Captured Mexican gray wolf released back into wild in Arizona

KNAU News Talk - Arizona Public Radio (Original) Posted June 14, 2023 by Ryan Heinsius

Federal wildlife officials have released a female Mexican gray wolf back into the wild after she was captured in northern New Mexico in January. The endangered animal had ventured hundreds of miles from the species’ designated area.

Last year, wolf 2754 left her pack in eastern Arizona and eventually crossed Interstate 40, the northern boundary of the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area.

She traveled more than 500 miles toward Colorado before being captured near Taos, New Mexico. The wolf was taken to a wildlife facility in hopes she would breed with a captive male, but it wasn’t successful and she was released into the Apache National Forest where she’ll be monitored with a radio collar.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the decision to capture 2754 was made according to agency policy.

Advocacy groups call the wolf Asha and say her travels show that Mexican wolves are able to thrive outside of what they call an “arbitrary” boundary in Arizona and New Mexico.

Defenders of Wildlife, the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project and others have called for the expansion of the animal’s territory. They say the area around the Grand Canyon and the southern Rocky Mountains would provide ideal habitat to ensure a lasting recovery.

The groups are currently challenging the boundary in court.

At last count there were at least 241 Mexican gray wolves in the wild, the highest number ever recorded since the program began in 1998.