U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Oregon have determined the cause of death for a Mexican wolf found dead in August in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNF) of eastern Arizona. Necropsy test results revealed it was killed by a lightning strike. The wolf, known as AF1110, was the alpha female for the Hawks Nest Pack.
Members of the Interagency Field Team (IFT) were initially alerted to the situation when they received a mortality signal from the animal’s telemetry collar during a routine survey. Upon investigating the site the following day, they located and recovered the carcass in an open meadow containing standing water. There were frequent, strong thunderstorms in this area during the latter part of August.
The Hawks Nest Pack was one of three packs in Arizona directly affected by the Wallow Fire this past summer – the largest wildfire on record in Arizona. The fire burned over the pack’s primary den site in June. However, AF1110 and other pack members were able to move the pups-of-the-year to a safer area nearby. The IFT documented that AF1110 produced at least six pups this year.
Current surviving pack members include adult male AM1038, juvenile female f1208, and two pups wearing telemetry collars – male pup mp1244 and female pup fp1247. At least one other pup is currently traveling with the pack. Another yearling male captured and collared by the IFT in October, m1248, is alive, but no longer traveling with the pack. AM1038 is most likely the sire of the pups produced by the Hawks Nest Pack this year. The pups are weaned and have been traveling with the other pack members throughout the pack’s territory on the ASNF.
AF1110 was one of the most consistent breeding females in the reintroduction project over the past few years. The breeding male from the Hawks Nest Pack was illegally killed in 2010, but AF1110 apparently established a bond with AM1038 earlier this year. AM1038 had previously been the breeding male for the Fox Mountain Pack in New Mexico. Its telemetry collar apparently ceased working effectively, as the IFT last located the collar signal in December 2009 during a routine aerial telemetry flight. This past October, the IFT located AM1038 once again, but now traveling with the other Hawks Nest members in the pack’s traditional territory.
Mexican wolf reintroduction in the Southwest is a joint effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Wildlife Services, and other stakeholders.