Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 8, 2019

Contact: Robin Silver, (602) 799-3275,

Necropsy Reveals New Mexico Rancher's Brutal Beating of Endangered Wolf

Trapped Animal Suffered Shattered Jaw, Torn Stomach

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— An endangered Mexican wolf trapped by a New Mexico rancher was brutally beaten, according to records obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The necropsy report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows the wolf’s lower jaw was fractured and detached. His stomach was ruptured and puncture wounds lined his left front paw. The young male wolf weighed just 48.5 pounds.

“It’s disgusting that anyone would mutilate a defenseless, trapped animal, especially an endangered one,” said Robin Silver, Center cofounder and board member. “Striking this young wolf with a shovel violently enough to shatter and rip off his lower jaw is beyond cruel. Thiessen should never again be allowed to graze his livestock on public lands.” 

The Fish and Wildlife Service investigation report accompanying the necropsy report states that the endangered wolf, found in February 2015 in Catron County, N.M., wore a radio collar with a magnet taped to it. The investigating agent noted it “was apparent that someone wanted to block the collar from sending signals by attaching a piece of magnet to the electronics of the collar.”

Because of this wolf’s death, the U.S. Forest Service revoked rancher Craig Thiessen’s cattle grazing permit for violating his permit’s requirement to comply with federal laws protecting wildlife.

In a January declaration accompanying the rancher’s appeal of the permit revocation, Thiessen wrote that “[o]n May 24, 2018, I entered into a plea agreement with the United States wherein I pleaded guilty to having ‘knowingly took a Mexican gray wolf’ that had inadvertently been caught in a trap I set.’” 

Thiessen’s declaration also states: “When I discovered the wolf in the trap, I was afraid for my life. In the heat of the moment, I struck the wolf with a shovel in an attempt to stun the animal in what I believed was self-defense. With the wolf subdued, I then released it from the trap.”

In some other instances when Mexican wolves stepped into leghold traps set for other animals, the trappers either complied with the law and contacted authorities to release the wolves or, in at least one instance, simply released the wolf from the trap and then called authorities.

The Fish and Wildlife Service reported that in 2017 just 114 Mexican wolves survived in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona. In 2018, 21 wolves were found dead. The agency has not yet released the 2018 results of its annual wolf population count.

The Service reintroduced Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest in 1998. They remain some of the most imperiled mammals in North America and are among the world’s most endangered wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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