PHOENIX – Two endangered Mexican wolves were accidentally killed in January during federal wildlife officials’ annual capture-and-count operations in Arizona and New Mexico.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has called a temporary halt to the counting program while officials determine what went wrong. Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, says she is alarmed by the two recent deaths, as well as 15 other wolves that died last year either by hunters or other means.
“There have been a number of wolves, more than ever, killed illegally in the last year, and then on top of that the loss of two wolves during this time when they are counting,” says Bahr. “Yeah, it gives us a lot of concern.”
Fish and Wildlife officials say both of the wolves who died in January had been tranquilized with darts that they say have not previously caused any harm. They add that they have successfully darted and tagged 13 other wolves this season and more than 100 over the past decade.
Bahr says the program to restore the endangered Mexican wolf, which began in 1997, needs to spend more time and effort to protect the animals from illegal hunting and other man-made dangers.
“It drives home the need to get to a point where you have strong, sustainable populations of wolves throughout the Southwest, and not one relatively small population,” says Bahr. Wildlife officials say a large number of Mexican wolf pups, as many as 30, were born in the wild last year.
Despite the two recent deaths, the Fish and Wildlife Service says it plans to complete its count and release an estimate of this year’s Mexican wolf population in March.
Author: Mark Richardson, Public News Service