Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Newly released Mexican wolf doing well in Arizona

The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project’s interagency field team successfully released a radio collared 4-year-old male Mexican wolf, designated M1133, last week in the Apache National Forest.

M1133 was brought by snowmobile in a crate to the release site and hard released (released directly from the transport crate upon arrival rather than being placed in a temporary holding pen in that area for a period of time to acclimate). The wolf was released adjacent to the Bluestem pack’s territory in hopes that it will replace the pack’s breeding (alpha) male that was illegally killed in 2012. Surveys were conducted prior to the release to ensure that the Bluestem pack alpha female had not paired with another male wolf. 

The release was timed to coincide with normal early-season breeding activities. The pack currently consists of four collared wolves, including the collared alpha female and three collared pups born in 2012. At least three uncollared wolves have been documented with the pack, likely a yearling and two more pups from the 2012 litter.

M1133, if paired with the genetics of the Bluestem pack, would produce offspring that are genetically different than existing wild wolves in the larger Mexican wolf population, which would help the population’s genetic health.

M1133 was born at the California Wolf Center in April 2008 and was transferred to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in December 2008 along with its parents and littermate. Prior to being released, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted taste aversion conditioning on the wolf while it was at the facility. Taste aversion conditioning is used to induce an illness associated with the consumption of cattle.

The release of M1133 is considered an initial release rather than a translocation because the animal was born and raised in captivity. A translocation, such as the two conducted in January of 2011, is when a wolf that was born in the wild, but brought into captivity for some reason, is then released back into the wild. The field team closely manages all initially-released wolves to reduce the potential of nuisance-related behaviors and livestock depredations once they are in the wild. Past experience has shown that initially-released wolves sometimes require intensive management to assist them in learning to avoid situations that may lead to conflict with human activity or with livestock that also utilize the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.  

All initial wolf releases occur in Arizona in the primary recovery zone of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in compliance with the existing federal 10(j) rule covering the reintroduction project. The last initial release of wolves occurred in 2008.