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By The Associated Press
PINETOP, Ariz. – Biologists are combing the rugged mountains of the U.S. Southwest to find out how many Mexican gray wolves are roaming the wild.
The annual count in Arizona and New Mexico started in November and is expected to continue through early February. The population numbers of the endangered predators will be released in March.
At least 163 wolves were counted during the last survey. That marked a nearly 25% jump in the population from the previous year.
The count put wildlife managers about halfway to meeting the goal set to declare the species recovered. The wolves were first released in parts of their historic range in 1998.
Biologists are looking for single wolves and wolf packs from the ground and air. The operation is more limited because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Any wolf that’s captured will be fitted with a tracking device.