By Lauren Villagran / Journal Staff Writer – Las Cruces Bureau
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it has captured a Mexican gray wolf that was crisscrossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Like the species reintroduction program managed by Fish and Wildlife in New Mexico and Arizona, Mexico has its own program to reintroduce Mexican wolves into the wild. The two countries have partnered closely for decades to bring the species back from near extinction.
The captured female wolf, No. f1530, was born on a reserve in Sonora state last year, collared and released into the wild in Chihuahua state about 90 miles south of the border. Arizona Game and Fish spotted the wolf on ranch land in southeastern Arizona twice in late March.
“Wolves are wide-ranging,” said Craig Miller, senior Southwest representative of the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife. “They course the landscape, especially this time of year. Maintaining that connectivity between core habitats in Mexico and the United States is essential to the long-term viability of the species.”
“It’s really encouraging to know that captive-bred animals have retained the instincts necessary to survive in the wild,” he said.
But in Arizona, at one point, “the wolf exhibited minor problem behavior by not retreating after the reporting party tried to haze it out of the area,” Fish and Wildlife said in a press release.
Ranchers often report wolf sightings, particularly when they believe the animals may be stalking their livestock. Fish and Wildlife said it investigated several cattle depradations in the area and attributed one killing to wolf No. f1530.
The agency captured the wolf on March 26 and transferred it to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico, south of Socorro.
The wolf recovery area in New Mexico stretches from south of I-40 to the Mexican border.
There were 113 wolves in the wild in the U.S. at last count, including 50 in New Mexico, according to the Service, with most of the New Mexico population concentrated in the Gila National Forest.
The wolf was the second to have traveled north of the border from Mexico, Fish and Wildlife said, although in the previous instance the wolf stayed in southern New Mexico for four days before returning to the recovery area south of the border.