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Mexican wolves increasing in the Southwest

February 2, 2011 |  4:22 pm

Federal authorities have counted eight more Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest this year, the first increase in the population of the controversial species in four years.

In another encouraging sign for the animals, 14 are wild-born pups, twice the number counted last year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a count of 29 of the wolves in Arizona and 21 in New Mexico. Last year it counted 42 wolves in the high deserts and mountains on the two states' borders.

"We are relieved the trend line is up, but these wolves are still highly imperiled," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. He credited former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson with helping revive the population by calling for an end to government trapping of some of the predators in 2007.

Ranchers have complained that the wolves endanger their livestock and children. The animals once thickly populated the region, but were basically wiped out by government efforts to eradicate them and protect livestock. Federal authorities released several dozen into the wild in the late 1990s, and since then the species has made halting progress toward a comeback.

At the time of reintroduction, wildlife officials had estimated there would be 100 in the region by 2006.


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For now, no more wolves in Arizona

Judge returns gray wolves to protected status, halting wolf hunting plans in Montana and Idaho

-- Nicholas Riccardi

Photo: A Mexican gray wolf just before its release into the Arizona wilds in 1998. Credit: Associate Press