By Victoria Pelham, ABC15.com
PHOENIX – Up to $58,000 is being offered in reward money for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the deaths of endangered Mexican wolves, according to a monthly report issued by the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project.
Government agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department Operation Game Thief and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish are offering up to $12,000, while several other organizations and individuals have collectively offered $46,000.
Killing these endangered wolves can lead to criminal fines of up to $50,000, civil fines of up to $25,000 and/or up to one year in jail. However, a person may injure or kill a wolf in defense of human life if it is reported within 24 hours, according to the AZGFD website. Illegal wolf shooting is the leading killer of Mexican wolves, several sources reported.
Mexican wolves have been reintroduced to specific locations in Arizona and New Mexico through the collaborative project between seven governmental agencies in Arizona and New Mexico. In Arizona, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area have been home for decades to the endangered wolves.
The wolves are closely monitored by the Interagency Field Team. Their population is still at risk, with 2009 population results dipping according to several news sources.
Among the population of collared wolves, there were 24 wolves with functional radio collars in September.
The report also said that among eight reported incidents with the Mexican wolves last month, only two might be directly related to wolves. They did not play a role in predatorial incidents or most of the nuisances, investigations found. One incident, in which a wolf may have chased horses, was not investigated due to the landowner. Another, in which the wolves were causing a nuisance, had never been previously reported.
Anyone with information in Arizona is encouraged to call USFWS agents in Mesa at 480-967-7900 or in Alpine at 928-339-4232.
Click here to leave a comment on this story, posted on ABC15.com on October 5, 2010.
Note: The reward amount is now up to $60,000.
Photo credit: Mexican gray wolf courtesy of Trisha Shears