Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

News Release: Nov. 22, 2006

Contact: Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, 505-534-0360 or 505-313-7017

Wolf to Be Shot Developed Taste for Beef
After Scavenging on Cow He Did Not Kill:
Conservationists Request Thanksgiving Pardon

PINOS ALTOS, N. M. Endangered Mexican gray wolf number 859, a male born in the wild in 2002, scavenged on an untended cow carcass prior to beginning to kill cattle, government records show. Wolf 859, a classic “lone wolf” made wary by his many encounters with leghold traps, most likely will not be trapped and will be shot from the air by the government’s predator control agency, USDA Wildlife Services.

The Feb. 3, 2005 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican wolf reintroduction program report from the field ( includes the following entry: “On January 14, WS investigated a dead cow that m859 was observed feeding on, along side a coyote. The cow was determined to have died calving about two weeks prior to m859 feeding on it, when m859 was not in the area.”

Prior to that incident, lone wolf 859 had been documented preying on elk. After the incident, he repeatedly returned to the area where he found the carcass, even after being trapped and released dozens of miles away.

“It appears lone wolf 859 learned to prey on livestock from at least one carcass he scavenged on,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. . “Because of his multiple experiences with leghold traps, which are often baited with other wolves’ scents, he has eschewed the company of other wolves, has not settled into a home range, and will be very hard to trap.”

“We respectfully request the Fish and Wildlife Service grant a Thanksgiving pardon to this wolf who stayed away from cattle until he was tempted by a cow he did not kill, said Robinson.”

The sole wild Mexican wolf population in the wild, stemming from the 1998 reintroduction to the Apache National Forest in Arizona and the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, has declined by 20% per year during 2004 and 2005, according to government figures based on the annual end-of-year census. The population was projected to reach 102 animals by Dec. 31 of this year, but most likely will be likely less than half that number (see attached graph).

The reason for the decline is the same as the reason for the original loss of the Mexican wolf from the wild: federal predator control.

The Mexican Wolf Three-Year Review, released in June 2001, stated that for the reintroduction program to succeed regulations would be needed to require ranchers using the public lands to take responsibility for removing or rendering inedible (as by lime, for example) the carcasses of cattle and horses that die of non-wolf causes and that habituate wolves to regarding livestock as a food source. The review was conducted by independent, non-governmental biologists led by the renowned Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D. of the University of Calgary.

This spring, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service pledged in its Five-Year Review (conducted by government officials) not to promulgate such regulations.

The northern gray wolf reintroduction program in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho includes regulations providing wolves some protection from the consequences of scavenging on livestock carcasses of animals they did not kill. That program, begun just three years prior to the Mexican wolf program, has resulted in the wolf population growing to more than a thousand animals in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

“If the Mexican wolf was provided the same protection from livestock carcasses as wolves in the northern Rockies receive, conflicts with ranchers could be prevented,” said Robinson.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is mismanaging the Mexican wolf toward extinction.”

The Mexican wolf, called the “desert wolf” by pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold, once roamed the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico through the Sky Islands border region of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. It was exterminated in the United States, along with other gray wolf subspecies, by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey’s poisons and traps by the early 1930s.

In 1950, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, successor agency to the Biological Survey, began sending American salaried hunters and U.S.-government-produced poisons to Mexico to duplicate the systematic extermination program south of the border.

On Dec. 28, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law to recover imperiled animals and plants and the ecosystems on which they depend. This led to live trapping of the last Mexican wolves in Mexico for an emergency captive breeding program to stave off extinction. Between 1977 and 1980, five wolves were captured alive, four of them male and only one female. No wolves have been confirmed alive in Mexico since 1980.

In 1986, the Fish and Wildlife Service identified the Mexican wolf as the “most critically endangered mammal in North America.” Nevertheless, the agency opposed reintroduction and only began doing so as a result of a lawsuit filed by conservation groups.

Not only does the reintroduction program fail to provide the Mexican wolf with any protection from livestock carcasses, it also, unlike any other endangered species program run by the Fish and Wildlife Service, burdened the Mexican wolf with the requirement to stay within arbitrary political boundaries. The Gila and Apache National Forests are slightly north of the desert wolf’s original range (within the range of an exterminated gray wolf subspecies). Thus, the Mexican wolf is forbidden by federal regulation from occupying any portion of its historic range.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national non-profit conservation organization with more than 25,000 members dedicated to protecting endangered species and their habitat.


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