Silver City, N.M.-(ENEWSPF)- Fifteen thousand people from around the country are calling on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to investigate the apparent killing of a Mexican gray wolf by a Wildlife Services employee and the subsequent cover-up of the incident. Although the killing happened months ago in New Mexico, the public didn’t learn about it until it was reported by the Albuquerque Journal on April 4th. Wildlife Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has refused to publicly discuss the killing.
“Wildlife Services is an agency out of control,” said Michael Robinson, wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is leading the call for the investigation into the wolf shooting. “The killing of a rare Mexican wolf and the cover-up of the incident are each travesties that demand investigation and vigorous prosecution.”
Wildlife Services is a secretive federal agency that kills millions of animals every year, largely on behalf of the livestock industry, with little to no public accountability. Members of Congress have recently called for an investigation into the agency’s practices after media stories revealed the torture of coyotes, the deaths of family pets and golden eagles and other troubling practices.
Government agencies have closed ranks and are refusing to talk about what happened in the latest incident. What has emerged is that on Jan. 19 a Wildlife Services employee shot and killed an apparent wolf, possibly a pup, while investigating the deaths of a cow and calf. (He determined that the cow had died of non-predatory causes and the calf was killed by a wolf.) The shooting was near the home range of the San Mateo wolf pack, which added four pups to its family last year.
Mexican gray wolves are protected as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is in charge of investigating Endangered Species Act violations, has denied that any Mexican wolves were killed in January and refused to say anything more.
“The public has a right to know when and under what circumstances a public employee kills a member of an endangered species,” said Robinson. “Hiding this information from the public raises troubling questions about whether this is the first time a government wolf-killing has gone unreported.”
If confirmed, this will be the 13th Mexican gray wolf shot by federal agents. In addition, 18 wolves have died inadvertently as a consequence of live-capture and dozens more have been caught and never released into the wild. The 15-year-old wolf reintroduction program has also been hampered by a failure of the Fish and Wildlife Service to release more wolves and to allow them to roam freely. The agency hadn’t released a single wolf into the wild from captive-breeding facilities in more than four years before finally letting one out earlier this year — only to recapture him three weeks later.
The result is a shortfall in the numbers of wolves and breeding pairs. When wolf reintroduction began in 1998 wildlife officials predicted that there would be more than 100 in the wild, including 18 breeding pairs, by 2006. Instead, today there are 75 wolves and just three breeding pairs.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.