PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is pleased by a decision to authorize the release of an adult male Mexican wolf into eastern Arizona later this month or in January to help restore the stability of the Hawks Nest Pack and promote future breeding to further the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction project. The department had approved the release, but also needed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) approval.
The Service’s decision was in response to a request made by the project’s Interagency Field Team that was supported by cooperating agencies and stakeholders, and endorsed by Game and Fish’s director, Larry Voyles.
The release is hoped to lead to a mating of the male with the pack’s currently unpaired adult female, increasing the number of potential Mexican wolf breeding pairs. Two adult males from the Hawks Nest Pack, including a breeding male, were illegally killed last summer.
“The goal of this translocation is to augment the breeding wild wolf population in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area and also increase the genetic diversity of the current population,” says Terry Johnson, endangered species coordinator for Game and Fish.
Cooperating agencies are concerned that since 2003 the Mexican wolf population in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area has stagnated between 40 and 60 known (documented) radio-collared and uncollared wolves.
An annual survey conducted in January 2010 counted 42 documented wolves. The annual survey will be carried out again in January 2011. The project’s population goal is at least 100 wolves in the recovery area.
Game and Fish, in coordination with the project’s field team, began discussions in mid-August with project cooperators and local stakeholders about a potential translocation in the aftermath of the Hawks Nest Pack killings.
Game and Fish held a public meeting in Alpine, Ariz. on Nov. 17 to discuss the translocation with local stakeholders.
“It is critical to the success of the wolf program that the project team works with local stakeholders prior to a translocation, and this public meeting was very constructive,” said Johnson.
“Local public-lands livestock permittees that participated made suggestions to mitigate potential impacts, but they did not oppose the release, and in fact, recognized the need to help the Hawks Nest Pack through translocation of a new male wolf.”