GREER — The U.S. Forest Service issued a warning to hunters in the White Mountains area of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests this week.
ASNF noted that Mexican wolves are present within the forests and that hunters should be careful what they shoot.
“Hunting season is in full swing in the White Mountains, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds coyote hunters that Mexican wolves are present in Game Management Units 1, 27 and 3B,” ASNF wrote. “In addition, wolves could also be present in Units 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3C, 4A, 4B, 5A, 6A and 6B.”
Mexican wolves are still federally protected endangered animal present throughout Arizona and New Mexico. The Forest Service wants to make sure that hunters are careful not to mistake the animals for coyotes.
“Please note that not all wolves are collared, and it’s always the hunter’s responsibility to accurately identify all wildlife prior to taking a shot,” it said.
The most recent estimate of the Mexican wolf population placed it at 131 wolves, 64 of which are in Arizona. That is a 12-percent increase in population from the previous year.
Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a proposal for cross-fostered pups’ release and translocation plans in the wild for 2020. The service is concerned that the current wolf population is not suitably diversified.
“With seven unrelated founders, the Mexican wolf has experienced a genetic bottleneck, necessitating management actions to retain remaining gene diversity. Specifically, the captive population is carefully managed in an effort to maintain gene diversity by establishing breeding pairs through a process that considers mean kinship and avoidance of inbreeding,” the USFWS wrote.