The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project’s Interagency Field Team (IFT) recaptured a radio-collared 4-year-old male Mexican wolf, designated M1133, last week near Reserve, N.M.
The wolf was released in early January in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area adjacent to the Bluestem Pack’s territory in an attempt to replace the pack’s breeding (alpha) male that was illegally killed in 2012. The decision was made to recapture M1133 when it became obvious that he had failed to bond with the Bluestem Pack alpha female and moved into an area in New Mexico where he was unlikely to encounter other wolves.
“It is important to remember that we are working to establish a genetically sound wolf population. It’s natural that all of us, including the Service, sometimes get swept up in the story of individual wolves,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest regional director. “While our management efforts may involve activities that affect an individual wolf or pack, our focus must be larger than that if we are to succeed in our Mexican wolf reintroduction goals.”
Tuggle commented that it was in the best interest of the reintroduction project to remove M1133 from the wild after the intended management action to pair him with the alpha female of the Bluestem Pack was unsuccessful. M1133 will now be paired with a female in captivity and both will be translocated as a pregnant pair into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in the future. Releases of pairs with a pregnant female or pairs with pups are documented to be most successful.
“This situation demonstrates why it is so important for endangered species repatriation programs to achieve reproduction in the wild. Although nearly 100 percent of Mexican wolves on the landscape are now wild-born, we are attempting to improve genetics by bringing in select captive-bred individuals and this will be challenging at best,” said Director Larry Voyles of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “M1133’s rejection by the pack and failure to pair, while disappointing, was neither catastrophic nor surprising. Those committed to Mexican wolf conservation will adapt, learn and try again another day or another way. Returning M1133 to captivity gives us the opportunity to generate more wolves now while preserving the possibility for a future release.”
M1133 was returned to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility and placed with a wild-born female wolf for possible breeding. Biologists will continue to evaluate M1133 for future release into the wild.
The release of M1133 was considered an initial release rather than a translocation because the animal was born and raised in captivity. A translocation, such as the two conducted in January of 2011, occurs when a captive wolf that has wild experience is released back into the wild. The interagency field team manages all initially released wolves to reduce the potential of nuisance-related behaviors and livestock depredations. Past experience has shown that initially-released wolves sometimes require intensive management to assist them in learning to avoid situations that may lead to conflict with human activity or with livestock that also use the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.
All initial wolf releases occur in Arizona in the primary recovery zone of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in compliance with the existing federal 10(j) rule covering the reintroduction project. The previous initial release of wolves occurred in 2008.
Image courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department