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AZ Commission Considers Plan to Boost Endangered Wolf Population

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Friday, December 2, 2011   

PHOENIX - The Mexican gray wolf recovery program continues to struggle in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. Right now there are 55 wolves in the area, roughly half the number experts say is needed for a viable wolf population.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission will consider a proposal today (Friday) to release two adult female wolves this month and a pack of wolves early next year. Sandy Bahr, chapter director of the Sierra Club, supports the proposal.

"We are still in need of some reintroductions, because there are single wolves out there that need mates so the population can increase. And ultimately, we want a stable, sustainable population of wolves."

The wolf recovery program has been controversial from the start. Ranchers complained that wolves were killing their livestock. Bahr also accuses some Game and Fish Commission members of working to undermine the program.

"Last year, they voted to support removing the Mexican gray wolf from the Endangered Species List, and from protection of the Endangered Species Act, which is the only reason we have these animals around at all."

Bahr points out that ranchers who lose livestock to wolves or have to relocate their grazing operations are compensated. She says the Mexican gray wolf is a vital component of a healthy ecosystem, and sees the reintroduction program as a rare opportunity.

"To restore something that is missing from the landscape – something that people eliminated – to leave to the next generation a system that is healthier, and you don't get that many opportunities."

The Mexican gray wolf was close to extinction back in 1998 when the first captive-reared Mexican wolves were released into what's known as the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. The recovery program has a goal of at least 100 wolves in the Mexican wolf's historic range.



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