Officials Investigating Two Mexican Gray Wolf Deaths During Annual Count

Feb 4, 2016

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.

Mexican wolf biologist Julia Smith carries a male wolf in Alpine after it was darted from a helicopter during the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's annual count of the endangered animals. The wolf was not among the two females that died in January after being darted and captured by agency biologists.
Credit Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic

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.