TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Crews with the Interagency Field Team (IFT) captured a female Mexican Gray Wolf on private ranch land in southeastern Arizona, according to a recent Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) release.
The female wolf is part of the ongoing reintroduction effort, she was relocated to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico where it is reported she is in good health. This female was born in 2016, as part of a captive breeding program in Cananea, Mexico and was released in October 2016 in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico some 90 miles from the international border, according to the release.
She was first sighted in Arizona on March 19, by an AGFD wildlife manager and again on March 22 by ranch employees, before she was caught on March 26.
According to the release when this wolf was spotted on March 22, she did not retreat from the people when they tried to haze her out of the area. Officials believe the wolf was alone and no further wolf sightings have been reported.
Reporting parties at first stated the wolf was wearing a radio collar. AZGFD crews searched by air on March 22, but could find no signal coming from the collar and later determined that it was non-functional. Her last collar transmission was on Feb. 14, 2017 only 21 miles south of the border with New Mexico.
Ranchers in the area where she was found reported livestock deaths, and according to the release the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services investigated eight livestock carcasses between March 22 and 27 to determine the cause of death. Results showed that only one animal had been killed by a wolf. According to reports four died of natural causes, two of unknown causes and one was unable to be investigated due to deterioration of the carcass.
The rancher whose livestock was confirmed killed by a wolf can apply for compensation through the Arizona Livestock Loss Board. Additionally, area ranchers can receive funding to implement actions to minimize wolf-livestock interaction through Defenders of Wildlife and the Mexican Wolf Fund.
"We were decisive in our management actions because this wolf was young, alone, genetically important, and not affiliated with another pack," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle. "Future management actions may differ based on the circumstances of each scenario."
The area in Arizona where the wolf was captured falls within the federal Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in the U.S. According to the release in 2015 the designation was revised and provides flexibility for managing the Mexican wolves as part of an experimental population. Before 2015 the MWEPA ran from Interstate 40 south to Interstate 10 in Arizona and New Mexico, the new revision extended the southern boundary to the international border to provide more flexibility for management in the area.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), along with the AGFD, the Mexican government, and New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, are reviewing biological information for the development of a revised Mexican wolf recovery plan. That review focuses on recovery south of I-40 and into Mexico with the expectation that populations in the two countries will be connected.
Mexico has been a partner in the recovery of the Mexican wolf since the two countries established a binational captive breeding program in the 1970s to halt the extinction of the Mexican wolf. The Mexican government began re-establishing Mexican wolves back into the wild in 2011, following their elimination from the wild in Mexico in the 1980s.
The Mexican wolf recovery program is a partnership between the USFWS, AGFD, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services, and several participating counties. The IFT is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Mexican wolf population and includes field personnel from several of the partner agencies.