Catron County Standoff Over Habituated Wolf Ends With Lethal Removal
— by Laurie Schneberger
On July 6, much to the relief of ranchers in the region, Mexican wolf AF 924 was lethally removed. Despite wolf team inability to make a swift decision in issuing the removal order that lasted for a week past the third and fourth confirmed livestock kills, the order was carried out.
During the three weeks prior to the removal, Catron County leadership was threatened with arrest by federal agents if they removed the wolf non-lethally. Despite the fed´s threats, the county wolf interaction investigator had placed a hava-heart trap in the area in order to remove AF 924 and turn her over to the interagency wolf management team.
As soon as the third strike, a cow and a calf both confirmed, wolf depredations occurred, the County told the Wolf Interaction Investigator to stand down and remove his traps.
While it is unfortunate that the wolf was shot, the outcome was necessary to end the wolf’s aggressive behavior and her habitual localizing at a neighborhood home. Unfortunately for the people in the area as well as the wolf pack, FWS had not felt the wolf’s behavior was bad enough to warrant non-lethal removal for her human fixation.
The majority, but not all of the team did feel it was necessary to shoot her for livestock depredation. The minority members on the team appear to have attempted to stop the removal but only succeeded in forcing a strike on each separate wolf rather than both strikes on both wolves. SOP 13 does not allow this type of gerrymandering of policy however, it has become commonplace in the program when dealing with habituated problem wolves or chronic livestock killers. Especially when agency personnel do not want to remove the wolf or wolves in question.
The agency also claims there are four pups in the Durango litter, however until the death of the female no attempt was made to feed these pups although the only consistent food source in the area have been calves belonging to the Adobe Ranch.
Now the agency is claiming that they will help the male to supplemental feed the pups.
Evidence has not yet shown there are pups and to date no pups have been confirmed. It is believed that the claim of pups is being used to generate sympathy for the program and that Durango Female 924 lost her first litter of pups in the wilderness prior to moving to the Garcia camp area.
Witnesses state that there appeared to be no evidence of milk production on the female’s body. Nor has she spent any significant time in a den as other known wolves in the same region are doing. Instead she made wide circles in the area of the Slash and Adobe Ranches looking for food with her mate. She would also take her mate and spend nights at the Miller’s home on the ranch. This behavior is not indicative of the existence of pups in the pack.