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Officials Investigating Two Mexican Gray Wolf Deaths During Annual Count

Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they do not know why two Mexican gray wolves died after being tranquilized and captured by the agency’s biologists. The deaths happened during the annual population survey of the endangered animals in eastern Arizona and New Mexico. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Biologists capture several wolves every year by shooting them with tranquilizer darts from helicopters. Then they examine the animals, put radio collars on, and release them. Officials say, prior to the two deaths last month, they’d never had a wolf fatality during their annual count-and-capture process.

“The information that we gain from the collared wolves is critical to our understanding of how to manage the wolf now and into the future for their recovery,” says Sherry Barrett, the Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for Fish and Wildlife. “We always have risks, and those risks are minimized by the training that the biologists have.”

Barrett says the captures were supervised by veterinarians, and the process was the same as the 13 other wolf count-and-captures this year.

Fish and Wildlife will examine the bodies of the wolves to determine the causes of death, and Barrett says the agency will change its procedures if necessary.

Last year’s count identified at least 110 Mexican gray wolves in the wild.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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