ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — It’s been more than two months since a federal wildlife specialist reported shooting an animal in southwestern New Mexico that upon closer inspection looked like a Mexican gray wolf, but officials remain tightlipped about the case.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services confirmed Thursday that the January shooting is under investigation.
Officials said they’re awaiting lab results to determine whether the animal was in fact an endangered Mexican gray wolf.
They refused to comment on why the employee shot the animal.
“Wildlife Services is cooperating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the ongoing investigation,” Wildlife Services spokeswoman Carol Bannerman said in a statement. “Given the ongoing investigation, no additional details are available at this time.”
Monthly reports on the status of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program do not mention the incident. However, they show that a Wildlife Services employee was in the Mangus area investigating two cattle kills on Jan. 19.
Environmentalists who have been critical of the government’s management of Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona said the limited information raises more questions about the transparency of Wildlife Services’ activities and the wolf program.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “To me, it speaks to a lot of questions about the management culture. We’ve seen over and over that the lives of these wolves have been devalued in official decisions and in some cases unofficial decisions, as this may have been.”
Just last week, the effort to return Mexican gray wolves to New Mexico and Arizona marked its 15th anniversary. There are now at least 75 wolves roaming in the two states, but the program has been marred over the years by illegal shootings, disputes over management and courtroom battles. Environmentalists have been asking that more wolves be released, while ranchers have complained that the predators are threatening livelihoods and rural communities.
The Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies of the larger northern gray wolf, was exterminated in the wild in the Southwest by the 1930s. It was added to the endangered species list in 1976 and the reintroduction effort began in 1998.
Stand up against the illegal killing of endangered wolves! Please submit a letter to the editor today.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.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.