Two wolves in, one out.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will introduce two endangered Mexican wolves into the wild and remove another, the agency said.
An interagency field team took two male wolves from the wild in January and paired them with two females in captivity. When the couples are released in Arizona, the females will be considered “new” to the wild population – and important contributors to a gene pool that has been taxed by inbreeding, according to the agency.
“The pairing of genetically valuable females with males with wild experience accomplishes two goals, adding genetically valuable genes into the population and replacing wolves that were taken illegally,” Benjamin Tuggle, Fish and Wildlife Southwest Regional Director, said in a statement.
The two “new” wolves will replace two of the four wolves that were illegally killed last year.
The agency has been managing the reintroduction of the species to national forests in New Mexico and Arizona. A 2013 census showed a minimum of 83 wolves in the wild, up from 75 wolves in 2012. It was the fourth consecutive year of population growth.
“This population needs a big infusion of new genes from the captive population,” said Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Two additional wolves are a very important first step but aren’t nearly enough to combat the ongoing inbreeding.”
In a Feb. 12 memorandum, the Fish and Wildlife Southwest office said it plans to capture an uncollared wolf in the Gila National Forest in response to a series of cattle depradations. The memorandum attributed the deaths of four cows in a recent 10-day period to an uncollared wolf in the Fox Mountain pack’s territory.
Clashes with ranchers occasionally lead to the removal of wolves. The federal agency pulled four wolves from the wild last year.