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Mexican Gray Wolf Makes Long, Risky Journey From Eastern Arizona To Flagstaff Area

Arizona Game and Fish Department

An endangered Mexican gray wolf from eastern Arizona has taken a risky journey over hundreds of miles to the Flagstaff area. It’s a rare instance of a wolf roaming so far westward away from the federally protected recovery population. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The 1-year-old wild-born male was fitted with a radio collar as part of the endangered population. Wildlife managers have used it to follow his movements for months. The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently attempted to relocate the wolf from the Woody Mountain Road area near Flagstaff using a helicopter but wasn’t successful.

Jim deVos is the agency’s Mexican wolf coordinator and says its proximity to humans poses a threat to the animal.

"Given its propensity to stay in and around housing we wanted to move it away take it back to eastern Arizona where there was a much higher likelihood of finding a mate," he says. 

Wolf advocates, however, want to see it left alone and say it’s an invaluable opportunity to study a rare dispersal to the Flagstaff area. 

"We know that scientists have long concluded that this area is actually really good wolf habitat and is necessary for the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf," says Emily Renn, executive director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, which advcoates for expanded Mexican wolf territory. 

Wildlife officials say they’re waiting to see where the wolf travels next and don’t have any immediate plans to relocate him.

Last year seventh graders in Utah took part in a national naming contest for Mexican wolf pups put on by wildlife advocates. For this particular wolf, they decided on Anubis, the Egyptian god of the underworld.

At last count in early 2021, there were at least 186 Mexican gray wolves roaming eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, representing a 14% percent population increase last year.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers 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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