Problems Plague Gray Wolf Reintroduction

Mexican gray wolves have been reintroduced in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests. i i

hide captionMexican gray wolves have been reintroduced in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico.

Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project
Mexican gray wolves have been reintroduced in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests.

Mexican gray wolves have been reintroduced in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico.

Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project
Wolves feed on roadkill. i i

hide captionA mother wolf and her pup feed on roadkill elk and "carnivore logs" placed by the reintroduction project team as the animals learn to hunt on their own. This photo was taken with a remote motion-sensing camera.

Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project
Wolves feed on roadkill.

A mother wolf and her pup feed on roadkill elk and "carnivore logs" placed by the reintroduction project team as the animals learn to hunt on their own. This photo was taken with a remote motion-sensing camera.

Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project

A program to reintroduce the endangered Mexican gray wolf in the Southwestern United States has run into problems. Bred in captivity, the wolves haven't learned to hunt in the wild, and they're attacking cattle grazing on federal lands.

Eight years ago, the Mexican gray wolf was re-introduced to the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. The species had been near extinction. It had been eliminated from the wild decades earlier, because it preyed on livestock.

Today, as many as four dozen wolves roam those mountains. But that's only half the number that program managers had hoped for.

The wolves were bred in captivity and when first released have to learn to live in the wild. So, researchers leave food for animals new to the wild, to help them make the transition to hunting on their own.

It's imperative that they learn to hunt because the only other large prey in the mountains is cattle — the reintroduction area is federal grazing land.

Some people seem to be taking matters in to their own hands: They've illegally shot and killed 23 Mexican wolves.

Seven wolves have been killed legally by the government. Under the strict rules of the program, a wolf that attacks cattle can be put back in captivity or killed.

Not all wolves kill cattle. There are now seven breeding pairs and a number of second-generation wolves that were born in the wild.

Changes in the program, including expanding the reintroduction area, are needed, according to officials involved in the project. But so far, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is giving no indication whether that might happen.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: