By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated Press Writer
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Federal wildlife managers have decided to allow an endangered Mexican gray wolf that has been linked to four livestock killings to remain in the wild in southwestern New Mexico.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional director Benjamin Tuggle made the decision Friday regarding the alpha male of the San Mateo pack.
Despite a policy that allows the agency to remove a wolf from the wild after three livestock kills in one year, Tuggle said in a memo to the coordinator of the Mexican gray wolf recovery program that removal of the animal could hurt any potential population gains.
The male wolf—known as AM1114—is raising four 8-week-old pups with help from the pack’s alpha female, officials said.
“This is a productive pack. They’re producing pups,” said agency spokesman Jose Viramontes. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is in the business of successful reintroduction of the Mexican wolf and this aids that. The regional director felt with that goal in mind we’d be able to leave the animal out there longer.”
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that has been critical of the way the agency has handled the wolf reintroduction program, called Tuggle’s decision “good news.”
Robinson said the reproductive success of the San Mateo pack is “extraordinarily important just given the tiny population size and the very, very few breeding pairs that exist in New Mexico as well as Arizona.”
The Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, was exterminated in the wild in the Southwest by the 1930s. In 1998, the government began reintroducing wolves along the Arizona-New Mexico line in a 4 million acre-plus territory interspersed with forests, private land and towns.
Biologists had hoped to have at least 100 wolves in the wild by now and 18 breeding pairs. The most recent survey shows there were 52 wolves and less than a handful of breeding pairs scattered between New Mexico and Arizona at the end of 2008.
Tuggle requested in his memo that the recovery program’s interagency field team continue to monitor the San Mateo pack and try to prevent any further livestock kills by the pack.
Viramontes tactics may include establishing a food cache for the wolves—native prey that would placed in certain areas by wildlife managers—to prevent the wolves from going after livestock.