New Mexico’s Most Wanted

Pictured here is the most dangerous animal in New Mexico.

Biologists, wildlife experts and officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hiked through the Catron County wilderness last week, carrying a small backpack containing a controversial and potentially illegal parcel. Tucked inside a perforated compartment slumbered two 9-day-old Mexican gray wolf pups, their eyes and ears still sealed shut. They weighed just a pound each.

These pups were born in captivity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a great display of coordination acted to place the two pups into an existing wild den. This cross fostering project represented a first time success in conquering the logistical challenge of introducing captive born pups into a wild born litter at just the right time. The goal is to increase the population and the genetic diversity of the endangered Mexican grey wolves. Of course the state of New Mexico didn’t like the idea and has taken the Fish and Wildlife Service to court.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blatantly disregarded states’ rights when they released Mexican wolves into New Mexico without obtaining the necessary state permits,” said Lance Cherry, a spokesman for the Game and Fish Department. “It is imperative that the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish remain the primary authority in all matters involving wildlife management in New Mexico for the benefit and best interest of our citizens.”

As of now the pups are in their new home. The battle over their release will play out in court while they, hopefully, grow to maturity in their adoptive pack. Time will tell.

To integrate the pups last week, a biologist and veterinarian carried them the last half-mile to the wild den, where their presence caused the grown wolves to scatter, leaving five young pups unattended. The biologists entered the den and rubbed the St. Louis pups with urine and other scents so they would smell like the wild pups.

They won’t know until later this summer, when the wolves are again surveyed, if the wild pack has adopted the captive pups. But after the biologists departed, the adult wolves returned to the litter, their movements tracked through GPS collars. Mossotti said this is the first sign that the mother will accept the pups and raise them as her own.

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