Wolf Pack Slated for Relocation

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To provide a more viable, long-term potential of survival and reproduction capability for the Aspen Pack of Mexican gray wolves, the Blue Range Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project’s Adaptive Management Oversight Committee has decided to remove the pack from the wild for translocation to a more suitable site.

The Aspen Pack, consisting of an alpha pair and three pups, was released in July at a remote site in the Blue Range Primitive Area, east of Hannagan Meadow. The goals of the release were to augment the existing wild wolf population in Arizona and New Mexico, further diversify the population’s genetics and help offset losses of other wolves.

In recent months, some pack members have been increasingly observed traveling near residences in the Blue River corridor, despite intensive monitoring and hazing efforts by the wolf project’s Interagency Field Team.

Terry Johnson, chief of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Nongame Branch and chair of the committee, says the pack has not been involved in any known livestock depredation incidents.

“Nevertheless,” says Johnson, “it’s not in the pack’s best interests to leave them in this area, and the field personnel cannot continue to maintain their round-the-clock monitoring and response levels. The hazing efforts have not had the desired effect on this particular group of animals.”

Capture and relocation efforts will begin soon.

“Despite the high nuisance factor these wolves have caused around occupied residences in the Blue,” says Johnson, ”these wolves have not caused any significant problems. Because of this, we will make every effort to relocate them as soon as possible to another area with less possibility of interacting with humans, minimizing their stay in captivity.”

Johnson expects the pack to be re-released within a few weeks, pending approval by the committee and the field team, and in cooperation with project partners and the public.

In the interim, captured wolves will be held at a secure facility in New Mexico. While in captivity, the animals will be examined to assess their health to ensure that their return to the wild will be without complication.

Despite the need to remove the wolves from the Blue River drainage, Johnson says the project is going well. “It’s very likely that established packs are already using other parts of the Blue as part of their territory,” he says. “And as time goes by, other dispersing wolves will no doubt move into the Blue behind the removal of the Aspen Pack. The Adaptive Management Oversight Committee does not intend to remove future wolves as long as their behavior does not conflict with the management guidelines.”

Johnson thanks residents of the Blue River corridor and Greenlee County officials for their patience.

“They’ve helped in the monitoring of the wolves, and have helped by reporting their behavior, and by working with us to find solutions to problems.“

The Adaptive Management Oversight Committee is comprised of representatives from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, White Mountain Apache Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, and USDA Wildlife Services.