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News Briefs II

Shootings Endanger Wolf Re-Introduction in Arizona

Los Angeles Times

Less than a year after he presided over the release of wolves into the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt returned Monday in a more somber mood as he sought to revive a project that has been nearly destroyed by a series of unsolved shootings.

Only two of the 11 Mexican gray wolves released this year into the Apache National Forest are left. Four are known to have been shot. A fifth adult - last seen in mid-September - and a pup are also thought to be dead. Three others were returned to captivity earlier this year after they roamed outside the release area.

Of the surviving two, neither is female, eliminating the possibility of new pups being born in the wild. The gunshot victims include the mother of the only pup born in the wild.

Bringing two more wolves - both females - with him, Babbitt on Monday condemned the killings and, while saying he does not know who is responsible, made clear that he sees ranchers as the main enemies of wolf reintroduction. He vowed that the effort to re-establish the animals would not die and announced that state and federal law enforcement personnel, from now on, would be patrolling the area where the wolves are being released.

"Cattle growers think they are entitled to produce the maximum possible number of cattle they can ship to the stockyards every fall, and they believe they are entitled to do this on public lands regardless of what the public wants from these lands," he said.

Hans Stewart, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist supervising the project, added that "the really sad part is that these wolves were showing every indication of adapting to the wild. They were hunting and providing for their young. They were moving farther into the wild and away from humans."

The Mexican gray wolves released in Arizona are among the rarest land mammals in North America. There are only 187 left, all raised in captivity. There are enough wolves to keep the project alive for several more years, however, according to federal wildlife officials.

A $35,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the conviction of whomever is responsible for the latest killings, with the money. Conviction for killing one of the endangered wolves carries a federal penalty of $100,000 and a year in prison.

Parrot Fossil Dates To Dinosaurs' Day

The Washington Post

A new analysis of what is thought to be a jaw from an ancient parrot indicates that the fossil dates to the time of the dinosaurs, suggesting that modern land birds evolved earlier than scientists had thought.

The jaw, found in eastern Wyoming around 1960 and kept since in the University of California at Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology, is about 65 million years old, making it the oldest known fossil of a modern land bird, reports Thomas A. Stidman, a Berkeley graduate student, in the Nov. 5 issue of Nature.

Primitive birds with teeth were the most common birds during this period, but they became extinct with the dinosaurs while toothless birds like the parrot survived for reasons that remain unknown.