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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico wildlife officials are rejoining direct efforts to manage endangered Mexican gray wolf populations in cooperation with the federal government and states including Arizona.

The New Mexico State Game Commission voted unanimously with one absence on Friday to become a cooperating agency in the recovery program after leaving a pact in 2011.

Wildlife Division Chief Stewart Liley says the agreement will make New Mexico a lead player in the program with greater discretion over management decisions amid concern among ranchers about livestock falling prey to wolves.

The Mexican wolf is the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America and has struggled since releases into the wild in 1998.

Surveys show at least 131 in the wild in the southern mountain ranges of New Mexico and Arizona.