Endangered Wolf Found Dead in New Mexico, Officials Investigating

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Mary Therit/Getty Images)

An endangered Mexican gray wolf was found dead in southwestern New Mexico, and environmentalists and conservationists are pushing the US Fish and Wildlife Service to do more to protect the species. Organizations in New Mexico and Arizona are critical of the agency’s management of the species. They say that illegal killings are hindering the species the most, according to a report from CBS News.

The Western Watersheds Project is one such organization. They say that killings and other human interactions are preventing the Mexican gray wolf population from thriving. However, US Fish and Wildlife says otherwise, claiming that there are actually fewer killings than there have been in previous years.

Additionally, the species recovery plan was revised earlier in October under a court order. One of the main concerns in the plan is how to address human-caused mortality. Apparently, officials cannot provide any details of the most recent death in New Mexico. It is still an open investigation. There is a $37,000 reward for information that could lead to a conviction in this case or in any case of dead Mexican gray wolves. As CBS News notes, though, it’s rare that these investigations are ever closed.

“When I first heard the news, I was heartbroken, but now I’m just angry,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director with Western Watersheds Project in a statement. “These are highly social animals with deep family ties and they work together for the whole pack’s survival. Anyone who kills a collared wolf is either an inept coyote hunter or a sick human being.” 

Conservationists Push Back Against US Fish and Wildlife After Most Recent Killing of Endangered Wolf

According to environmentalists, the wolf that was killed was considered extremely genetically valuable. It was born in captivity, then released in 2018 and “cross-fostered” into a wild wolf pack. This project was an effort to increase genetic diversity among Mexican gray wolves.

The wolf, along with its mate and pups, were captured and relocated to Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in 2021. Through the Turner Endangered Species Fund, the Ladder Ranch has worked with Fish and Wildlife to provide habitats for endangered species for years. This recent move prompted a legal battle with ranchers, though. They claimed they weren’t told there would be an attempt to establish a wolf pack there.

Attempts to bring Mexican gray wolves back to the southwest have been riddled with conflict. Ranchers complain that they constantly have to chase wolves off of their property to protect their cattle. Additionally, many claim that their livelihoods are at stake because of the endangered wolves.

The southwest region has a year-round cattle breeding season. Essentially, there really is no good time to reintroduce wolves that will make ranchers happy. The various projects attempting to reintroduce the wolves have been fraught with illegal killings and management issues.

“The good news is that wolf #1693 was able to successfully father two litters of pups, which is a testament to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s willingness to leave him in the wild in 2021 and 2022,” Anderson continued. “The bad news is that his ability to continue to contribute to the overall diversity of the wild population was tragically cut short.”