The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Southwest Regional Director, Benjamin Tuggle, with concurrence from Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Larry Voyles, has determined that the conditions are right for the release a four year old male wolf into the vicinity of the Hawks Nest pack to provide a potential mate for the breeding female of that pack. The Hawks nest pack lost the only adult male in the pack, and a yearling male, to illegal shooting earlier this year. The pack is thought to now consist of one adult female, one yearling female, three young of the year, and two other yearlings or young of the year that are uncollared.
Under this planned effort the Interagency Field Team (IFT) will translocate male (M1049), born into the Saddle pack in 2007, into the Hawks Nest pack. Wolf M1049 was taken into captivity in 2007, along with the other pups of the Saddle pack, when that pack was determined to have had excessive depredation on livestock. The adults were permanently removed from the wild. The pups were not implicated in the depredations and are eligible for translocation back into the wild.
“The release of M1049 in January signals the beginning of a comprehensive effort with a series of wolf releases over the next 18 months,” said Tuggle. “I expect 2011 to be a watershed year for the Mexican wolf recovery program, with the Interdiction Fund in place, the revised recovery plan well underway, and more wolves on the ground. This action is an important step in our overall strategy to recover this keystone species.”
The Service expects to release M1049 in January, just ahead of the breeding season, with the hope that he will mate with the Hawks Nest female (AF1110). The genetic compatibility of these two wolves was reviewed very carefully and found to be a good match. M1049 will be transported from the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri where he is now living.
“This release of Mexican Wolf M1049 into the Hawks Nest Pack is an important component of our wolf management strategy and an opportunity to enhance the stability of a pack that is critical to our success in increasing wolf numbers in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area,” said Voyles.
The preferred release method is a modified soft release. In this instance the IFT would set up two chain link kennels at the release site. The breeding female from the Hawks Nest pack would be captured and placed in one kennel and M1049 next to her in the other kennel. They would be left side by side for about 24 hours to “get acquainted”. It is anticipated that this would reduce the potential for conflict when both wolves are released, and increase the chance that M1049 would be able to join the pack and breed with AF1110. The objective is to increase pack stability by having a breeding pair to lead them.
The pairing of M1049 and AF1110 will also make a significant biological contribution to the wolf population. Over the years Hawks Nest pack offspring will disperse throughout the recovery area, pairing with other Mexican wolves, and contributing to our overall goals.
Wolf M1049 will be equipped with a GPS satellite-telemetry collar which will allow precise monitoring of his movements after he is released. The IFT will be able to track his movements and determine if he is getting too close to known active livestock. If M1049 does get too close to livestock and problems occur, proactive non-lethal measures can be taken to haze him away and prevent possible depredation.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov.
Note: M1049, the wolf being released, is one of the Saddle pack re-release candidates featured earlier this year in our action alerts to USFWS Regional Director Tuggle!
All the phone calls and emails from Mexican gray wolf supporters calling for new releases into the wild are paying off.
This is an important action for these agencies to take, and many more releases are still needed. Let’s encourage them by sending an easy email to say thanks and keep it up!
Simply copy and paste the message below into an email, and add a simple sentence or two of your own. Please add your name and address at the end, because anonymous letters get little attention. Remember, too, that polite requests are more effective.
Dear Dr. Tuggle,
I applaud your decision to re-release former Saddle pup M1049 into the wild and your plan to release many more wolves. Thank you! I am alarmed at how few Mexican gray wolves remain in the wild and I urge you to continue to let wild-born captive wolves become wild wolves again. Please move forward quickly wiht the Environmental Assessment to enable direct releases into New Mexico as well.
Send your e-mail to Director Benjamin Tuggle at RDTuggle@fws.gov.
Photo credit: Mexican gray wolf M1049. Photo courtesy of the Endangered Wolf Center.