Mexican wolf

Reports of a wolf attack in the Blue are stoking fears among residents.

GREENLEE — The 2017 U.S. Mexican Wolf Population Survey has been completed with mixed results.

A release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week documented at least 113 Mexican wolves in the wild in both Arizona and New Mexico. That number includes the 25 surviving cubs for the year, nearly half as much as 2016, when the estimated wild population was 113 in the wild. The service blames the lower survival rate of pups for the lower than expected population.

“The service and our partners remain focused on and committed to a genetically healthy and robust Mexican wolf population and to its full recovery,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Amy Lueders said in the release. “We all understand the challenges involved in protecting and restoring wild populations of this endangered species, and we look forward to continuing our work with diverse state and local partners in Arizona and New Mexico."

Jim deVos, assistant director of wildlife management for Arizona Game and Fish, paints a brighter picture of yearly results from the Interagency Field Team (IFT). He noted that this year’s work has increased the number of wolves that have been equipped with monitoring collars. It's a small piece of good news for Greenlee County, which recently experienced incidents with collarless wolves.

“While the 2017 numbers are not what we were hoping for, this is not the sole metric to measure progress in Mexican wolf recovery,” deVos said, praising progress made with foster efforts in the captive breeding program. “The fact that cross-fostered wolves had pups this year is a major milestone and presents a mechanism to better manage genetics.”

For 2017, the IFT recorded a total of 22 packs, with minimums of 51 wolves in New Mexico and 63 in Arizona. Twenty-four wolves were collared during the 2017 survey, including 10 who had not been collared previously. One of the male cross-fostered wolves released in 2014 is confirmed as having produced a pup in 2017.

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