One way to grasp the main perspectives of environment and biodiversity is to understand the origins and precious nature of a single living form, a single manifestation of the miracle of existence; if one has truly understood a crane–or a leaf or a cloud or a frog–one has understood everything.
–Peter Matthiessen The Birds of Heaven
One evening last week the Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Monthly Update landed in my email inbox. Part newsletter, part report card, it often reads like a dry government report, but study it carefully and it comes alive, providing a glimpse into the life of a wolf.
When it arrived I stopped what I was doing and scrolled to the section called Mortalities. In good months there are none, but that wasn’t the case in November. An alpha male was “located dead in Arizona”. No details provided, but the most likely cause of death for a wild wolf is being shot (illegally) or hit by a vehicle.
Also included are individual summaries or report cards, for each pack. They are based on weekly telemetry flights that pinpoint the locations of the radio-collared wolves and field observations (gathered both in person on the ground and from motion-sensitive trail cameras).
Nineteen packs (primarily made up of multi-generational families) are currently living in the reintroduction area which includes the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona and the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. Below is a brief look at two of the packs.
The Bluestem Pack This family has long been established in the central part of the Apache-Sitgreaves. The current alpha pair has been together for a few years and has raised several litters of pups. The pack is large right now–thirteen–with juveniles and pups (born in 2013 and 2014, respectively) running with the parents. The juveniles may soon start to disperse to try to find mates and establish new territories.
Rarely has this family of wolves gotten into trouble, but in November they killed a cow. The sequence of events after the depredation probably went something like this. A rancher found one of his cows dead and reported it to the field team overseeing the reintroduction program. They investigated the carcass, determined that a wolf had made the kill, and probably had a pretty good idea which pack was responsible, but used the telemetry reports for confirmation. Often they will identify a specific wolf or wolves, but in this case they did not, reporting only that it was “adults and juveniles in the Bluestem Pack”.
The Hawks Nest Pack This is a new family of wolves related to the Bluestem Pack–the alpha female was part of their 2012 litter. They have established a territory further north in the Apache-Sitgreaves and are raising their first litter, the grandpups of the Bluestem Pack’s alpha pair. The only news for this pack in November was that the field team confirmed two more pups in addition to the one that was captured and collared a few months ago.
It will be a week or two into the new year before the next update is issued. In the meantime the only way to keep track of the Bluestem and Hawks Nest wolves will be via the sporadically published telemetry reports.