Saturday, July 17, 2010
Dead Alpha Male Gray Wolf Found
By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
LAS CRUCES — The endangered Mexican gray wolf recovery program suffered another setback with the discovery Thursday of an adult lobo shot to death in eastern Arizona.
The case, now under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's law enforcement arm, marks the second time in less than a month that an adult male from the Hawks Nest pack was found shot to death.
In addition to those losses, the alpha male of the San Mateo pack was found slain in southwest New Mexico under suspicious circumstances in late June, and the alpha male of a third pack, the Paradise pack on the Fort Apache Reservation in Arizona, has been missing since mid-April.
"I am deeply saddened by this news," said Benjamin Tuggle, director of the FWS Southwest Region. "It is hard for me to understand why someone would violate the law so heartlessly by killing one of our nation's endangered species."
The collared carcass of the Hawks Nest male was found Thursday northeast of Big Lake within two miles of the spot where the pack's alpha male, designated 1044, was discovered slain on June 18.
The loss of the pack's two adult males leaves two females, including a yearling, to care for and sustain survivors among the seven pups whelped in the spring.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, which first released wolves in the wild 12 years ago, counted 42 wolves in the forested recovery area straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border at the end of 2009. The tally was a letdown — a decline from 52 in 2008 and far below the 100 wolves expected by the end of 2006.
"We started out with a population of 42 wolves this year, and when you've got that many wolves and you lose some, for whatever reason, basically, it's quite a setback," said Matt Wunder, chief of conservation services for the state Department of Game and Fish. "It's a great disappointment, certainly."
The Fish and Wildlife Service noted that the carcass of a cow, which also had been shot in the preceding 24 hours, was discovered in the "immediate vicinity" of the slain wolf. The cow had not been fed upon by Mexican wolves.
It was not determined Friday if the cow and wolf were shot by the same weapon, said Bruce Sitko, spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Federal and state agencies, along with conservation groups, have offered rewards of more than $50,000 for information leading to the apprehension of any individual or individuals responsible for illegal wolf killings.