By Rene Romo
LAS CRUCES — Federal law enforcement officials are investigating the suspicious deaths of two endangered Mexican gray wolves, both the alpha males of their packs, found in the past two weeks in Arizona and New Mexico.
The collared alpha male of a third pack, the Paradise pack that roamed the Fort Apache Reservation in Arizona, also has been missing since mid-April.
The alpha male of the Hawks Nest Pack, one of only two packs to have produced a pup in 2009 that survived until the end of the year, was found shot to death June 18 in eastern Arizona, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week. On Friday, the agency confirmed that another wolf, the alpha male of the San Mateo Pack, was found dead under suspicious circumstances last week in New Mexico.
Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Charna Lefton would not say whether the San Mateo Pack wolf was shot because a necropsy to determine the official cause of death is pending, but she noted the case has been referred to law enforcement for investigation.
The San Mateo Pack, which consisted of an alpha male and female, had been observed traveling in the north-central portion of the Gila National Forest.
The effort to recover Mexican gray wolves in a swath of federal forests straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border has been beset by challenges since the first lobos were released in Arizona in 1998. Federal officials had expected the wild wolf population would grow to 100 wolves by the end of 2006, but the 2009 count totaled 42 wolves, down from 52 in the previous year. “¦
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Killing Mexican gray wolves is a crime. A reward of up to $50,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone illegally killing a Mexican wolf. To read more about the reward and/or to print out copies of the reward poster to put up, Click Here.