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Feds update evidence standards for Mexican gray wolf attacks

Scientists measure a sedated wolf pup's teeth and record their findings.
Bryce Dix
Scientists measure a sedated wolf pup's teeth and record their findings.

The Mexican gray wolf is now receiving more management protections in Arizona and New Mexico.

The rules that govern what evidence can be used for counting wolf attacks are getting an update and advocates are hopeful they’ll show the true overall impact they have on the livestock industry.

Before the change, deciding if a cow or sheep died from a wolf attack depended on who you asked.

Now, clear-cut guidelines have been put in place by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s APHIS Wildlife Services that are more in-line with standards found in other parts of the country –– like Montana and Oregon.

The biggest of these changes has to do with evidence of subcutaneous hemorrhaging or heavy bleeding under the skin that’s often found in animals killed or attacked by a Mexican gray wolf. This is a telltale sign that an animal was alive before it was preyed upon.

That, and wolf bite marks on a carcass leave specific measurements unique to their upper and lower canine teeth.

These investigations are primarily done so ranchers can be compensated for losses.

Advocacy groups including the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife are applauding the efforts, saying the standards will help protect wolves from unwarranted blame and lower the number of attacks attributed to them.

Classified as “endangered” since 1976, the Mexican gray wolf saw its population skyrocket to historic highs earlier this year thanks to aggressive recovery efforts.

Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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