month of February. Male pups mp1483 and mp1486 have both been documented traveling in the Gila National Forest in NM. The temporary studbook number, mp148X, for the male pup that was captured, collared and released in January will be replaced with the correct studbook number once genetic analysis results are available.


ON THE FAIR:

Diamond Pack (collared Phoenix-f1557, Aleu-mp1559, Spirit-fp1560, Ulv-fp1570, Rio Espiritu-mp1571 and Argentum-mp1572)
In February, the Diamond Pack was located in the northern portion of the ASNF and on state lands north of the ASNF.  Sub-adult m1447 has been traveling with F1443, of the Bluestem Pack, in New Mexico near the Arizona border for three months and is no longer considered part of the Diamond Pack. AM1038 of the Hawks Nest Pack was documented traveling with wolves from the Diamond Pack this month.

Tsay o Ah Pack (collared AM1343 and Ma'iitosoh-AF1283)
In February, the Tsay-o-Ah Pack was located within their traditional territory in the eastern portion of the FAIR.

Baldy Pack (collared Essential-M1347 and Libre-f1445)
The Baldy Pack was not located during the month of February.


IN NEW MEXICO:


Dark Canyon Pack (collared AM99)
AM992 was located dead in February, the incident is under investigation.

Iron Creek Pack (collared AM1240, Acalia-AF1278, Zeus-mp1555, and Fortitudo-mp1556)
During February, the Iron Creek Pack continued to utilize their territory in the northern portion of the Gila Wilderness and the southern portion of the Gila National Forest (GNF).

Lava Pack (collared Gunnolf-M1285 and F1405)
During February, the Lava Pack was located within their traditional territory in the south eastern portion of the GNF.

Leopold Pack (collared AM1293, Cancion-AF1346 and Akela-mp1561)
During February, the IFT documented the Leopold Pack within their territory in the northern portion of the Gila Wilderness.

Luna Pack (collared AM1158, AF1487 and Pluto-mp1554)
During February, the Luna Pack remained in their traditional territory in the north central portion of the Gila National Forest. The IFT has been unable to locate mp1554 and it is now considered fate unknown.

Mangas Pack (collared M1296 and Wuna-F1439)
During February, the Mangas Pack was located within their territory in the north western portion of the GNF.

New Pack (collared F1443 and Mago-m1447)
F1443, from the Bluestem Pack, and m1447, from the Diamond Pack, have been documented traveling together for a minimum of three months and will receive a pack name. They have been using a territory south of Luna near the Arizona border.

Prieto Pack (collared AF1251, M1398, Monty-M1386, Tsuki-m1455, Artemis-f1456, Peaceful-fp1565 and Paz-mp1569)
During February, the Prieto Pack was located within their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF. After being located with the Prieto Pack for a month M1398 is now considered paired with AF1251 and the new breeding male. f1553 continued to be documented traveling with AM1285 of the SBP Pack and is now considered paired with AM1285 and the new breeding female. M1386, m1455, and M1552 continued to display dispersal behavior within the GNF. mp1569 is also displaying dispersal behavior and was documented traveling east as far as portions of the Cibola National Forest. On February 11, f1456 was documented traveling with M1354; they continued to travel together through the remainder of the month.

San Mateo Pack (collared AM1345, Survivor-AF1399 and Sentouki-fp1551)
During February, the San Mateo Pack continued to utilize their territory in the north central portion of the GNF.

Sheepherders Baseball Park (SBP) Pack (collared Krypto-AM1284 and Selene-f1553)
During February, the SBP Pack continued to use their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF. f1553 continued to be documented traveling with the SBP Pack and is now considered paired with AM1285 and the new breeding female.

Willow Springs Pack (collared Vida-F1397)
February, the IFT documented the Willow Springs Pack within their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF.
Single AM1155
During February, AM1155 was documented traveling within New Mexico.

Single Adero-M1398
M1398 is now considered part of the Prieto Pack; see above

Single collared Bravery-M1354
February, M1354 was documented traveling within its former natal pack territory (Dark Canyon Pack) with f1456 of the Prieto Pack.

Single collared Stella-f1444
During February, f1444 was documented traveling mostly within west central portions of the GNF.


MORTALITIES


During February, AM992 of the Dark Canyon Pack was located dead in New Mexico. The incident is under investigation.

During February, Keystone-mp1568 of the Bluestem Pack was located dead in Arizona. The incident is under investigation.


INCIDENTS


During the month of February, there was one confirmed wolf kill and seven nuisance reports.

On February 3, a homeowner in Nutrioso, Arizona reported there were seven wolves on private property near a pen holding alpacas near a residence. The homeowner used a vehicle to scare the wolves away. IFT personnel responded and located wolf tracks on the property near the alpaca pen. IFT personnel used collar signals to confirm the Elk Horn Pack had been responsible for the nuisance report. IFT personnel pursued the Elk Horn Pack and hazed the wolves from the adjacent area. The homeowner advised that on the night of January 29, 2017 one of their dogs had been injured by what they thought was a coyote, but they were concerned a wolf could have injured it. Wildlife Services investigated the injuries on the homeowner’s dog on February 7, and determined that it was probable that the injuries had been caused by a wolf. GPS points do not implicate the Elk Horn Pack in an incident in Nutrioso on January 29.

On February 7, F1488 and another wolf were observed in a residential area of Alpine, Arizona by a homeowner. The homeowner hazed the wolves to an adjacent property with a vehicle where a second homeowner shot a firearm which caused the wolves to leave. IFT personnel responded and confirmed F1488 was responsible for the report by radio collar signal in the area. On February 8, IFT personnel located the carcass of an elk near the residential area that had been killed by wolves. The carcass was moved and no further incidents were reported at the residence.

On February 10, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Apache County, Arizona. The investigation determined the calf was killed by coyotes.

On February 12, a collared wolf was observed in a residential area of Alpine interacting with a dog outside of a residence. IFT personnel responded and observed wolf tracks in the snow that corroborated the report. Radio collar signals of F1488 as well as AM1290 and fp1550 of the Hoodoo Pack were documented in the area.

On February 16, the Nutrioso homeowner with alpacas reported hearing wolves howling from the residence. IFT personnel responded, contacted the homeowner, and documented radio telemetry signals in the area from the Elk Horn Pack. The wolves were successfully hazed from the area using non-injurious explosive scare cartridges. IFT personnel discussed with the homeowner the option of deploying fladry fencing around the alpaca pen to provide a deterrent to wolves.

On February 17, a Nutrioso homeowner reported his teenage daughter had been chased by a pack of wolves while riding horseback on the National Forest. IFT personnel responded and interviewed the father and daughter about the incident. IFT personnel investigated the incident, including interviewing the horseback rider and her father, and determined the rider and her dog were traveling on a trail on February 16, near Gobbler Peak when she rode into the Hoodoo Pack while the wolves were on an elk kill. The dog interacted with the wolves and was described as sniffing, chasing and playing with the wolves. The female indicated one wolf was approximately eight feet from her horse at one point and two or three other wolves were at a distance of 15 to 20 feet from her horse. Based on the description of these wolves, the IFT personnel determined these wolves were likely pups from the Hoodoo Pack. The female reportedly yelled at the wolves then rode away when the wolves did not leave. She indicated the wolves followed her and her dog for a distance of up to half of a mile while yipping and howling. She reported seeing a total of about six to eight wolves. The IFT personnel advised both individuals that though a wolf at distance of eight feet from a human is not desirable, interactions between wolves and dogs are not uncommon and can occur when people with dogs encounter wolves. Wolves vocalizing and following a perceived threat out of an area is a common territorial behavior exhibited by wolves.

On February 21, the Nutrioso homeowner with alpacas reported hearing wolves howling from the residence. IFT personnel responded and learned that the homeowner observed several wolves and had shot a firearm to scare them off. The IFT confirmed three sets of wolf tracks in the area and made plans to deploy fladry fencing on the following day. Faint signals were heard in the area from the Elk Horn Pack and one of the Panther Creek pups.

On February 22, the Nutrioso homeowner with alpacas reported observing three wolves traveling past their property and again shot a firearm in attempt to scare the animals away. IFT personnel deployed electric charged fladry fencing around the alpaca pens and later installed radio telemetry activated noise and strobe light units on the property that are triggered by signals from wolves with radio collars when they approach the area. The homeowner was aware of their legal right to take, including shooting and killing, any Mexican wolf in the act of attacking livestock or a dog on non-federal land. At the time this report was prepared, there have been no further nuisance reports from this homeowner or on the Elk Horn Pack.

On February 25, Wildlife Services investigated a dead cow in Catron County, New Mexico. The investigation determined the cow was a confirmed wolf kill.


COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION


On February 28, the Fish and Wildlife Service gave a webinar on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program to the Western Regional Partnership.


PROJECT PERSONNEL


There are no project personnel updates for the month of February.


REWARDS OFFERED


The USFWS is offering a reward of up to $10,000; the AGFD Operation Game Thief is offering a reward of up to $1,000; and the NMDGF is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the shooting deaths of Mexican wolves. A variety of non-governmental organizations and private individuals have pledged an additional $46,000 for a total reward amount of up to $58,000, depending on the information provided.

Individuals with information they believe may be helpful are urged to call one of the following agencies: USFWS special agents in Mesa, Arizona, at (480) 967-7900, in Alpine, Arizona, at (928) 339-4232, or in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at (505) 346-7828; the WMAT at (928) 338-1023 or (928) 338-4385; AGFD Operation Game Thief at (800) 352-0700; or NMDGF Operation Game Thief at (800) 432-4263. Killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000, and/or not more than one year in jail, and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.