Rob Edward, WildEarth Guardians,(303) 573-4898 ext. 762, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 534-0360, email@example.com
Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, (520) 623-1878
Daniel R. Patterson, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, (520) 906-2159
SILVER CITY, N.M– The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has offered a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the illegal killing of Mexican gray wolves, adding to the $40,000 already pledged by wildlife and conservation groups. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed three additional wolf deaths due to illegal killing.
The announcement comes at a time when conservationists are redoubling efforts to end federal killing and capture of Mexican wolves to address ongoing population declines.
"Recent polling shows overwhelming support for Mexican gray wolves among Southwest voters," said Rob Edward, director of carnivore recovery for WildEarth Guardians. "We need to stop killing and removing wolves from the wild – whether legally or illegally – in order to let the population rebound."
Edward insists that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must consider the additive effect that federal "removals" have in the context of the illegal killing of wolves. He and other conservationists point to the fact that the imperiled Mexican wolf population has declined in three of the past four years, primarily due to such policies.
The latest government census of the wolf population, from January 2008, found 52 wolves and just three breeding pairs. Last year the federal government removed 20 wolves from the wild.
Greta Anderson, of the Western Watersheds Project in Tucson, added: "Although the public strongly supports the effort to restore the lobo to the Southwest, that support is not resonating with the government. They should be as committed to ending their own policies that harm these wolves as they are to finding those responsible for the illegal killings."
Anderson 's sentiments were echoed by Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Silver City, New Mexico. "This population could probably survive the poachers if the government wasn't trapping and shooting so many wolves. Federal predator control was justified on the grounds that it helps wolf recovery by reducing poaching. Instead, Mexican wolves are illegally killed at a higher rate than any other endangered species in the nation."
Robinson added: "The Fish and Wildlife Service should pledge that for every wolf illegally killed, two more will be released in its place. That would prove a substantial deterrent."
"It's un-American and unethical for poachers and the feds to continue to gun down Mexican wolves," said Daniel Patterson, ecologist and Southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and a hunter who formerly worked with the Bureau of Land Management. "No amount of money can bring back murdered lobos, but the reward can bring in the killers. Whoever knows about these killings can make $50,000 just by telling the truth and doing the right thing, which is great for them and the public interest."
Killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. It can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000 and/or not more than one year in jail; and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.
If anyone has information on these killings, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at any of the following numbers: (480) 967-7900 (Mesa, AZ) (928) 339-4232 (Alpine, AZ); or (505) 346-7828 (Albuquerque, NM).
The non-governmental organizations contributing $40,00 to the reward fund are Animal Defense League of Arizona, Animal Protection of New Mexico, Arizona Zoological Society (in memory of Mike Seidman), Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Grand Canyon Wildands Council, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, Sierra Club (Grand Canyon and Rincon chapters), Sky Islands Alliance, and Southwest Environmental Center.