An adult male Mexican wolf, designated M1133, may soon be exploring its new territory in the Apache National Forest of east-central Arizona. The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project’s interagency field team (IFT) recently received approval from Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Regional Director, in coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, to conduct this initial (a wolf born and raised in captivity) release in mid-January adjacent to the Bluestem pack to replace the pack’s alpha male that was illegally killed last summer.
The release is contingent upon the IFT’s current survey work to determine and ensure no other male wolf has paired with the existing Bluestem alpha female, AF1042.
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 last initial release of wolves occurred in 2008.
In January 2012, during its regular monthly public meeting, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously to give the department director the authority to approve a wolf release, in coordination with the Service, in cases where an animal is lost from the population due to an unlawful act. When a wolf is lost by any other cause of mortality, the commission, not the director, must approve the release.
The IFT closely manages all initially-released wolves to reduce the potential of nuisance-related behaviors and livestock depredations once they are free-ranging in the wild. 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 utilize the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.