RUSSELL CONTRERAS / Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE – A female Mexican gray wolf wanted for killing too many cows in southwestern New Mexico was captured Wednesday following an extensive search, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced.
The agency said that federal trappers finally caught the elusive pack leader and mother of pups and was listed and found to be in good condition.
In a statement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional spokesman Tom Buckley said the wolf will be transported to a holding facility for observation then will be handed over to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.
Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services had been combing the northwestern portion of the Gila National Forest for any signs of the wolf for weeks. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially issued an order in early August to shoot the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack.
A few days after issuing the lethal order, the agency rescinded it, calling instead for the animal to be trapped and removed from the wild.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. The center is a participating member of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan and currently houses other wolves for the program.
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.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has
been critical of wolf management, said he was disappointed with the removal. “There’s nothing that shows that there is an escalation of” wolves killing cattle in the area, he said. “A return to punitive wolf removal is damaging.”
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 due to 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.