Conservationists have won a battle with the federal government over information they say will help improve a troubled program aimed at returning North America's rarest gray wolf to the Southwest.
A federal judge last week ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to release specific information on the locations of conflicts between livestock and the Mexican gray wolves that are roaming New Mexico and Arizona as part of a reintroduction effort.
Conservationists applauded the decision, saying the coordinates will help determine if there are any problem areas and whether steps can be taken to limit wolf contact with livestock in those areas.
The Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, was exterminated in the wild in the Southwest by the 1930s. In 1998, the government began reintroducing wolves along the Arizona-New Mexico line in a 4 million-acre territory.
There are now about 50 wolves in the wild, but that's half of what biologists had hoped to have by now.
The reintroduction effort has been hampered by illegal shootings, complaints from ranchers who have lost cattle to the wolves and removal of wolves that have violated the program's three-strikes rule. Federal agents can kill or trap and remove any wolf that has been involved in three livestock kills within a year.