By Rene Romo / Journal South Reporter
LAS CRUCES — Federal officials have captured a recently released male Mexican gray wolf for the second time in four months after the lobo wandered away from his mate and a designated recovery area.
The wolf, designated M1133, had been in the wild only two weeks when he was captured Saturday and returned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wolf Management Facility at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.
The wolf was among two pairs that Fish and Wildlife released in late April, after a four-year period in which the agency had released only one captive wolf. The releases, which wolf advocates had repeatedly called for, were aimed at bolstering the genetic diversity of the wild
population, increasing the number of breeding wolves, and offsetting the illegal killing of endangered wolves.
According to the most recent monthly report on the wolf recovery effort and a Fish and Wildlife spokesman, law enforcement is investigating the recent deaths of two wolves, while the status of another pair will be considered “fate unknown” if they are not located by the end of May.
Federal officials put the male wolf and his mate, a pregnant female designated F1108, into a temporary enclosure in McKenna Park, a remote area in the Gila Wilderness, on April 27. The enclosure is designed to allow wolves to chew through and “self-release,” which the pair did May 3.
But while the pregnant female appears to be denning near McKenna Park to raise pups, her mate headed east, covering more than 75 miles before he was captured east of the San Mateo Mountains in the Cibola National Forest southwest of Socorro.
Because the wolf was outside the boundaries of the 4 million-acre Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, and is considered part of a “nonessential, experimental population,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said program rules required the capture of the wandering lobo.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity disagreed, saying Fish and Wildlife was only required to capture the wolf if it established a territory outside the recovery area. Still, Robinson said he did not fault the decision to capture the wolf because it was headed toward a hazard — Interstate 25 — and was not likely to find another mate or pack. “It’s disturbing that there weren’t other wolves en route that might have captured his fancy or slowed him down,” Robinson said, adding, “A lot more wolves need to be released, so these situations don’t keep happening.”
Seventy-five Mexican gray wolves were counted in the wild at the end of 2012.
The wandering lobo had been released in Arizona on Jan. 8, with the hope he would mate with the Bluestem pack’s alpha female. The two did not pair. M1133 headed to where he was not likely to find other wolves, so he was captured.
This article was published by the Albuquerque Journal.
Note: The US Fish and Wildlife Service posted an update on the female wolf on the agency’s Facebook page: “F1108 and pups are thought to be doing OK. We are waiting a couple of weeks before going in to check so we don’t disturb them. We are doing supplemental feeding while she raises the pups.”
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This news demonstrates why many more Mexican gray wolves must be released to the wild. Wolves do not necessarily fall in with managers’ plans for them. Many more releases are needed to increase the wild population’s genetic health and ensure their ability to persist in the wild.
The wild population of Mexican wolves is still at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics. The last annual population count found only 75 Mexican gray wolves in the wild. While the recent release of four wolves is a good start, it is not enough to make up for the preceding four year moratorium on new releases.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should manage Mexican gray wolves to ensure their recovery and not risk extinction again. Even though Mexican gray wolves were released to their native lands in Arizona and New Mexico 15 years ago, the wild population continues to struggle, not because of any lack on the part of the wolves, but because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to make the changes needed for these wolves to succeed. These changes include removing boundaries that limit the wolves’ movement and enabling new releases throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.
The Fish and Wildlife Service should increase protections for these wolves, and expedite the Mexican gray wolf recovery planning process. A draft recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan has been developed but politics has stalled the recovery planning process. The draft recovery plan should be put out for public comment.
The majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona. Elected officials like Senator Tom Udall should use their influence to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to enact the changes needed to help these wolves.
Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you.
Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams — just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.
Mexican gray wolves are unique native animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America and the most endangered wolf in the world.
Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature.
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