“In April, M1275 was found dead in Arizona. The incident is under investigation.” No other details were provided in the Endangered Species Update that arrived in my email inbox late Saturday afternoon. On April 21st the two-year-old had been located by radio telemetry, alone but in the Bluestem Pack’s traditional territory with the other pack members (the alpha pair and six pups) nearby.
M1275 was born in the spring of 2012. In this video shot in the summer of that same year, the field team captured the wolf pup, gave him a quick examination, outfitted him with a radio collar and set him free. A few months later he was named Huckleberry by a kindergartner in Lobos of the Southwest’s first annual pup naming contest. He continued to travel with the Bluestem Pack after a new litter of pups was born in 2013 and probably helped to feed and care for them after the alpha male (M806) was illegally shot last summer.
Life in the wild is tough for wolves–92 of them died between 1998 (when they were first released) and 2012 (the most recent year for which numbers are available). Causes of death have included: vehicle collision, disease, asphyxiation after a snake bite, and starvation, but by far the largest number of those deaths (47 of the 92) were caused by illegal shootings. It’s too early to know for sure what happened to M1275, but I’ll keep watching for more details and asking, if they aren’t forthcoming in future updates.
Just over forty years ago President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act which has enabled the recovery and reintroduction into the wild of the Mexican gray wolf. It seems fitting to remember his words from that day, “Nothing is more priceless and worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed.”
May 21, 2014 Note: Yesterday I looked at the most recent telemetry flight locations dated May 12th and was surprised, and hopeful, to see M1275 on the report. I called the field team’s office in Alpine, Arizona and spoke to Cathy Taylor who researched the discrepancy; she confirmed that M1275 had died and was found on April 21st. That’s the reason he was reported separate from the pack on the telemetry report referenced in my original post.
The May 12th telemetry report is incorrect, probably the result of a typographical error. Taylor was not able to tell me anything more about the cause of death, but did confirm that M1275’s body was shipped to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s forensics laboratory in Ashland, Oregon where a necropsy will be conducted.