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Release of Mexican Gray Wolves makes critics howl

wolf January 27, 1998
Web posted at: 3:33 p.m. EST (2033 GMT)

ALPINE, Arizona (CNN) -- Mexican Gray Wolves once ran wild in the hills of Mexico and Arizona, and the U.S. government helped farmers and ranchers eradicate the predator at the turn of the century. Now the government wants to expand the species -- and that has some people worried and angry.

Mexican Gray Wolves were declared an endangered species in 1976; today there are only 175 of the animals left -- all in captivity. To boost the population, the government plans to release the wolves in Arizona in about two months.

A wolf repopulation program already is under way in Yellowstone National Park, triggering a lawsuit that could halt the project.

"It's going to be a disaster for everybody that lives in this country. Whether he's a hunter, whether he's a rancher -- it doesn't matter what he is. It's going to be a disaster for him economically, and also, people are going to be afraid to go into the forest," rancher Hugh McKeen told CNN.

The wolves get ready in Arizona
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But environmentalist Craig Miller disagrees, saying it is important for people go "beyond the myth of three hundred years ago and Little Red Ridinghood." (icon 119K/9 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Because livestock inevitably will be threatened, an environmental group working with the government promises to reimburse ranchers for any livestock they lose to wolves.

baby wolf

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt also maintains that, despite the controversy, there is room in the wild for people and wolves. (icon 136K/11 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Correspondent Greg LaMotte contributed to this report.

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