/ Modified mar 20, 2013 7:36 p.m.

Reintroduction of Wolves Remains Contentious

Supporters cheer Mexican gray's recovery; cattlemen still opposed

(VIDEO: AZPM)

The Mexican gray wolf once roamed freely in North America, but humans decimated its population over hundreds of years, and the animal nearly went extinct.

A recovery effort has been underway for decades and reached a milestone in 1998 when wolves were reintroduced into their historic territories in Arizona and New Mexico.

Craig Miller was there and he continues to advocate on their behalf. Miller is southwest representative of Defenders of Wildlife, which works on behalf of large carnivores such as grizzly bears and wolves.

""It was really an uplifting experience," Miller says of the wolf's reintroduction to the wild.

Others aren't so thrilled, and they say the results continue to be problematic.

Patrick Bray, executive vice president of the Arizona Cattlemen's Association, says his group acknowledges some success with the program in cases where the wolves are relying on wild animals for their food, but others are focusing on livestock.

"Like human nature, it's animal instinct that if they're hungry enough they'll eat whatever is in front of them," Bray says.

Miller says his group is trying to reduce the casualties and friction by working with ranchers on preventing wolves from preying on livestock. He says acceptance of wolves is increasing by the public.

In celebration of the wolf's recovery, "Lobo Week" begins Saturday and includes activities in Albuquerque, Flagstaff and Pinetop, where a local brewery is releasing a new beer called "Alpha Male Pale Ale."

(VIDEO: AZPM)
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