Wolves and cows don't mix

  A pack of endangered Mexican wolves that developed a taste for beef headed back to captivity in early August. The Arizona Game and Fish Department captured seven wolves from the Pipestem Pack after they attacked cattle north of Clifton, Ariz.

Three Pipestem pups have since died of parvovirus, a canine disease they apparently picked up before they were captured. Wildlife officials are inoculating other pups and trying to capture one Pipestem wolf that is still running free, says department spokesman Dan Groebner. "The alpha female has grown wary of traps and is proving difficult to catch."

"I'm glad they're finally pulling them out. It's about time," says local rancher Barbara Marks. Marks, like most ranchers here, opposed the reintroduction project.

The Pipestem Pack is the first to be recaptured for preying on livestock since a team of federal and state wildlife agencies reintroduced Mexican wolves near the Arizona-New Mexico border last year. But in mid-August, officials discovered that the Gavilan Pack had also killed a cow in the remote Maple Peak area of the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. Wildlife officials will monitor the Gavilan Pack, and may haze the wolves away from cattle or feed them wild game to keep them out of trouble.

"We're committed to resolving conflicts," says Groebner. "We still have a lot of options to use with the Gavilan Pack. This could be an isolated incident of cattle depredation, but if it turns into a consistent pattern we will have to make changes in the adaptive management."

Five of the 11 wolves released last year in the Gila and Apache national forests were shot. No wolves have been killed this year, however, and 12 pups and additional releases mean there are now 22 Mexican wolves, four packs, in the wild.

* Alex Witzeman

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