FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — An endangered Mexican gray wolf that had been roaming around northern Arizona has been found dead, federal officials confirmed Jan. 7.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the male wolf was killed sometime the first weekend this month. Authorities said the incident is under investigation and declined to release any additional information.
Environmentalists were dismayed about the discovery, saying the wolf known as Anubis had given them hope that Mexican gray wolves would return to the region.
“It’s tragic that Anubis was killed and many of us are grieving his loss, but despite this heinous crime, it is also profound confirmation that northern Arizona should be part of the wolf recovery effort,” Greta Anderson, deputy director of the Western Watersheds Project, said in a statement.
The wolf had returned to the Flagstaff area at the end of October. In August, Arizona wildlife officials relocated it about 200 miles to the southeast within the boundaries of the wolf recovery area that was established by federal officials. Interstate 40 marks the northern edge of the recovery zone.
Under a 2017 recovery plan, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is required to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to capture and release any wolf that ventures north of the highway.
Federal officials are rewriting the regulations in response to lawsuits filed by environmentalists.
Environmentalists often describe the boundaries as arbitrary and political. They contend that Mexican gray wolves belong in the Coconino and Kaibab national forests of northern Arizona and in the Grand Canyon where they have plenty to eat and space to roam.
However, ranchers and some officials in rural communities in parts of Arizona and New Mexico are concerned about wolves killing livestock.
They say wildlife managers have yet to solve the problem. That’s despite efforts to set up diversionary food caches and use range riders and other means to scare the predators away from cattle.
North America’s rarest subspecies of gray wolf, the Mexican wolf was listed as endangered in 1976 after being pushed to the brink of extinction.
The population has grown since the first wolves were released in 1998 as part of a reintroduction program. The latest annual census found about 186 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona, a 14% increase over the previous census.