Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project Monthly Update July 1 – 31, 2004
This is a summary of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project in Arizona and New Mexico. Additional information can be obtained by calling (928) 339-4329, or toll free at 1-888-459-WOLF, or by visiting the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s web site at http://mexicanwolf.fws.gov. Past updates may also be viewed on this website or interested parties may sign up to receive the update electronically by visiting www.azgfd.com. This update is public property and can be used for any purpose. The reintroduction project is a multi-agency cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services (USDA-WS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR), the San Carlos Apache Tribe (SCAT) on the San Carlos Apache Reservation (SCAR), and other supporting organizations including the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF) and Defenders of Wildlife (DOW).
Please report any wolf sightings, incidents of take or harassment of wolves, or suspected livestock depredations to: (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888)-459-WOLF, or the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s 24-Hour Dispatch (Operation Game Thief) at (800) 352-0700.
Numbering System: Mexican wolves are given an identification number recorded in an official studbook that tracks the history of all known Mexican wolves. Capital letters (M = Male, F = Female) preceding the number indicate adult animals 18 months or older. Lower case letters (m = male, f = female) indicate sub-adults (younger than 18 months) or pups. The capital letter “A” preceding the letter and number indicate alpha wolves.
Definitions: For the purpose of this report, a “wolf pack” is defined as two or more wolves, at least one being collared, that maintain an established territory and are proven breeders. In the event that one of the two alpha wolves dies, the remaining wolf, regardless of pack size, retains the pack name. A “group” of wolves is defined as two or more wolves that travel together on a consistent basis but are not proven breeders. The Interagency Field Team (IFT) recognizes that there could be uncollared wolves that form either a group or a pack. If they are confirmed through trapping, sightings, or other methods they will be included in the appropriate category.
CURRENT POPULATION STATUS As of the end of July, the population consisted of 20 wolves with radio collars in ten packs, and two lone wolves. Arizona: Aspen Pack (AF667, AM512, m871, f872, f873), Bluestem Pack (AF521, AM507), Cienega Pack AF487 (traveling with another uncollared wolf), Hawks Nest Pack (AF486, AM619), Iris Pack AM798 (traveling with an uncollared wolf), Rim Pack AF858 (traveling with an uncollared wolf), lone wolf M795; and, Hon-Dah Pack (AM578), located on the FAIR. New Mexico: Francisco Pack AF511 (traveling with an uncollared wolf), Luna Pack (AF562, AM583), and AM796 (traveling with an uncollared wolf)—pack name undecided, and lone wolf M859.
Based on other field data (sightings, tracks, howling etc.), there are approximately 35-40 additional wolves, including pups born last year, distributed among the packs and groups, as well as wolves traveling separately from known packs and groups.
MONITORING Field efforts continue to focus on monitoring wolf activity and denning behavior throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, as well as on both the SCAR and the FAIR in Arizona. Project personnel are still actively monitoring reproductive success from the females believed to have denned in 2004.
NEW RELEASE On July 23, AF667, AM512, pups m871, f872, and f873 were captured at the Ladder Ranch Wolf Management Facility, given physical exams, vaccinations and radio collared. They were then driven to Arizona and the following day were packed into the Blue Range Primitive Area on mules and put into a mesh acclimation pen southeast of Hannagan Meadow. The pack was held for four days and then released. The pack has remained in the vicinity of the pen. Supplementary food (road-killed elk or deer) will be provided for a short period while the wolves adjust to their new surrounding. The purpose of this release was to further diversify the population’s genetics, and help offset recent losses of wolves. An area closure will remain in effect until the wolves move out of the vicinity. There is also a fire closure, which will remain in effect until rescinded.
SEASONAL NEWS Pups have been documented in eight packs in 2004: Bluestem, Cienega, Hawks Nest, Iris, and Rim in Arizona; and the Francisco, Luna, and AM96 traveling with an uncollared wolf in New Mexico.
The following is a brief status of wolf activities:
Arizona: The Bluestem Pack, Cienega Pack, Hawks Nest Pack, and the Iris Pack remained in their normal home ranges in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, as well as the Hon-Dah Pack on the FAIR.
M859, which had been using areas along the Arizona/New Mexico border, traveled back to Arizona and was located within a couple miles of the Bluestem Pack, its pack of origin, but has since traveled back to New Mexico.
Rim Pack had moved north towards the Black River in the beginning of the month but later returned to its normal home range area.
Saddle Pack AM574 was located on the SCAR and authorization was given by the SCAT to implement lethal take on the wolf due to repeated depredations and the inability to capture the wolf through non-lethal means. IFT personnel killed AM574 on July 11.
M795 traveled from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest back onto the FAIR and has remained there throughout July.
New Mexico: The Luna Pack and Francisco Pack remained in their normal home ranges in the Gila National Forest.
Project personnel are still attempting to trap and remove AM796, his mate (an uncollared female), and their pups in the San Mateo Mountains. Removal of these wolves is necessary because they have established a territory outside the recovery area on public land, and the Mexican wolf final nonessential experimental population rule requires retrieval of wolves in such circumstances.
Observation reports of wolves from the public are important as many of the wolves are currently dispersing. Please call the toll free number listed above to report wolf sightings. Thank you for your help.
INCIDENTS Nothing new to report.
CAPTIVE MANAGEMENT See “NEW RELEASE” above.
On July 29 and 30, Dan Groebner, Maggie Dwire, and Melissa Woolf met with the Mexican wolf captive management group a the annual Species Survival Plan meeting held at The Phoenix Zoo. The group discussed release plans, project status, panned pairings for 2005, and the need to monitor the genetic makeup of the wild population compared to the captive population. Currently, the free-ranging population is similar to the captive population’s genetic representation from the initial founders, but this could change significantly with the loss of a few wolves.
COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION On July 8, the Wolf Adaptive Management Oversight Committee (AMOC), met in Silver City, NM. This was a closed meeting for lead agencies and cooperators.
On July 9, the Adaptive Management Working Group (AMWG), which is open to the public, was held in Bayard, NM to discuss action items from the previous meeting in April: the Interagency MOU, the 2004 Work Plan and budget, the IFT report, status of the Recovery Coordinator position, roles and functions, Five-Year Review, and the APHIS/WS animal husbandry/depredation study occurring in Arizona. Notes from AMWG meeting are available upon request.
On July 15, Dan Groebner provided a wolf project update as part of the AGFD Region I Summer Wildlife Speaker Series at the Pinetop office. Over 80 people attended.
On July 16, Shawna Nelson gave a wolf presentation to 85 campers at the Big Lake visitor center.
On July 17, Shawna Nelson gave a wolf presentation to 61 campers at the Hoyer Campground near Greer.
On July 19, Dan Groebner gave a wolf presentation to 19 kids at the Pinetop Parks and Recreation Summer Camp.
On July 20, project personnel attended a “Less-Than-Lethal-Munitions” training course sponsored by USFWS Office of Law Enforcement. Less-Than-Lethal-Munitions are specialty impact ammunitions used for aversive conditioning on wolves.
On July 22, John Oakleaf gave a wolf presentation to 30 guests at the Beavercreek Ranch.
In the lawsuit filed against the USFWS in New Mexico, Judge Armijo made a decision in favor of the Service on a request by the plaintiff for a temporary injunction on any additional Mexican wolf releases.
Following up on earlier discussions with the Mexican Wolf AMOC and the AMWG, the IFT presented a written recommendation, with justifications, addressing biological and social issues, to AGFD to approve a release in Arizona for July 2004. Per procedure, input from AMOC members and participants, as well as from AMWG discussions and a public meeting in the Blue, was considered by AGFD in making its final decision to approve the release.
PROJECT PERSONNEL: Carter Niemeyer, USFWS wolf specialist in the Northern Rockies, acted as the Mexican Wolf Recovery Project Leader in a special duty assignment in Albuquerque for approximately three weeks.
Cassie Hallmark, an AGFD intern, completed her two-month internship with the project.
The AGFD Wolf Technician position application period has closed and interview will be scheduled for early August. Two additional positions, primarily administrative, are being developed and funded by AGFD to assist with implementation of the project on non-tribal Arizona lands.
REWARDS OFFERED The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for the shooting deaths of Mexican gray wolves. An additional $35,000 is being offered by a variety of public interest groups for a total amount of up to $45,000, depending on the information provided. Individuals with information they believe may be helpful are urged to call one of the following agencies: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents in Mesa, AZ, at (480) 967-7900, or Albuquerque, NM, at (505) 346-7828; the White Mountain Apache Tribe at (928) 338-1023 or (928) 338-4385; Arizona Game and Fish Department Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700; or New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Operation Game Thief at 1-800-432-4263. Killing a Mexican gray wolf is a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act, and can invoke criminal penalties of up to $25,000 and/or six (6) months in jail or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.