SILVER CITY, N.M. (KRQE) – Mexican gray wolves are a protected endangered species. So, why did the U.S. Forest Service authorize the killing of a wolf in New Mexico? According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife memo, officials killed a wolf (known to some as ‘Rusty’) because his pack was linked to 13 attacks on local livestock.
Rusty was part of a pack of six wolves – three pups, two adults, and a sub-adult – known as the Mangas Pack, living in western New Mexico. And officials reported that the pack has attacked livestock at least 13 times over the last 10 months, despite efforts to keep livestock away from the wolves.
The rancher in charge of the livestock moved pastures and paid a range rider to help protect the cattle and bulls that were legally grazing on public and private land. It wasn’t enough, apparently.
Officials also provided food for the wolf pack in order to try to keep them away from the livestock. They also applied “intense hazing” to keep the wolves away. Ultimately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the lethal removal of wolf AM1296, Rusty.
In response, environmental advocates, such as the Center for Biological Diversity and others, mourned the death of the wolf, who they say left behind a pregnant mate.
“This is a sad day for Mexican wolves and a devastating loss for the Mangas pack, which could be welcoming pups at any moment,” Maggie Howell, the executive director of Wolf Conservation Center, said in a press release. “Apart from this endangering the Mangas pack’s survival, science has shown that removing a wolf parent from the family can destabilize the pack and increase the likelihood of further conflicts.”
In the memo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they “do not anticipate that the removal of AM1296 [Rusty] will impact the ability of the pack to raise pups because there are numerous yearlings and adult members of the pack to assist in raising pups.” They also note that Rusty’s genes “are still represented in the wild through offspring or potentially a sibling or other closely related individuals in the population.”
Environmental advocates also criticized the U.S. Forest Service for killing wolves at the expense of cattle.
“Every single time a Mexican wolf is killed by the agency meant to protect and restore lobos, we need to remember: These are critically imperiled, native, ecosystem engineers who belong in the wilds of the American Southwest,” Chris Smith, the southwest wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians, said in a press release. “Cows are destructive, non-native animals that are only on the landscape to bring profits to a special interest.”
The U.S. Forest Service memo notes that the federal wolf recovery program is intended to work alongside farmers. “It is the Service’s intent to recover the Mexican wolf in a manner that reduces economic effects on the local livestock industry,” the memo notes.