Center for Biological Diversity, April 24, 2013
For Immediate Release, April 24, 2013
Press Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017
Federal Wildlife Services Agent Claimed He Thought it Was a Coyote
SILVER CITY, N.M.- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that genetic tests reveal that the animal a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services agent shot in January in New Mexico was indeed a Mexican gray wolf. The Fish and Wildlife Service, which initially denied that any wolves had been killed in New Mexico in January, has now presented the case to the U.S. attorney's office for possible prosecution. As of last week, the shooter was still in his job on the interagency wolf-recovery field team.
"Prosecution for this crime is appropriate and would send a message that the 'I-thought-it was-a-coyote' excuse will not fly, especially when it comes to protecting some of the rarest wolves in North America," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Wildlife Services agent should be placed on immediate administrative leave. This also raises a real question about whether the federal wildlife-killing agency should be part of the Mexican wolf recovery program."
Mexican gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act. There are an estimated 75 in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona including just three breeding pairs. The Jan. 19 shooting of the young, female wolf near the territory of the San Mateo wolf pack in New Mexico was revealed by the Albuquerque Journal following a tip from the Center for Biological Diversity. The Fish and Wildlife Service had previously reported that "no wolf mortalities were documented" for the month of January.
After the news broke, more than 15,000 people called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the shooting.
"Everyday hunters learn not to shoot unless they're sure of their target," said Robinson. "In this case, someone who professionally should know the difference between wolves and coyotes killed an exceedingly rare animal that he was supposed to help protect. It boggles the mind."
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.