Flight operations begin Feb. 7 for Mexican wolf population survey

PINETOP, Ariz.  — Residents of Alpine, Ariz., Reserve, NM and surrounding areas may notice a low-flying helicopter in the region between Feb. 7 and Feb. 20 as biologists conduct their annual Mexican wolf population survey and capture.

The flights are part of the Mexican wolf Reintroduction Project, a multi-agency cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Service Inspection Service – Wildlife Services and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Watch a Wildlife Views episode on Mexican wolf recovery

Survey flights will occur — weather permitting — on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation; the Apache-Sitgreaves, Gila and Cibola National Forests in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico; and possibly some locations immediately outside forest boundaries.

“Each year this survey is done in the wintertime to provide a snapshot of the Mexican wolf population, by collecting critical data to help partner agencies make sound management decisions in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program,” said Paul Greer, AZGFD Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team leader. “Additionally, data collected helps us know how these animals are using habitat in Arizona and New Mexico.”

As part of the operation, biologists will attempt to capture selected wolves born in 2018 that have not yet been fitted with a radio telemetry collar, in addition to those with collars that need a battery replacement or any wolf appearing to be sick or injured. Wolves are captured after being darted with an anesthetizing drug from a helicopter containing trained personnel.

After being immobilized, the wolf is then brought by air to a staging area for processing and any necessary veterinary care. The wolf is then returned to the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) and released on public land.

The field team is contacting private landowners to gain permission to property to capture a wolf, if necessary, and will be coordinating with land management agencies and county sheriff offices on survey operation details.

There were a minimum of 114 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2017, according to a survey by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team. The survey found that there were 63 wolves in Arizona and 51 in New Mexico.

Results of the survey will be made available to the public in March. For more information on the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, visit /wolf or https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.

Funding to be used to research potential impact of white-nose syndrome in AZ

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) was awarded $29,839 in grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to help protect the state’s 28 species of bats from white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease.

Funds issued by the FWS were part of nearly $1 million in grants to 39 states to help combat the disease that has killed millions of bats in recent years nationwide. In Arizona, the funding will be used to research whether the fungus has begun to impact local cave-dwelling bats.

Learn more about Arizona’s bats

“The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has left a lasting impact on the nation’s cave-dwelling bat populations. Bats give birth to only one young per year, so recovery from this disease will take decades,” said Angie McIntire, an AZGFD biologist and bat specialist. “These funds will allow us to continue our research and data collection to better understand the winter ecology of cave-dwelling bats in Arizona and to monitor for this deadly disease.”

First discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, white-nose syndrome received its name from the white fungus that was found on a bat’s muzzle and wings. White-nose syndrome has killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America.

The syndrome has now spread to 33 states and seven Canadian provinces and infects eight of the top 10 agricultural producing states. While the syndrome hasn’t yet been detected in Arizona, it’s critical to monitor for the disease and research its impact to better protect our 28 species of bats, which include 13 that migrate or that are active in winter, and 15 presumed to hibernate.

Pleasant Harbor July_Sept 2016