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Wandering wolf pair captured in New Mexico mountains April 09, 2005 8:52 AM

Wandering wolf pair captured in New Mexico mountains


SOCORRO, N.M. (AP) -- Biologists have captured a pair of endangered Mexican gray wolves that roamed into the San Mateo Mountains of central New Mexico, outside the boundaries of a wolf release project. Last week's capture was the second time the pair has been removed
from the area southwest of Socorro. The wolves were trapped last August and released in the Gila Wilderness, but returned to the San Mateos in October.

The wolves now have been moved to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge south of Albuquerque. Officials said it's possible they could be released again within the wolf recovery area boundaries in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

Officials said the female wolf of the pair is pregnant.

Wolf program officials decided to remove the pair from the San Mateos in February after landowners said the wolves posed a threat to livestock. There were no reports of the wolves killing livestock in the San Mateos or becoming a nuisance.

The state Department of Game and Fish said another wolf pair would be released within the Gila Wilderness of southwestern New Mexico this spring to make up for the loss of a breeding pair in the wild.

Fish and Wildlife began a release program in March 1998 to re- establish wild populations in Arizona and New Mexico after wolves had been hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s. There are now about 50 wolves in the wild.

Ranchers and other property owners have complained about releasing wolves, while environmentalists want the program to require less control.

Government biologists want to expand the area where wolves are allowed, saying captures and relocations are hindering the program's success. A five-year study concluded that current boundaries are
causing too many wolves to be removed from the wild or relocated.

The program now encompass 4.4 million acres of the Gila and Apache Sitgreaves national forests and the 1.6 million-acre White Mountain Apache reservation. A field team recommended allowing wolves throughout Arizona and New Mexico and parts of southern Utah, southern Colorado, western Oklahoma, western Texas and Mexico as long as wolves do not conflict with livestock or humans.

The New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau opposes expanded
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