By Susan Montoya Bryan / The Associated Press on Tue, Sep 11, 2012

A female Mexican gray wolf wanted for killing too many cows in southwestern New Mexico is giving trappers the slip.

More than a month after the order to remove the pack leader and mother of pups sparked a public outcry, she remains on the loose.

“She’s one elusive girl,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional spokesman Tom Buckley said Friday. “We’re still trying.”

Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services have been combing the northwestern portion of the Gila National Forest for any signs of the wolf. They have also been checking their traps every day, but still nothing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially issued an order in early August to shoot the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack.

Four cattle deaths linked to the pack happened outside the wolf recovery boundaries within four months, with the most recent one being reported Aug. 1. There were also two other cases last summer.

The agency tried hazing, range riders were hired to scare the female wolf and her pack away, and feeding was done in an attempt to lure the wolves away from the cattle. Nothing worked.

A few days after issuing the lethal order, the agency rescinded it, calling instead for the animal to be trapped and removed from the wild.

The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center offered to take the wolf into captivity.

“They should leave the loba in the wild with her lifelong mate to raise her pups. Putting her into captivity does no one any good,” said Wendy Keefover, carnivore protection director with WildEarth Guardians, using the Spanish word for female wolf.

Federal wildlife managers have said the Fox Mountain pack is important to achieving population goals. However, because the alpha female and male are cousins, the female isn’t considered as genetically valuable as other wolves that have been allowed to stay in the wild despite livestock problems.

A subspecies of the gray wolf, the Mexican wolf was added to the endangered species list in 1976. A captive-breeding program was started, and the first batch of wolves was released into the wild in 1998.

Efforts to re-establish the predators in the Southwest have stumbled because of legal battles, illegal shootings and other problems. A survey done at the beginning of the year showed there were at least such 58 wolves in the wild along the New Mexico-Arizona border.

This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal