A lone gray wolf that has been roaming Arizona for the past few months, just north of the Grand Canyon, has just been confirmed to being a long way from his home, which is in the northern Rockies. The confirmation was made with a DNA test. The wolf is protected under the Endangered Species Act and it is the first known gray wolf to visit Arizona in 70 years or so.
Wolves, particularly young wolves, can be quite nomadic, dispersing great distances across the landscape. Such behaviour is not unusual for juveniles as they travel to find food or another mate.Benjamin Tuggle
This species disappeared from the state of Arizona in the 1940s, so this is very exciting news for conservationists who want to see wolves spread back into their former habitats.
After many sightings of the lone gray wolf in the pst month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) collected a sample of the animal’s feces in Kaibab national Forest, near the north rim of the Grand Canyon, in order to do the DNA test and see if this was indeed the species of wolf they believed it to be.
The DNA test, done in the University of Idaho’s Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics, revealed that it is a female gray wolf from the northern Rocky Mountains population, which means she traveled at least 450 miles to get to northern Arizona. However, this is not uncommon behaviour for the gray wolf, according to FWS officials, who say: “Wolves, particularly young wolves, can be quite nomadic, dispersing great distances across the landscape. Such behaviour is not unusual for juveniles as they travel to find food or another mate” said Benjamin Tuggle, FWS director for the southwest region.
Further analysis of the wolf’s DNA over the next few weeks might help to determine the identity of the wolf, if she had been captured and sampled before on her home turf. But FWS officials were unsuccessful in their attempts to capture the lone wolf so that they could collect a blood sample and remove the inactive radio collar around her neck.
So far, they know that the female wolf is not related to the small population of Mexican wolves that live in southern Arizona and New Mexico.
This archive content was originally published November 30, 2014 (www.betawired.com)