For Immediate Release
Santa Fe, NM — WildEarth Guardians objects to Wildlife Services, a federal wildlife-killing agency, for refusing to show public records supporting the capture of a Mexican wolf for allegedly killing livestock. The agency provided the conservation organization hundreds of pages of documents in response to a records request, but completely blacked out 80 percent of the pages, or 682 of 870 pages received.
“What are the feds hiding?” asked Wendy Keefover, Director of Carnivore Protection Program for WildEarth Guardians. “This is public information and the federal government must account for the capture and incarceration of the Fox Mountain Loba.”
Wildlife Services, which delayed its response for weeks, redacted the information based on an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act. But the exemption may have been misapplied, and the records should have included more information supporting the capture of the Mexican wolf. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still has not responded to a similar records request, in violation of the 20-day response deadline.
“If these documents are all there is supporting the Loba’s capture, we say: ‘Let her go!'” emphasized Keefover.
The few pages that do document supposed Mexican wolf livestock kills by the Fox Mountain Mexican wolf pack are sketchy, even inconclusive. In one instance, rains had obliterated tracks and in another a rancher claimed to see a “large canine” in a meadow. In two other incidents attributed to the Fox Mountain pack, the cow carcasses were found either in a completely dried out state or in “advanced decomposition.”
Complaints about livestock losses to wolves far outnumber actual wolf-associated mortality. For example, in Idaho in livestock growers complained that they lost 2,561 cattle to wolves in 2011, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could verify only 75 cattle lost to wolves, a 3,415 percent difference.
“When livestock growers in New Mexico claimed that the Fox Mountain pack killed four cattle, we grew suspicious,” said Keefover, “that’s because wolves prefer to prey upon native wildlife in far, far greater numbers than on domestic livestock. That’s how they’ve evolved.”
Carter Niemeyer, author of Wolfer and former Wildlife Services’ agent said: “as a member of the concerned public, I would be skeptical of many of the conclusions presented. A clear, photographic record would sure clear up many concerns that I would have. I don’t think it is unreasonable to provide irrefutable evidence in a form that the public can visualize and understand, since these kinds of investigations will always be challenged now and in the future.”
WildEarth Guardians will appeal Wildlife Services’ redacted response and is calling for a Congressional investigation into the agency’s behavior—in regard to the current records response and its other wildlife killing activities in the West.
“Putting a Mexican wolf in jail is no better than killing her,” said Keefover. “The government cannot take such action without first thoroughly documenting their decision. Based on the records, we haven’t GOT ANY evidence that they’ve done so.”
On August 8, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a kill order for the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Mexican wolf pack for allegedly killing livestock. She had five pups, including four young of the year, one yearling pup, and her lifelong mate, who is also her first cousin.
Immediately following announcement of the Service’s decision to kill Loba, hundreds, if not thousands of people called the Service, the White House, and the New Mexico Congressional delegation. As a result of the public outcry, the Service rescinded the kill order two days later, but then ordered that Loba be captured live.
She eluded federal trappers for two months but was caught on October 10, 2012, by Wildlife Services. She was being held by federal agents to monitor her health. She will be or has been moved to the Southwest Wolf Conservation Center, which volunteered to house her.
Documents received from Wildlife Services indicate that the Fox Mountain pack was involved in killing six cattle, although the details linking the livestock deaths to wolf predation are sketchy.
1. Heavy rains had obliterated out tracks and only tracks found were from coyotes. But bite marks found were “consistent with Mexican grey wolf” and radio telemetry indicated that AF1188 was “in the area.” Dead for 24 to 36 hours. (08/01/12; p. 50)
2. Rancher saw large canine in meadow. No telemetry at the site [sic] but flight on Monday show Fox Mountain [pack/wolf?] in area. 47 hours dead. (06/16/11; p. 52)
3. Wolf track located in the area. Carcass skinned and found “canine marks with corresponding hemorrhage on the throat and neck areas and also on the left and right hind legs. The canine marks were measured and found consistent with Mexican Gray Wolf predation and the incident was confirmed.” Telemetry of Fox Mountain pack in the area the previous day. 24 hours dead. (4/26/12; p. 59)
4. Carcass of 5-year-old cow found at the edge of a dirt (water) tank. Wildlife Services found “multiple wolf tracks in the area and suggest that the cow was pursued into the water and was killed there. . . hemorrhage was located around the soft tissue areas in the back end of the how; however no canine marks could be paired up in this area due to consumption of the tissue. Several canine marks were located on the hind legs . . . measuring 36.6mm other canine marks were located on the back of the carcass measuring 44.9mm and 36.9mm all with corresponding hemorrhage. 12 hours dead. (3/127/12; p. 62)
5. Dead calf found in a creek. It was in an “advanced state of decomposition” and Wildlife Services moved the body to a hilltop to use the wind to blow away the stench. “Bite marks were located on the left hock with corresponding hemorrhage measuring 40.1mm . . . ” Three days dead. (07/05/11; p. 65)
6. Wildlife Services’ agent found “coyote tracks and nothing more” near the carcass. The remains were “dried out” but Wildlife Services found a hemorrhage on a portion of the hide and took the part and soaked it for 48 hours to “confirm that the staining was indeed hemorrhage and not lividity.” Four weeks dead. (05/01/12; p. 56)
Photo of captive Mexican gray wolf courtesy of Allen S.