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PHOENIX -- An adult male Mexican gray wolf may be released soon in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest in east-central Arizona.

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials say the wolf is scheduled for a mid-January release adjacent to the Bluestem pack. It will replace the pack's alpha male found dead in July and determined to be illegally killed.

The release is contingent upon the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project's interagency field team's survey work to ensure no other male wolf has paired with the Bluestem pack's alpha female.

The Mexican gray wolf was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976 after it was nearly wiped out by government trapping and poisoning designed to help cattle ranchers.

The federal government began a reintroduction effort in 1998 in Arizona and New Mexico.

Associated Press,

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