Wildlife managers are investigating the deaths of two Mexican gray wolves found in May in New Mexico.
The interagency team that oversees recovery of the endangered species in New Mexico and Arizona documented the deaths of a female that was not with a pack and a male that was part of the Frieborn Pack. Officials in a monthly report made public last week did not release any other details about the circumstances.
In all, officials have reported a dozen wolf mortalities among the wild population over the first five months of the year.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about the leader of another wolf pack being killed for preying on livestock. The Saffel pack roams the northeastern portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest near the Arizona-New Mexico border.
The Center for Biological Diversity said the pack’s alpha male was the 21st wolf to be shot by the government since reintroduction of the species began in the Southwest U.S. two decades ago. The organization also said it’s the fifth to be shot by federal employees this year.
The Mexican gray wolf was once common throughout portions of the Southwest and Mexico. By the 1970s, it had been hunted, trapped and poisoned to near-extinction.
In 1998, state and federal wildlife managers began reintroducing the Mexican wolves – a subspecies of the gray wolf – with the experimental release of 11 captive-bred wolves. There are now at least 163 wolves roaming the two states, according to the latest survey.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which leads the interagency recovery team, is under a court order to rewrite the rule governing management of the wolves.
Thousands of comments were submitted before the June 15 deadline. The federal agency is expected to issue a draft rule and an environmental impact statement later this year, triggering another public comment period.