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.
Few details about the killing in the southwest corner of the state have been disclosed. Spokesmen for Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the wolf recovery project, said 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, according to 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,” she wrote.
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.
However, the death was not included in monthly reports the Fish and Wildlife Service posts online detailing the status of the reintroduction effort. Such reports typically mention wolf deaths. Spokesmen for the agency have not responded to questions about why the death was not mentioned in the January report, which said: “No wolf mortalities were documented this month.”
The January report notes that Wildlife Services personnel examined the carcasses of two cows on state trust land north of the tiny community of Mangas on Jan. 19, to see if the livestock had been killed by wolves.
The Journal’s inquiry into the killing was initiated by a tip from the Center for Biological Diversity.
“I am once again sad that a Mexican wolf … has needlessly died, and it is infuriating that he or she was killed by a trigger-happy government agent who was supposed to help recover this unique and endangered subspecies of the gray wolf,” said Michael Robinson, the Center’s wolf specialist. “The shooter should be off the job and should be prosecuted.”
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 spokeswoman.
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.”
There were 75 lobos roaming national and tribal forest lands in a designated recovery zone in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico at the end of 2012. When wolves were initially released to the wild from a captive breeding program, biologists expected there would be 100 wolves on the ground by the end of 2006.
The illegal poaching of wolves has been the biggest cause of wolf mortality since lobos were released to the wild.
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 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.
Thank you for taking the time to write a letter on behalf of these important animals who cannot speak for themselves!
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