Three-legged Arizona Wolf Father Is Latest Victim in Half-year of Shooting, Trapping
SILVER CITY, N.M.— A federal gunman killed the alpha male of the Saffel pack of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona last week for preying on livestock, according to a memo released yesterday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Saffel pack alpha male is the 21st endangered Mexican gray wolf to be shot by the government since the animals’ reintroduction to the Southwest began in 1998 and the fifth to be shot by federal employees in 2020 thus far. In March the government shot another wolf father, one of his pups and two pups from another pack, all in New Mexico.
The slain wolf, a father of four young pups, had previously suffered an emergency leg amputation in November after being caught in a government trap. The wolf’s two-year-old daughter died in January because of causes still unknown. A month later the alpha male left his pack.
“This wolf father’s horribly unfair fate offers us a peek at the broader tragedy of heavy-handed wolf management,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “After his injury, he had to hunt alone on three legs, so he turned to livestock. He was too smart to be caught in a trap again, but he couldn’t outrun his radio collar and an aerial sniper.”
From the start of reintroduction, 25 Mexican gray wolves have been killed inadvertently as a result of government removal to captivity. Eight wolves were also placed in captivity in April and May without injury. And two newborn pups removed from their Arizona den and placed with captive wolves in April were later killed by their new pack, which also killed two of their own pups — as revealed by the Fish and Wildlife Service this week.
In 2018 a U.S. District Court in Arizona found that the Service committed an “egregious oversight” in ignoring scientists’ warnings that its 2015 management rule would worsen inbreeding in the population. The Service has until May 17, 2021 to rewrite the rule in the wake of tens of thousands of public comments received by its recent June 15 deadline. The Service will issue a draft rule and an environmental impact statement in the fall and accept public comments again.
“The clock is ticking on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s court-ordered rewrite of its wolf-management rule,” said Robinson. “If the agency re-authorizes anything like the current heartless mismanagement, we’ll see them in court again. Mexican wolves would recover if the Service would just release them as families into the wild and then let them live with no persecution.”