Monthly Update – August 1-31, 2019

By Arizona Game and Fish Department

Overall Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Monthly Update

In August, Catron County, New Mexico, signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Mexican Wolf Recovery and Management as a Cooperating Entity. 

Numbering System:  Mexican wolves are given an identification number recorded in an official studbook that tracks their history. Capital letters (M = Male, F = Female) preceding the number indicate adult animals 24 months or older. Lower case letters (m = male, f = female) are used to indicate wolves younger than 24 months. A lower case letter “p” preceding the number is used to indicate a wolf pup born in the most recent spring. The capital letter “A” preceding the letter and number indicate breeding wolves.

Definitions: A “wolf pack” is defined as two or more wolves that maintain an

established territory. In the event that one of the two alpha (dominant) wolves dies, the remaining alpha wolf, regardless of pack size, retains the pack status. The packs referenced in this update contain at least one wolf with a radio telemetry collar attached to it. Studbook numbers listed in the monthly update denote wolves with functioning radio collars. The Interagency Field Team (IFT) recognizes that wolves without radio telemetry collars may also form packs. If the IFT confirms that wolves are associating with each other and are resident within the same home range, they will be referenced as a pack.

CURRENT POPULATION STATUS

The end of year census for 2018 was a minimum of 131 Mexican wolves in the wild (64 in AZ and 67 in NM). This was about a 12% increase in the population from a minimum of 117 wolves counted at the end of 2017. Annual surveys are conducted in the winter as this is when the population experiences the least amount of natural fluctuation (i.e. in the spring the population increases dramatically with the birth of new pups and declines throughout the summer and fall as pup mortality generally occurs in this period). Thus, the IFT summarizes the total number of wolves in the winter at a fairly static or consistent time of year. Counting the population at the end of each year allows for comparable year-to-year trends at a time of year when the Mexican wolf population is most stable.  

At the end of August, there were 30 identified wolf packs (14 in AZ and 16 in NM) and seven single collared wolves. There were 76 wolves with functioning radio collars that the IFT was actively monitoring. Not all of the wolves are collared. Studbook numbers following individual pack names below denote wolves with functioning radio collars. 

MORTALITIES

 There were no documented wolf mortalities in August. There have been a total of eight documented wolf mortalities from January 1, 2019 to August 31, 2019.

INCIDENTS

During the month of August, there were 12 confirmed wolf depredation incidents on livestock. There was one nuisance incident reported in August. From January 1, 2019 to August 31, 2019 there have been a total of 106 confirmed wolf depredation incidents and seven probable wolf depredations in New Mexico; and a total of 38 confirmed wolf depredation incidents and one probable wolf depredation in Arizona.

On August 2, the IFT took a report from a woman who believed her horse may have been attacked by a wolf on July 21, 2019 while riding horseback near Gabaldon Campground in Arizona. The woman stated she was riding with a friend when both horses started bucking causing the women to be thrown from their horses and reportedly sustained injuries.  The woman stated she did not know what caused the horse to buck and did not see anything. After being bucked from their horses, the women saw what they believed may have been a wolf, described as the size of a large coyote, standing approximately 50 feet away.  The woman stated she went to catch the horses while the other remained behind and the animal was never seen again.  The following day, the woman observed injuries she believed were bite marks on a hind leg of the horse just above its hoof. On August 3, the IFT conducted a sight visit of the area and did not observe any wolf sign. On August 4, Wildlife Services investigated the injured horse and determined the injuries were not caused from a predator, but were consistent with injuries sustained while the horse was running and bucking cross-country. The investigation determined there was no evidence a wolf had attacked the woman’s horse. 

PROJECT PERSONNEL

In August, a student intern from Mexico joined the FWS as a seasonal volunteer technician. 

REWARDS OFFERED

The USFWS is offering a reward of up to $10,000; the AZGFD Operation Game Thief is offering a reward of up to $1,000; and the NMDGF is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the shooting deaths of Mexican wolves. A variety of non-governmental organizations and private individuals have pledged an additional $46,000 for a total reward amount of up to $58,000, depending on the information provided.

 

Individuals with information they believe may be helpful are urged to call one of the following agencies: USFWS special agents in Mesa, Arizona, at (480) 967-7900, in Alpine, Arizona, at (928) 339-4232, or in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at (505) 346-7828; the WMAT at (928) 338-1023 or (928) 338-4385; AGFD Operation Game Thief at (800) 352-0700; or NMDGF Operation Game Thief at (800) 432-4263. Killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000, and/or not more than one year in jail, and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000. 

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