Here is the deal.
The Mexican Wolf is the rarest, southernmost and most genetically distinct sub-species of the Gray Wolf in North America. It is also one of the smallest sub-species, reaching an overall length no greater than 4.5 feet and a height maximum of about 32 inches.
Until recent times, the Mexican Wolf ranged the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts from central Mexico to western Texas, southern New Mexico and central Arizona. By the the turn of the century, reduction of natural prey like deer and elk caused many wolves to begin attacking domestic livestock, which led to intensive efforts by government agencies and individuals to eradicate the Mexican Wolf.
These efforts were very successful, and by the 1950s, the Mexican Wolf had been eliminated from the wild. In 1976, the Mexican Gray Wolf was declared an endangered species and has remained so ever since. Less than 200 Mexican Wolves now survive in zoos and museums due to successful captive breeding programs.
In March 1997, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin reintroducing Mexican Wolves into the Blue Range area of Arizona. The overall objective of this program is to reestablish 100 Mexican Wolves in the Apache and Gila National Forests of of Arizona and New Mexico by 2005
The government’s Mexican gray wolf reintroduction rulebook says that a rancher cannot shoot a wolf simply because she threatens his livestock. But if a single wolf kills three cows or sheep or other domestic animals in a single year, then federal officers may kill or capture the wolf.
High Country News reports angry ranchers say they have no intention of letting Mexican wolves again roam the landscape to prey on livestock, horses and pets, and maybe even their friends and family. They say environmentalists are using the wolf as a terrorist tactic to force ranchers off public lands they have controlled for decades through grazing leases.
According to the The High Country News a local rancher near Socorros, New Mexico baited a Mexican gray wolf from the Durango pack on the Adobe Ranch.
In its Dec. 24 issue, The High Country News published an article quoting Adobe Ranch employee Mike Miller as saying he “branded a cow less than a half-mile from the wolves’ den,” on June 21, 2007.
The odor of burnt flesh could conceivably attract a wolf to the cow, allowing it to be shot in the act of killing it.
High Country News contributing editor John Dougherty, stated that the Durango pack wolf already had two kills, and that a third confirmed kill would require federal wildlife managers to remove the wolf from the wild, or killed if caught in the act of predation.
Elizabeth Slown in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in Albuquerque said the matter is being taken seriously.
“It is a federal offense. You can’t purposely attract wolves in order to harm them,” she is quoted in Small Town News Services. “But in terms of legality, he is innocent until proven guilty.”
Slown quoted from the Fish and Wildlife Service’s final rule governing the re-introduction of the Mexican gray wolf.
“The rule is pretty clear. It says you cannot attract a wolf and then harass it, and any harassment must not cause bodily injury or death to the wolf,” she said. “Harassment permitted by this rule is to scare wolves away from the immediate area and is limited to approaching wolves and discharging firearms in proximity to, but not in the direction of wolves, throwing objects in the general direction of, but not at wolves, or making any loud noise in proximity to wolves.”
Slown said according to latest figures the loss of cattle to wolves is 2.3 percent “of the cattle loss experienced nationwide for all predator and non-predator purposes.”
Slown also noted that private citizens are given broad authority in certain circumstances.
And that is a problem according to environmentalist who say the authorities are more concerned with pacifying ranchers, who collectively lose a handful of cattle each year to wolves, than ensuring the successful reintroduction of one of the rarest mammals in North America.
The following is taken from the Albuquerque Journal.
Conservationists Want Probe Into Reports of Wolf Baiting
SILVER CITY — Conservation groups want the Interior secretary to order an investigation by the inspector general into allegations that a Mexican gray wolf was baited into killing a cow so the wolf in turn could be killed.
Representatives of 15 conservationist and environmental groups, in a letter dated Thursday to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, said an investigation should be launched into the possibility the wolf was killed through abuse of government-provided telemetry radio receivers and by ranchers taking advantage of a rule that requires removal of any wolf that kills three head of livestock within a year.
Kempthorne's office could not immediately comment until officials had seen the letter.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been looking into a December report in High Country News — an online, independent biweekly news magazine — that quoted an employee of Adobe-Slash Ranch in Catron County, Mike Miller, as saying, "We would sacrifice a calf to get a third strike.'' The article alleged ranch hands branded cattle near the wolf's den.
Miller denied the allegations in the article, written by contributing editor John Dougherty. High Country News editor Jonathan Thompson said the magazine stands by its story.
The conservation groups also asked for an investigation by law enforcement, with prosecution if warranted.
They also asked that radio telemetry receivers "that may be used to facilitate illegal baiting'' be taken away. Telemetry receivers let ranchers know where certain radio-collared wolves are.
"The high rate of wolf poaching and suspicious disappearances strongly suggests that the federal take of wolves, the telemetry receivers and other substantial steps taken by the (Fish and Wildlife) Service to conciliate the livestock industry have not resulted in reducing illegal take — they may have contributed to the opposite result,'' the letter said.
The letter also asked Kempthorne to order any trapped wolves that might have been baited to be released back into the wild.
In the letter to Kempthorne, the groups ask that investigators determine when Fish and Wildlife became aware of the possibility of baiting on the Adobe-Slash Ranch, whether wolves removed from the wild for livestock kills after the agency became aware of the allegations and whether the agency took steps to ensure telemetry equipment and codes were not available to those who might use them to illegally take wolves.
The groups, in separate letters Thursday to Southwest Regional Forester Corbin Newman and Bureau of Land Management New Mexico State Director Linda Rundell, requested the cancellation of grazing and outfitting permits for anyone found to have baited wolves.
After the allegations surfaced last month, representatives of environmental organizations in New Mexico and Arizona called for the Catron County ranch's grazing leases to be suspended.
The groups also want Kempthorne to review the three-strikes rule to see whether it encourages wolf baiting so wolves can be removed. Wolves that fall under the three-strikes rule are removed from the wild either by shooting or through capture and permanent captivity.