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Two Female Wolves Found Dead

By Tania Soussan
Journal Staff Writer
    Another two endangered Mexican gray wolves have been found dead in the past two weeks, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
    The two recent deaths are the latest blows to the federal reintroduction program that aims to re-establish a wild population of wolves in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.
    The alpha female from the Bonito Creek Pack was found dead Jan. 16 on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona, and a female from the Francisco Pack was found dead Thursday west of Beaverhead in the Gila National Forest.
    John Oakleaf, field coordinator for the program, said he is concerned but added that the news is not all bad.
    "Although it is somewhat of a setback, the population as a whole is still growing," he said, adding that 20 pups were born in the past year.
    Oakleaf said the agency is seeing positive signs. For example, new wolves are joining packs in which wolves have died. After the alpha female from the Saddle Pack died, another female came in and took its place, he said.
    Thirteen wolves have been found dead in Arizona and New Mexico since March 2003, some from gunshot wounds and auto collisions and others from still unknown causes.
    Wolf advocate Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said it is a disturbing trend and added that the program's management actions contribute to wolf deaths.
    The Francisco Pack female found dead last week was the third member of the pack to die after they were captured and relocated last year because they strayed outside the recovery area boundary, he said.
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