Sunday, February 10, 2013

AZ Wildlife News -Mexican Wolf

Arizona Wildlife News

Feb. 10, 2013

2012 Mexican wolf population survey complete and numbers are up 
During its annual year-end surveys, the Mexican wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) counted at least 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2012. Compared to the 2011 minimum population count of 58 wolves, this number demonstrates an increase in the known population in the wild. 

"The 2012 count of 75 wolves is very exciting. This past year we have implemented a number of management actions -- in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders -- that have helped reduce conflicts related to recovering a sustainable population of wolves on a working landscape," said Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southwest Regional Director. "Our strategy for 2013 will be to increase the genetic viability of the wild population, and implement management activities that support more wolves in the wild. Releases are one of the important tools we use for improving the genetic viability of the wild population."

Tuggle emphasized that the Service’s partners in Mexican wolf recovery -- the Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service -- Wildlife Services, and several participating counties have worked in coordination to decrease wolf- livestock interactions. In addition, the Mexican Wolf/ Livestock Interdiction Stakeholder Council has been able to provide compensation to livestock producers to offset the costs of wolf depredations.

"One of the keys to successful Mexican wolf repatriation is increasing the percentage of the population that is wild-born and in 2012 that percentage grew to nearly 100 percent with only one wolf on the ground that was captive-born. Wild-born wolves, compared to naïve wolves that were born in captivity, have demonstrated that they are less likely to have human and livestock interactions," said Larry Voyles, Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The results of the surveys reflect the end-of-year minimum population for 2012. Results come from population data collected on the ground by the IFT from November through December of 2012, as well as data collected from an aerial survey conducted in January 2013. This number is considered a minimum number of Mexican wolves known to exist in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area as other non-collared wolves may be present in the recovery area, but were not located during the survey period.

The aerial survey was conducted by a fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter. Biologists used radio-telemetry and actual sightings of wolves to help determine the count. The results from the aerial survey, coupled with the ground survey conducted by the IFT, confirmed that there are 38 wolves in New Mexico and 37 wolves in Arizona. The survey indicated that there were 4 pairs that met the federal definition of breeding pairs at year’s end, out of 13 known packs.

Pups born in the summer must survive to December 31 of the given year to be counted as part of the Mexican wolf population. The 2012 minimum population count includes 20 wild-born pups that survived through the end of the year. This marks the eleventh consecutive year in which wild born wolves bred and raised pups in the wild, and is an increase in the number of pups surviving to the end of the year over the 2011 number of 19. This is also considered a minimum known number since it might not reflect pups surviving but not documented.

For more information on the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program, visit
Recently released Mexican wolf recaptured after pair failed to bond 

Potential to breed in captivity greater for male wolf

The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project’s Interagency Field Team (IFT) recaptured a radio-collared 4-year-old male Mexican wolf, designated M1133, last week near Reserve, N.M.  

The wolf was released in early January in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area adjacent to the Bluestem Pack’s territory in an attempt to replace the pack's breeding (alpha) male that was illegally killed in 2012. The decision was made to recapture M1133 when it became obvious that he had failed to bond with the Bluestem Pack alpha female and moved into an area in New Mexico where he was unlikely to encounter other wolves.

"It is important to remember that we are working to establish a genetically sound wolf population. It's natural that all of us, including the Service, sometimes get swept up in the story of individual wolves," said Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southwest Regional Director. "While our management efforts may involve activities that affect an individual wolf or pack, our focus must be larger than that if we are to succeed in our Mexican wolf reintroduction goals."

Tuggle commented that it was in the best interest of the Reintroduction Project to remove M1133 from the wild after the intended management action to pair him with the alpha female of the Bluestem pack was unsuccessful. M1133 will now be paired with a female in captivity and both will be translocated as a pregnant pair into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in the future. Releases of pairs with a pregnant female or pairs with pups are documented to be most successful.

"This situation demonstrates why it is so important for endangered species repatriation programs to achieve reproduction in the wild. Although nearly 100 percent of Mexican wolves on the landscape are now wild-born, we are attempting to improve genetics by bringing in select captive-bred individuals and this will be challenging at best," said Director Larry Voyles of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "M1133’s rejection by the pack and failure to pair, while disappointing, was neither catastrophic nor surprising. Those committed to Mexican wolf conservation will adapt, learn and try again another day or another way. Returning M1133 to captivity gives us the opportunity to generate more wolves now while preserving the possibility for a future release."

M1133 was returned to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility and placed with a wild-born female wolf for possible breeding. Biologists will continue to evaluate M1133 for future release into the wild.

More wolves needed in wild

The Republic | Sat Feb 9, 2013 
The number of Mexican gray wolves in the wild is increasing, which reflects welcome progress in the effort to reintroduce this endangered species. These magnificent creatures are living and breeding in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.

The successful return of this top predator will benefit the entire ecosystem.

But wolves are far from plentiful, and their survival faces challenges. The success of this program is not assured.

When wolves were reintroduced in 1998, it was expected that the population would exceed 100 by 2006. Recapture, poaching and misguided lethal “management” techniques kept wolf numbers low. Instead, there were only 50 animals in the recovery area at the beginning of 2011. Two successful breeding years brought the number to 75 at the end of 2012.

That’s a healthy trajectory.

But only three breeding pairs remain in the wild, according to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. That’s down from six pairs in 2011, and it creates concerns about genetic diversity that can only be solved with the reintroduction of breeding animals now in captivity.

It’s time for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put more wolves in the wild.

This important reintroduction effort deserves every opportunity to succeed.