by Sue Major Holmes
Associated Press Writer
ALBUQUERQUE – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is delaying the release of Mexican gray wolves in the Apache National Forest of Arizona until sometime next year.
The federal agency and the Arizona Game and Fish Department had expected to release eight wolves in the next few weeks under a program that began reintroducing the animals into the wild along the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998.
But when it became clear there wasn’t unanimous agreement on the release site, “we stepped back to re-evaluate where we were, what we knew, what had been accomplished, what hadn’t been accomplished,” Tom Buckley, a spokesman for the agency in Albuquerque, said Friday. “It just wasn’t the right time for a successful release.”
Fish and Wildlife Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle decided this week to postpone the release, Buckley said. The agency has not set a new date except to say it will be in 2011.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity called the delay a major setback. Biologists had predicted a self-sustaining wild population of 100 wolves by now, but the latest count early this year found 42 between the two states, down from 52 the year before.
There’s “a clear call by scientists to get more wolves out there and more genetically valuable wolves out there,” Robinson said.
At least three uncollared wolves have been reported in the area in the rugged area of southern Greenlee County, Ariz., where the new wolves would be released, said Arizona Game and Fish endangered species coordinator Terry Johnson.
In addition, he said, ranchers worry about more wolves killing their cattle.
To read the full AP article, published in the Durango Herald on October 9, 2010, and post a comment, click here.
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