The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale has saved an alpha female Mexican Gray Wolf that federal fish and wildlife officials had planned to kill.
The mother wolf of four pups was to be shot after killing cattle in New Mexico, but Southwest Wildlife stepped in and offered the wolf a permanent home. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to the arrangement.
According to a news release from Southwest Wildlife, at last official count, there were only 58 Mexican Gray Wolves in the wild, making them one of the most endangered mammals in North America.
On Saturday, the Tribune received numerous letters from people in the Southwest pleading for the wolf to be saved.
The wolf is the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack in southwestern New Mexico, and has four puppies. Federal wildlife personnel are attempting to capture her, and Southwest Wildlife staff is awaiting word of whether she has been safely captured.
The puppies will not be taken from the pack, as they will be cared for by their father, Linda Searles, founder and executive director of Southwest Wildlife, said in the release.
On Thursday, federal Fish and Wildlife officials signed an order to shoot the wolf, which was accused of killing too many cows. This is the first time since 2007 that the agency planned to kill a wolf because of predatory attacks on livestock. The rancher who lost the cattle has been compensated, the release said.
Southwest Wildlife serves as a holding facility for the federal Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program.
"We're happy we could find a solution to this situation, other than killing the animal, because there are so few of these wolves left," Searles said. "We will continue to work with Fish and Wildlife through the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program to maintain the species, which is an important part of our ecosystem and our Western heritage."
The Nina Mason Pulliam Foundation will provide funds to construct an enclosure for the female wolf, but donations will also be needed to help Southwest Wildlife provide care. As part of the center, the wolf will help educate children and other visitors about the role different mammals play in our ecosystem and the importance of preserving endangered species.
For more information about Southwest Wildlife, visit http://southwestwildlife.org/.