Mexican Wolf Pup Presumed Dead
PHOENIX (AP) _ Only five Mexican gray wolves are roaming the Arizona wilds, less than a year after wildlife officials released 11 of them.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say two wolves are missing and may be dead, including the first pup of the species to be born in the wild in nearly 50 years.
Two others are confirmed dead and three have been taken back into captivity. A camper shot and killed one of the wolves in March, saying it was threatening his family.
``We expected this,″ Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Wendy Brown said Thursday. ``Wolves are going to die. They’re going to get run over by cars sometimes or killed by other wildlife or occasionally killed by humans.′
Still, Brown said she was encouraged by the project, particularly since the wolves began killing elk soon after their release.
Brown and other wolf experts aren’t giving up on plans to reintroduce the wolves, which were exterminated from the Southwest decades ago by hunters and ranchers.
The service plans to release about a dozen more adult wolves this winter in the rugged mountains near the Arizona-New Mexico line, Brown said.
Some ranchers, especially in New Mexico, have criticized the $3 million program, calling it a waste of money that could jeopardize livestock, hikers and campers.
Brown said the released wolves haven’t attacked livestock. Three of the wolves have been recaptured for wandering out of the wolf recovery area.
The pup’s birth this spring and survival for more than three months also was encouraging, Brown said. Biologists weren’t expecting the released wolves _ who had been raised in captivity _ to reproduce the first year.
But the pup’s mother was found dead Aug. 7, apparently killed by a mountain lion. Trackers saw the pup with its father several times over the next few weeks, but the pup hasn’t been seen or tracked since Aug. 23 and is presumed dead, Brown said.
The other missing wolf was the alpha female of another small wolf pack _ the mate of the lead male of the pack who helped look after two younger male wolves. She slipped out of her radio tracking collar Aug. 10 and hasn’t been seen since Sept. 19.