For Immediate Release, March 4, 2008
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
Bush Administration Admits Wolves Removed
After Alleged Baiting Incident Revealed
SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that it ordered the removal from the wild of the Aspen Pack of Mexican gray wolves late last year due to their predation on cattle owned by the Adobe/Slash Ranch, just nine days after learning that an employee of the same ranch may have illegally baited another pack of wolves by deliberately branding a pregnant cow on the verge of giving birth within half a mile of the wolves’ den. (The depredation that followed that alleged baiting incident, which was reported in a December 2007 High Country News article, resulted in the government shooting one of the wolves and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson calling for a cessation to wolf removals.)
Responding to a January 3, 2008 letter addressed to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne from 16 conservation and animal welfare organizations, the Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed in a February 22 letter received yesterday that the agency first learned of the alleged baiting of the Durango Pack on October 17, 2007 and nine days later, October 26, ordered the removal of the Aspen Pack – despite the possibility that if the Durango Pack had been baited to cause them to prey on cattle, so might the Aspen Pack.
The High Country News article quoted Adobe/Slash ranch employee Mike Miller stating, “We would sacrifice a calf to get a third strike.” (So-called “strikes” are assessed against wolves under the predator control protocol, SOP 13, in a formula leading to government wolf trapping and shooting.) Miller was subsequently quoted in the Albuquerque Journal contesting this admission, although High Country News has stood by its story.
In the response letter, the Fish and Wildlife Service refused to accede to the conservationists’ request to re-release all surviving members of packs that depredated on Adobe/Slash cattle subsequent to the agency learning that baiting may have occurred.
“Today’s revelation that the Aspen Pack were removed despite Fish and Wildlife Service being aware of the alleged deliberate baiting of wolves on the same ranch paints a tawdry picture of the Bush administration in bed with the endangered wolves’ worst enemies,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.
In today’s letter, the Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that a law-enforcement investigation of the alleged baiting incident is still ongoing, and also stated that the groups’ requests for an independent Inspector General investigation of its own culpability was “under advisement.”