FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— New documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity show that a New Mexico rancher confessed to trapping and beating at least one other endangered Mexican gray wolf in 2015. In 2018 rancher Craig Thiessen pleaded guilty to brutalizing a wolf he had trapped in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Thiessen’s 2018 plea agreement for bludgeoning the Mexican wolf, named ‘Mia Tuk’ by an Albuquerque schoolchild, made no mention of crimes involving other wolves. But a Sept. 2, 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on another wolf from the same pack says its skull was found near Thiessen’s grazing allotment.
“The location where the Mexican gray wolf skull was located was near the allotment leased to [REDACTED] who was later convicted of having killed Mexican gray wolf #1385. [REDACTED] admitted to having trapped two (2) wolves, beating them into submission with a shovel, and then releasing the wolves back into the wild …It is suspected that Mexican gray wolf #1279 may have been one (1) of these wolves associated with this event,” the report said.
The report also includes a July 21, 2016, synopsis that says “[f]urther examination of the skull did show that the lower jaw had signs of having been cut with a ‘hand saw.’”
“These heinous crimes rob us all of wild lobos, and rob these wolf families of parents and pups,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. “It’s despicable that anyone should treat any animal this way.”
Two other wolves from the Willow Springs pack located near Reserve, N.M., went missing in 2016, and the Forest Service confirmed one of them (#1390) was killed by gunshot.
“We hope this new information will be used to ensure that ranchers like Craig Thiessen are never again afforded the privilege of grazing their cows on public lands,” said Robin Silver, a co-founder of the Center.
The newly released documents show Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers began their investigation into the killing of wolf #1385 on February 17, 2015. The documents indicate that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s investigation of Thiessen was initiated following an incident on May 31, 2016, when “information was provided … of subject [redacted] placing poisonous meatballs next to a cow carcass at Canyon del Buey in the Gila National Forest” northeast of Reserve, N.M. The Canyon del Buey allotment was permitted for grazing use by Thiessen’s livestock at that time.
In November 2018, the U.S. Forest Service revoked Thiessen’s Canyon del Buey Allotment grazing permit, but he is contesting that in federal court in New Mexico. As recently as early fall 2020, Thiessen’s cows remained on the Gila National Forest.