Tim Steller, Arizona Daily Star
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has backed off its strict stance against any new releases of endangered Mexican gray wolves.
On Dec. 2, the commission voted to oppose any such releases until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completes several planning measures for the re-introduced population of endangered wolves in eastern Arizona.
But on Friday, the commission unanimously voted to consider allowing new releases to replace dead wolves on a case-by-case basis.
Now, if a wolf is illegally killed, the Game and Fish director may approve the release of a replacement wolf, the commission decided. When a wolf dies for a reason other than illegal killing, the commission itself must approve the release of a replacement wolf.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish and other agencies began re-introducing wolves in the White Mountains in 1998. The population has not thrived, as many wolves have been killed or removed due to interactions with people.
The Game and Fish Commission is asking the service to finish these planning measures: revising the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan; revising the nonessential, experimental population rule; and writing an environmental impact statement.