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In the News: Fish & Wildlife employee investigated in wolf death

Albuquerque Journal, April 4, 2013

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By Rene Romo / Journal South Reporter

LAS CRUCES – Federal officials have confirmed that a Wildlife Services employee is the subject of an investigation into the killing of an endangered Mexican gray wolf in January in the southwest corner of the state.

Few details about the killing have been disclosed, with spokesmen for Wildlife Services, an arm of the USDA, and Fish and Wildlife Services, which oversees the wolf recovery project, saying that the case is under investigation.

However, a brief statement from Wildlife Services indicates the employee asserted the killing was a case of mistaken identity.

The employee, described as a specialist, was investigating a possible wolf depredation of livestock in January when the incident occurred, wrote Carol Bannerman, a Maryland-based spokeswoman for Wildlife Services. “While on-site he lethally removed a canine, which was then identified as possibly a Mexican wolf.”

Bannerman wrote that the Wildlife Services employee “immediately reported the take” to the agency’s management and to the recovery project’s Interagency Field Team, a group of federal, state and tribal officials who work collaboratively on the wolf program.

Asked specifically about the rumored killing of a wolf by a Wildlife Services employee, Sherry Barrett, the Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, said she was unable to comment and referred questions to a spokesman.

Nick Chavez, special agent in charge of Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement for the region, said that a “canine mortality” was being investigated. “I’m not confirming or denying it,” Chavez said when asked about the killing of a wolf by a Wildlife Services employee. “It’s under investigation.”

The killing of the lobo, one of only 75 known to roam national and tribal forest lands in a designated recovery zone in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico, by a federal employee would mark another setback to the hotly debated program.

The illegal poaching of wolves has been the biggest cause of wolf mortality since lobos were released to the wild, but the January incident would mark the first known case of a federal employee having killed a wolf not formally designated for removal or capture.

Last week, on March 29, the Fish and Wildlife Service noted the 15th anniversary of the date when eleven wolves were released in Arizona to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. Those wolves were the descendants of the last known Mexican gray wolves, seven in all, which were captured in an effort to revive the species after ranchers and a previous incarnation of Wildlife Services trapped, hunted and poisoned the Mexican gray wolf to near extinction in the U.S. and Mexico.

Neither Wildlife Services nor Fish and Wildlife disclosed the exact date or location where the killing occurred, and would not identify the employee involved.

This story was published in the Albuquerque Journal on April 4, 2013.
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Stand up against the illegal killing of endangered wolves! Please submit a letter to the editor today.

The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers.  Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points

Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to info@mexicanwolves.org.
  • Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
  • Call on the federal government for a complete investigation and disclosure regarding the Wildlife Services employee’s involvement in the illegal killing of a Mexican gray wolf. Mexican wolves are important animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. Anyone guilty of killing a Mexican wolf should be fully prosecuted and suffer the maximum criminal and civil penalties for their crime. "Mistaken identity" is no excuse, especially for a federal Wildlife Services employee. And because the FWS did not report this wolf's death in the monthly report for January, the perception of an attempt to hide this crime should be addressed with full disclosure and investigation.
  • Remind readers that, at last count, just 75 Mexican gray wolves, including three breeding pairs, survived in the wild. These native wolves are critically endangered. With so few in the wild, every wolf is important. Killing or harming them is illegal and immoral.
  • Convey how important it is for people to contact their elected officials in congress now for an investigation of the Wildlife Services agency. In November, two U.S. congressmen, Reps. John Campbell, an Irvine Republican, and Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, called again for a probe of Wildlife Services, citing photos of animal abuse posted on the Internet by an agency employee. The Wildlife Services program within U.S.D.A. kills a hundred thousand coyotes, wolves and other native carnivores annually at a tremendous cost to taxpayers. Other Wildlife Services employees have killed golden eagles, endangered wolverines, and many other non-target animals, including pets. Now another Wildlife Services employee is being investigated in connection with the killing of this endangered Mexican wolf. We should all urge our members of Congress to call for an investigation and changes to the way Wildlife Services operates.
  • Tell readers why you support wolves and stress that the majority of Arizona and New Mexico residents support wolves and want them better protected. Polling done by Research and Polling, Inc., found 77 percent of Arizona respondents and 69 percent of New Mexico respondents support the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves. The polls also showed the overwhelming majority supports spending taxpayer dollars on preventing livestock conflicts rather than killing or removing wolves.
  • Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.
  • Describe the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife. Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters. Science has repeatedly demonstrated that wolves are keystone carnivores who help to keep wildlife like elk and deer healthy and bring balance to the lands they inhabit.
  • Keep your letter brief, between 150-200 words.
  • Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.
You can submit your letter to the Albuquerque Journal here.

Thank you for taking action for these important animals!
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