The U.S. is attempting to expand the endangered Mexican gray wolf population by releasing the first male into the wild in four years.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife have hopes that releasing the adult male will help the genetic strength of the gray wolf species.
Lynda Lambert, public information officer for the Arizona Fish and Game department, said the move to release the new alpha male was part of a joint decision with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
“You can’t just release a dozen at a time,” Lambert told Fox News Latino. “You have to do it with clear strategy.”
But by choosing a new alpha male, Lambert says, it’s a “step in the right direction.”
Part of the blue stem pack, the decision to release the new breed came after careful thought and consideration.
The wolf chosen for the alpha role came after testing which one had the best chemistry with the females already in the pack.
The pack’s former alpha was killed last year by illegal poachers.
The new male wolf will be released in the Apache National Forest in Arizona and New Mexico.
Mexican gray wolves are native to the Southwest region of the U.S. and Mexico.
After being hunted to the brink of extinction, the wolves gained protection in the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s.
Since the recovery program for the gray wolf launched in 1998, the species has slowly begun to regain its numbers.
But while the Arizona Game and Fish commission unanimously voted for the release, some conservationists say the move to release just one wolf is not enough.
“A lack of releases has resulted in inbreeding and reduced pup litter sizes,” Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, told the Yuma Sun.
“This is an important first step, but there needs to be dozens of wolves released to expand the population.”