ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One of the Mexican gray wolf pups that survived the largest fire in Arizona history last summer has been found dead along a forest road, and federal wildlife officials on Tuesday confirmed a single gunshot wound was to blame.
The carcass of the female pup was found at the end of March just west of Alpine, Ariz. A preliminary exam failed to reveal an obvious cause of death, but a necropsy done at a federal forensic laboratory in Oregon determined the wolf had been shot.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department on Tuesday urged anyone with information regarding the shooting to contact law enforcement officers with the two agencies.
A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered by the Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona’s Operation Game Thief is offering another $1,000 for information leading to the conviction of the person or people responsible for the illegal shooting of the pup or any other Mexican gray wolf.
Other organizations and private individuals have pledged an additional $46,000 in reward money.
“With fewer than 60 Mexican gray wolves alive in the wild, every loss is tragic and brings the ‘lobo’ one step closer to extinction,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups contributing to the reward. “¦
There are at least 58 wolves in the wild in the two states, according to the latest annual survey completed in January. The survey recorded at least 18 pups among the packs.
The births helped offset the eight wolves that were found dead last year and the one wolf that program officials were forced to kill in December due to safety concerns.
Still, biologists are concerned about high pup mortality and the long-term effects that could have on wild-born pups being able to supplement the population.
The pup found dead near Alpine belonged to the Hawks Nest Pack, which is one of three packs in Arizona that were directly affected by last summer’s Wallow Fire. The pack’s primary den site was charred by the raging fire, but wildlife officials said the pack members were able to move all of the pups to safety.
The pack produced at least six pups last spring. The wolf reintroduction team believes at least four wolves remain with the pack.
Part of what frustrates supporters of the wolf program is that the Hawks Nest Pack had a reputation for steering clear of trouble despite being uprooted by the fire and living in an area surrounded by livestock, hunters and recreationists.
Officials said the pack has no documented livestock kills or nuisance incidents involving people.
“These wolves have been able to live and breed … with little to no interaction with the people that also use the area,” the Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department said in a statement.
Robinson used the shooting to renew his call for the federal government to not loan to landowners and others in the wolf recovery area radio telemetry receivers that allow them to track collared wolves. While the receivers are meant for preventing livestock depredation and nuisance incidents, critics say they make the wolves vulnerable to poaching.
The Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, once roamed New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Hunting and government-sponsored extermination campaigns all but wiped out the predator.
It was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976, and a captive-breeding program was started. The first batch of wolves was released in May 1998.
Your Help Is Needed
We are deeply saddened and outraged by the criminal killing of this pup — please join us in acting for these highly endangered, amazing animals and memorializing the loss of this pup by attending the rally at the US Fish and Wildlife Service office in Albuquerque from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 13. Click here for full details.
If you cannot attend the rally, you can help by submitting a letter to the editor to the papers that ran this article. 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 and please write in your own words, from your own experience. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to email@example.com.
- Start by thanking paper for their coverage of this important issue-this makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
- 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.
- Reiterate 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.
- Insist that this pup’s death and all criminal killings of wolves be thoroughly investigated, prosecuted, and penalized to the full extent of the law. Every loss to this dangerously small wild population is enormous; illegal killings must end. Anyone killing a wolf pup is a sick criminal who robs us all of our natural heritage.
- Repeat that the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of criminals killing wolves is up to almost $60,000 and urge anyone with information to come forward.
- Stress that the majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction; polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.
- Point out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to keep more wolves in the wild by emphasizing tactics that help agribusiness and wolves coexist instead of removing wolves is starting to pay off; the program is moving forward through support and cooperation.
- Describe the wolves as they really are: beautiful, intelligent, family oriented animals who are essential to restoring the balance of nature.
- Urge the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to end the freeze on more releases of captive wolves into the wild. Releases of captive wolves must happen now to prevent another extinction in the wild; the number of wild wolves must increase to reduce their vulnerability to inbreeding, natural catastrophes, disease, and other threats.
- Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 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.
This article appeared in multiple papers; submission information is below:
Las Cruces Sun-News 300 word limit
Submit your letter here.
Silver City Sun News 300 word limit
Submit your letter here.
Submit your letter here.
The Republic (Columbus, Indiana) 600 word limit
Submit your letter here.
You can also download posters to advertise the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of criminals who kill wolves here.
Photo credit: This wolf pup photo is from the Endangered Wolf Center; this is not the pup who was shot.