First Mexican Wolf Gunned Down by USDA for Cattle Predation in 10+ Years
SILVER CITY, N.M.— Wildlife officials revealed today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency killed a Mexican gray wolf in eastern Arizona in August — the first time in more than 10 years that the government has killed one of these critically endangered animals because of livestock predation.
The female — one of only a small number of Mexican wolves in the wild — was part of the Diamond pack.
“It’s sickening that the Trump administration is so heartless it would gun down Mexican wolves on behalf of the livestock industry,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Diamond pack has needlessly lost a member of its family, and the recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves has taken an unnecessary step backward.”
The killing represents a return to a discredited policy of killing wolves punitively in the same locations where sloppy livestock-management practices typically draw wolves into conflicts.
Along with the one-sentence summary of the wolf’s killing released today, it was revealed that a dead cow — found around the same time as other cattle that were killed by wolves — was necropsied and found not to have been killed by wolves, but instead to have died from ingesting twine. Those circumstances suggest the likelihood, as has happened in countless other instances, that the Diamond pack scavenged on the cow’s carcass and wolves were then drawn to prey on nearby, vulnerable cattle.
This was the 15th Mexican wolf shot by the government since reintroduction began in 1998. Dozens of other wolves have been removed, alive, from the wild.
A growing body of research shows that killing wolves does nothing in the long run to reduce losses of livestock. Instead, stock can be protected through means accepted among ranchers in other regions who coexist with wolves, such as the Midwest. Effectively protecting cattle or sheep requires ranchers to remove livestock carcasses, enact seasonal calving to limit vulnerable calves’ exposure to wolves, and provide a consistent human presence to scare wolves away. The government has required no such measures to prevent conflicts between Mexican wolves and livestock on public lands.
“The government killed this wolf in secret and is hoping that her death won’t cause a stir,” said Robinson. “Unfortunately we know that persecuting wolves becomes disturbingly habitual for some wildlife managers, and that runs directly counter to what the science says is best for recovering carnivores and reducing conflicts.”
The last Mexican wolf killed by the government for killing livestock was the mother of at least one pup in the Durango pack in New Mexico, shot in July 2007 after that pack was purposefully baited into killing stock in order to prompt its destruction. After the Bush administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to kill that female, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson persuaded the federal agency to reverse its order, but it was too late. Before it was convinced to stop the slaughter, the agency had killed and removed so many wolves that it caused a 24-percent drop in the Mexican wolf population.
Mexican wolves were first pushed to the brink of extinction through a program of federal trappers and poisoners that, beginning in 1915, sought to kill every wolf in the western United States. By the late 1920s, few wolves existed anywhere in the United States. In 1950 the Fish and Wildlife Service expanded its poisoning program to Mexico as a foreign-aid program. By the 1970s, when the Endangered Species Act was passed and the Mexican wolf had been placed on the endangered species list, only five wolves could be captured for an emergency captive-breeding program. Three of those wolves and the progeny of four others already in captivity were successfully bred to save the subspecies from extinction and allow for reintroduction into the U.S. Southwest in 1998 and into Mexico in 2011.
In June the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a draft Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan for public comment before finalizing such a plan in November, pursuant to a settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies. The Center and independent scientists criticized the draft plan for relying on killing wolves and for planning to remove them from federal protection with too few wolves in arbitrarily limited areas.