Jun 29

ID: Worker charged with shooting wolf

Worker charged with shooting wolf

Associated Press

KETCHUM, Idaho  A central Idaho ranch employee who shot and killed a wolf has been charged with violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $25,000 fine and six months in jail.

However, due to what officials called special circumstances, a fine of $275 is being recommended for Darlington resident George Gilbert.

Gilbert, who works at a Stanley-area ranch that officials declined to name, reported to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game that he shot the wolf on June 7.

Scott Bragonier, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said an investigation was then launched. The wolf, B313, carried a radio collar and was a member of the Basin Butte wolf pack.

Bragonier declined to discuss the special circumstances of the wolf being shot as the case is ongoing.

“It seemed the appropriate action we take,” Bragonier told the Idaho Mountain Express. “That’s the route I choose to take given the circumstances.”

He said the shooting of the wolf did not fall under a special management agreement that allows wolves to be shot if they are harassing livestock.

“This shooting did not fall within that exception,” he said.

Lynne Stone of the Boulder-White Clouds Council said the remaining pack members spent the night howling after B313 was killed.

“This particular wolf, B313, was extraordinarily beautiful,” said Stone. “Wolves are pack animals. They’re family animals. When one goes missing it’s tough.”

Wolves were reintroduced to Idaho a decade ago after being hunted to near-extinction. They now number more than 1,200 in the region, including 673 wolves in 72 packs in Idaho alone.

The wolves are expected to be removed from federal protection next year.

Idaho’s management plan calls for keeping at least 15 packs, or at least 100 wolves, in the state once that happens.


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Jun 28

NE: Sheriff: Child Gets Wolf Bite At Safari Park

Sheriff: Child Gets Wolf Bite At Safari Park

OMAHA, Neb. — A child was bitten by a wolf at a wildlife park outside of Ashland.

Cass County Sheriff William C. Brueggemann said deputies went to the Wildlife Safari Park on Saturday after they were told that a 4-year-old was bitten by a wolf. Brueggemann said on the Cass County Web site that deputies discovered that the child and her mother had wondered off the designated path and were next to a chain link fence which contained wolves. Brueggeman said that deputies learned that the child had put her arm through the chain link fence and was bitten by a wolf.

The child had cuts on her forearm and finger.

She was taken to Children’s Hospital by Ashland Fire and Rescue.


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Jun 27

SE: Wolf killer walks free

Wolf killer walks free

Kaj Sjunesson, a sheep farmer from outside Strängnäs in central Sweden, has been cleared of suspicions that he may have broken hunting laws when he shot a runaway wolf in April. The public prosecutor has decided not to proceed with a preliminary investigation.

The young male wolf, Vulko, was one of two wolves that escaped from Kolmården wildlife park in mid-March.

The second wolf, Valle, was discovered one kilometre away from the wildlife park two days after its escape. The animal was put down when staff deemed that they were unable to get close enough to administer an anaesthetic.

Kaj Sjunesson was relieved to hear that he will not now face criminal charges.

“It wasn’t much fun when I woke up the day after shooting the wolf to the news that I risked facing four years in jail. I am very glad that this law works as it does, enabling people to protect their animals,” he told Eskilstuna-Kuriren.

The sheep farmer added that he hoped the prosecutor’s decision would not be interpreted as a licence to shoot wolves at will. He said that he shot the wolf after it had claimed the lives of three of his rams.

TT/The Local


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Jun 27

NM: Catron plans wolf removal

Catron plans wolf removal

Evelyn Cronce El Defensor Chieftain Reporter

Bill Aymar, Catron County Manager issued a press release stating a letter had been sent from the Catron County Commissioners to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issuing a 24-hour notice of intent to remove Mexican gray wolf AF924.

The letter claims the adult female wolf “has been stalking (a) family’s residence since its release into the wild in late April.”

According to the letter, the County has issued two letters of demand for removal of the wolf. The first cited the wolf’s past history of depredation and a report that the wolf had bitten a human.

The second letter cited six incidents involving problem wolf behavior that were reported to, investigated and confirmed by the wildlife service as having involved the wolf in question in a six-week time period.

The letter pointed out that no action has been taken by the Fish and Wildlife Service or any other agency to “respond to the demand for removal, nor has any adequate action been taken by your agency or any other agency to reduce the risk to humans from AF924.”

The press release states that the Fish and Wildlife Service continue to not provide any protection for the family.

Charna Lefton, public spokeswoman for FWS, said the service is concerned with public safety.

“There have been no confirmed incidents of wolves attacking humans in the United States,” she said.

Catron officials state that the Fish and Wildlife Service did send law enforcement officers to observe the county’s Wolf Interaction Investigator, who was attempting to trap the wolf and turn it over to the service.

“There were four agents in the area on the weekend, who talked both with the investigator and the family. They were there to make sure there was no harm or injury to the wolf,” Lefton said.

Lefton said that since it’s a legal issue, she couldn’t comment on the press release statement that Fish and Wildlife Service federal law enforcement officers are waiting for a court injunction against the county and the investigator to cease and desist the trapping.

“We did respond with a letter reminding them that a county ordinance does not supercede a federal law,” Lefton said, referring to the Federal Endangered Species Act.
“Killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act, and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000 and/or not more than one year in jail, and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000,” according to the press releases from the Mexican gray wolf project.

“We are continually working with Catron County in regards to wolf issues,” Lefton said. “We believe wolves and residents can be taught to co-exist. The people of Catron County are sincere in their concerns and we will continue to work with them on wolf issues.”


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Jun 27

ID: Stanley wolf killed illegally

Stanley wolf killed illegally

Lost River Valley resident charged with shooting


Wolf B313, a yearling female member of the Stanley-area Basin Butte wolf pack, was illegally shot by Darlington resident George Gilbert late in the evening on June 7, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Idaho said this week.

Gilbert, who works as an employee at an unnamed ranch in the Stanley area, voluntarily reported to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game that he shot the wolf, the agent said. That immediately launched an investigation into the killing, Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Scott Bragonier said Monday.

Fish and Game has the lead investigatory responsibilities for wolf killings in Idaho under a memorandum of understanding with Fish and Wildlife, Bragonier said.

Although the case hasn’t been closed yet, Gilbert has been formally charged for violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act, Bragonier said. All wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are designated as “Threatened” under the ESA.

Under ESA regulations, the illegal killing of threatened species is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor, which has a maximum penalty of up to a $25,000 fine and six months in jail. The killing of species listed as “endangered” under the ESA is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor, which has a maximum penalty of up to a $100,000 fine and one year in jail.

However, due to special circumstances a fine of only $275 has been recommended for Gilbert. As the case has not yet been closed, Bragonier declined to elaborate on those circumstances.

“It seemed the appropriate action we take,” Bragonier said. “That’s the route I choose to take given the circumstances.”

Under the ESA, Gilbert has the right to appeal his case in federal district court in Idaho, Bragonier said. If Gilbert chooses not to, the recommended penalty will stand, and the case will be closed.

Although a special management agreement implemented in January 2006, called the “10j rule,” allows wolves to be shot when they’re seen harassing livestock, Gilbert’s case wasn’t such a circumstance, Bragonier said.

“This shooting did not fall within that exception,” he said.

Wolf B313 and her Basin Butte counterparts have been a common presence in the Stanley area throughout the past winter and into this spring, Stanley resident and director of the Boulder-White Clouds Council Lynne Stone said.

Stone said she repeatedly observed B313, who was sporting a Fish and Game radio collar at the time she was shot, and the rest of the Basin Butte pack throughout the past winter.

The home range for the Basin Butte pack covers some 250 square miles where the Sawtooth, White Cloud and Salmon River mountains meet the lower Stanley Basin. The area is a mosaic of aspen and conifer forests, sagebrush-covered hillsides and wide open grassy flats.

On the night of Friday, June 8, a day after Bragonier reported B313 was shot, the remaining Basin Butte pack members could be heard howling through the night, Stone said.

“The pack stayed around, and they were howling for her,” Stone said.

Stone described B313 as having “a more regal bearing” in comparison to her sister, B312, another yearling female member of the Basin Butte pack who is also radio collared.

“This particular wolf, B313, was extraordinarily beautiful. I think she was destined to become an alpha female,” Stone said.

Stone said the loss of the young wolf will have an effect on the Basin Butte pack.

“Wolves are pack animals. They’re family animals,” she said. “When one goes missing it’s tough.”


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Jun 26

NM: Wolves find tough Southwest sledding

Wolves find tough Southwest sledding

Associated Press writer

RESERVE, N.M. — On a file cabinet outside Catron County Manager Bill Aymar’s office sits a stuffed animal: a sheep in wolf’s clothing, armed with a machine gun.

Aymar calls it his “answer to the wolf problem.”

The problem, in the view of southwestern New Mexico ranchers, is a program that began in 1998 to reintroduce endangered Mexican gray wolves into their historic range in Arizona and New Mexico, where they’d been exterminated at the behest of the livestock industry decades ago.

Environmentalists contend the problem isn’t the wolves — but the ranchers who refuse to accept the reintroduction program.

Almost from the program’s start, wolves killed cattle. Rancher and Catron County Commissioner Hugh B. McKeen says it’s been too much for a way of life already stressed by other predators and increasing rules on federal lands.

“It’s a disaster,” says McKeen, who runs 108 head on 11 square miles of largely public land near the village of Alma. He’s lost one cow to wolves, but says neighbors have lost many more. “It’s not just the cattle they eat. But it’s the cattle they scatter and run through fences.”

Conservationist Michael Robinson, who lives in the Grant County village of Pinos Altos about an hour from McKeen’s ranch, says wolves are integral to the ecosystem.

He contends ranchers are partly to blame for livestock losses because they haven’t kept a better eye on herds and refuse to remove carcasses of cows that die for whatever reason, giving wolves a chance to develop a taste for beef.

“Wolves are not going to change their behavior,” Robinson says. “We as humans have the ability to do so.”

He complains that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees wolf reintroduction, refuses to acknowledge that livestock carcasses are a problem.

The only view both sides share is a suspicion of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency’s Southwest Regional director, Benjamin Tuggle, says that while neither side may like the rules, they’re enforced consistently. Those in the program work hard not just to reintroduce wolves, but to try to achieve a balance with ranchers, he says. That “puts me squarely on the fence,” Tuggle says.

The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area encompasses 4.4 million acres of the Gila and Apache Sitgreaves national forests of New Mexico and Arizona plus Arizona’s 1.6 million-acre White Mountain Apache reservation, interspersed with private land and towns.

Catron County sprawls across nearly 7,000 square miles, an area nearly as large as Connecticut and Rhode Island but so sparsely populated there’s one person for every two square miles. Grant County to the south, at nearly 4,000 square miles, has 31,000 people, most in Silver City and surrounding copper mining towns.

Like much of rural New Mexico, folks here backed the Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1980s and early 1990s, when counties throughout the West tried — unsuccessfully — to wrest control of public land from the federal government.

Catron County commissioners, displaying that independent streak, in February passed an ordinance claiming the right to remove wolves that are accustomed to humans or have a high probability of harming children or other defenseless people, physically or psychologically.

Fish and Wildlife Service officials respond that the Endangered Species Act supersedes a county ordinance.

Catron County’s wolf incident investigator, Jess Carey, says people who live where wolves are roaming are scared for their children. Reserve’s school board even voted to put “wolf-proof shelters” at schoolbus stops.

Robinson does not dispute that wolves are potentially dangerous or could kill a person — although there are no documented cases in North America.

But he also says the argument shifted to children-versus-wolves after courts rebuffed two challenges by the livestock industry to wolf reintroduction.

“They’ve figured out they’re just not getting any traction on their old argument, and to my mind much more honest argument, that their lifestyle is being imperiled,” he says.

Tuggle says his agency is trying to address the fears partly by publishing safety cards telling people what to do if they encounter a wolf.

Currently, there are about 60 wild wolves in New Mexico and Arizona, not counting pups born this spring. New Mexico ranchers say that’s too many and contend there are many more uncollared and uncounted; environmentalists point out the program expected 102 wolves by now.

Fish and Wildlife’s wolf management team intensified its annual December count, and Tuggle says he’s confident of the number.

“And if we missed it, we missed it by one or two, not 15 or 20,” he says.

Since only the alpha pair of each pack has pups each year, Robinson believes a more telling statistic is the number of breeding pairs. At the end of 2006, Fish and Wildlife reported seven breeding pairs; it originally forecast 18. Tuggle says there are five breeding pairs in the wild now.

Mexican gray wolves are about the size of a German shepherd, weighing 50 to 80 pounds. Those in the program are classified as an experimental, nonessential population that can be moved for straying out of area boundaries or killing livestock.

Robinson — citing numerous bookmarked reports littering his coffee table — contends the program’s rules exacerbate the species’ recovery.

The program repeatedly traps and relocates wolves, largely for straying outside boundaries, putting them under stress by forcing them to constantly relearn the lay of the land, often without their original pack, he argues.

Robinson also says the program is hampered by its Standard Operating Procedure 13 — essentially a three strikes rule that requires permanent removal of any wolf linked to three livestock kills. If the wolf can’t be trapped, it’s shot.

Tuggle says he hates permanent removal orders, but the program must follow its own rules.

Last year, the government killed five wolves for cattle kills and permanently removed three others from the wild. In 2005, one wolf was killed and four put into permanent capture.

In addition, since the first release of wolves in March 1998 through March 2007, 49 have died — 23 illegally shot; 10 hit by vehicles; seven of natural causes; three of other causes, including capture-related ones; and six from unknown causes. That’s a minimum estimate since the deaths of pups and uncollared wolves aren’t documented, Fish and Wildlife said.

Wildlife Services, a separate agency responsible for confirming livestock killed by wolves, says 59 percent of last year’s 88 investigations — most involving cattle deaths — were confirmed, probable or possible wolf kills or injuries; 48.3 percent of the 89 head investigated in 2005 were confirmed, probable or possible wolf kills or injuries.

The rest were killed by dogs, coyotes, bears, lions, cars, lightning, poisoning, infections, old age or calving complications.

Not all carcasses are found or are found in time to document what killed them, so figures represent minimums, the agency said.

The wolf kill rate is higher than the program predicted. However, just over half the 2006 depredations were blamed on two packs, which were removed; 54 percent of the 2005 kills were blamed on two other packs, also now defunct, Fish and Wildlife said.

Despite livestock kills, most of the wolves’ prey is elk, field surveys show.

McKeen insists there’s not enough game, and that federal officials knew that before putting wolves on the ground. “It’s never going to work,” he says.

Robinson says he was “sort of agnostic” on arguments that wolves and cattle don’t mix. But with ranchers’ refusal to remove carcases or have calving take place where they can keep an eye out, “then indeed wolves and cattle are incompatible,” he says.

Aymar argues that southwestern New Mexico herds are spread over many square miles and ranchers might not see a particular cow for days or weeks.

Tuggle agrees the area’s rugged topography has led to a different type of ranching in which cattle are turned loose on large allotments without cowboys riding herd all the time.

He also believes ranchers would remove carcasses if it weren’t so expensive and time-consuming in remote areas.

“I think that’s one of the complications with the way we’re having to reintroduce the program — and that’s not an indictment on the ranching community,” he says.


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Jun 25

NM: New Mexico county wants to remove wolf from ranch

New Mexico county wants to remove wolf from ranch

ALBUQUERQUE — Catron County has put the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on notice that it intends to trap and remove a Mexican gray wolf it says has been stalking a southwestern New Mexico ranch.

The wolf _ designated AF924 for alpha female 924 _ was released in the county April 25. The next day, county officials demanded it be removed as an “imminent danger.” Fish and Wildlife rejected the demand.

Catron County officials said Monday that the wolf has been seen around Mike and Debbie Miller’s ranch since her release and that they twice asked Fish and Wildlife to remove the animal. On Thursday, the county issued a “24-hour notice of intent” to trap the wolf and turn her over to Fish and Wildlife.

“We’d like to trap her and give her back,” County Manager Bill Aymar said by telephone from his office in Reserve.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Charna Lefton said the agency received the county’s notice Friday.

But, she said, it has no reason to remove the wolf under the rules of the 1998 program to reintroduce endangered Mexican gray wolves into the Southwest. The rules call for Fish and Wildlife to remove any wolf linked to three livestock killings within a year.

AF924 killed two cows before being released in Catron County. Aymar said the county wants her moved before she kills a third _ subjecting her to the program’s own three strikes rule.

Debbie Miller said wolves show up near the ranch house and barn as well as a calving area five miles away. Two hung around the barn for four hours Sunday, she said.

County wolf interaction investigator Jess Carey has been stationed at the Millers’ ranch since Friday.

“Jess and the county, they’re the only ones who are trying to help,” Debbie Miller said.

Carey _ using night vision goggles _ said he watched a wolf nip a calf at the Millers’ calving operation about midnight Sunday. He said the wolf followed the calf and its mother as the cow pushed the calf toward other cows for protection. When the wolf left, Carey spent much of the rest of the night tracking it to within a mile of the ranch, he said.

“This problem isn’t going to go away,” Carey said. “If it takes myself and the commission to go to jail to bring something about, then that’s what going to happen.”

An ordinance passed by Catron County in February claims the right to remove wolves that are accustomed to humans or have a high probability of harming children or defenseless people, physically or psychologically. The county said in April it would use that ordinance against AF924.

Fish and Wildlife told county officials that the Endangered Species Act supersedes county ordinances and that any unauthorized action against the wolf would mean federal prosecution.

The county’s notice said federal agencies did not respond to its demand for the wolf’s removal or take action “to reduce the risk to humans from AF924.” Fish and Wildlife’s only response, the county said, was to send law enforcement officers to watch Carey.

Lefton said the officers were sent to make sure the wolf is not injured and that there’s no violation of federal law.

AF924 has had pups since her release. If she’s trapped and removed _ regardless who does that _ Fish and Wildlife would have to try to find the pups and remove them as well, Lefton said.

Catron County also said a psychiatrist diagnosed the Millers’ 13-year-old daughter with post traumatic stress disorder caused by wolves, but said treatment would be useless if the wolves remain.

Lefton said Fish and Wildlife has no reason to believe AF924 is a threat to the public.

“We understand the family is upset, but there’s no data or precedent to think these animals are a threat to the public safety,” she said.


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Jun 24

ID: State finds wolf den in Sun Valley area

State finds wolf den in Sun Valley area

Associated Press

KETCHUM, Idaho  The tourist-attracting Wood River Valley that includes the Sun Valley resort area just got some new residents  a wolf pack.

Biologists with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have confirmed that a breeding pair of wolves have established a den and are caring for an unknown number of pups in the northern part of the valley.

Dave Parrish, Magic Valley regional supervisor for Fish and Game, said the agency is not revealing the location of the den with the pups that are probably about nine weeks old.

“We don’t want people flocking to the area to view the wolves,” Parrish told the Idaho Mountain Express.

The agency confirmed the pack’s existence after a number of recent sightings by valley residents, who have reported seeing both wolves that were black and gray north of Ketchum.

Parrish said wolves have entered the valley before from surrounding drainages, but this is the first time one of the packs has chosen to build a den in the valley.

One sheep-grazer in the area, Hailey-based Lava Land and Livestock, is working with Sawtooth National Forest to alter when and where it grazes sheep this summer.

The company had planned to start grazing ewes with lambs in an area that includes the wolf den but will now move the sheep farther south.

“Because of the den with pups up there we have delayed the arrival of sheep onto that allotment,” said Mike Stevens, president of the company. “We are going to watch the situation as it unfolds over the course of the season.”

Nelson said the wolf pack will be monitored to find out if grazing might be allowed later this summer.

Experts say the home ranges of wolf packs are 250 to 350 square miles, and once the pups are large enough to travel the pack will leave the den site.

Wildlife officials announced last week that a different pack of wolves had killed 15 sheep and injured two guard dogs in the Smoky Mountains, west of the Wood River Valley. In a press release last week, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said efforts were under way to kill those wolves.

As for the wolves in the Wood River Valley, Nelson said they were just another predator, along with mountain lions and black bears, to consider when making decisions about livestock grazing.

“The question is how do we manage it intelligently,” he said.


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Jun 23

NM: Not all wolf trappings successful in county

Not all wolf trappings successful in county

Evelyn Cronce El Defensor Chieftain Reporter

There were several reports of wolf depredations in the last month, according to a report put out by the Mexican Wolf Recovery Project.

A rancher in Catron County reported a dead cow with three wolves on the carcass, along with a dead calf nearby. The investigation determined the cow was a wolf-caused depredation by unknown wolves and that the calf died of unknown causes. The closest wolves to the area with radio collars were 7 miles away, the Saddle Pack, and 10 miles away, the Durango Pack. The reporting range rider also indicated that he had seen a pack of six wolves.

“Saddle Pack was removed from the area and put into permanent captivity,” said Victoria Fox for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service information services.

On May 26, the male wolf designated as AM732 was captured and taken into captivity. On May 31, the female wolf designated AF797 and her seven pups were captured. All the wolves were taken to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility. They will not be re-released.

The team set foothold traps in the area to try to capture and place radio collars on any un-collared wolves that may have been involved in the depredations without success.

Later in the month, the team received a report of a dead calf in Catron County. The carcass was not far from the confirmed cow depredation on.

The investigation revealed that wolves killed the calf. There were no collared wolves in the area and no collared wolves had been located in the area over the previous week. Again the team set foothold traps in the area in an effort to capture and place radio collars on any un-collared wolves that may have been involved in the depredations but was again unsuccessful.

“There are no records of us having caught and collared any new wolves in the last month,” said Fox, “and we still haven’t been able to catch F1016, the single female that had been traveling with the Saddle Pack.”

Some incidents reported were found by investigators were determined not to be wolf-caused.

Individuals can report any wolf sightings or suspected livestock depredations by calling 928-339-4329 or toll-free 888-459-9653.

To report incidents of killing or harassment of wolves, call the team’s 24-hour dispatch, Operation Game Thief toll-free at 800-352-0700.

The team is still seeking information regarding the death of a 2-year-old male from the Luna Pack that was found shot to death approximately 20 miles east of Reserve.

Additional information can be obtained by calling 928-339-4329 or toll-free 888-459-9653; or by visiting the Arizona Game and Fish Department Web site at


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Jun 23

Chronology of wolf recovery program

Chronology of wolf recovery program

A chronology of significant events related to the Mexican gray wolf recovery program:

1976 _ Mexican wolf listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

1977-1980 _ Five wolves captured in Mexico to establish a captive breeding program.

1982 _ Mexican wolf recovery plan completed with goal to maintain captive breeding program and re-establish 100 wolves within their historic range.

1996 _ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service releases final environmental impact statement.

1997 _ Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt rules in favor of Fish and Wildlife reintroducing captive-raised Mexican wolves in eastern Arizona within the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area; designates released wolves and their offspring as a nonessential population.

1998 _ Fish and Wildlife releases first Mexican wolves into the wild.

1998 _ New Mexico Cattle Growers Association sues Fish and Wildlife, alleging violations of federal laws in implementing the reintroduction project.

1999 _ Courts rule Fish and Wildlife complied with laws; lawsuit dismissed.

2001 _ Fish and Wildlife Service completes three-year review. Scientists recommend program continue, with modifications.

2003 _ Coalition of Arizona and New Mexico counties files suit, alleging Fish and Wildlife failed to consider impacts of hybridization or prepare supplemental environmental impact statement and violated the Freedom of Information Act by withholding documents.

2004 _ Fish and Wildlife and oversight committee cooperators begin Blue Range reintroduction project five-year review; draft reports released to public for review and comment in December.

2005 _ Courts rule in favor of Fish and Wildlife in lawsuit by Arizona and New Mexico Coalition of Counties; lawsuit dismissed.

2005 _ Adaptive Management Oversight Committee completes Mexican wolf Blue Range reintroduction project five-year review, which includes 37 recommendations for improving management of wolf reintroduction project; many would require changes to 1997 rule.


Information from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


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