Earlier this month the Albuquerque Journal reported that an employee of USDA Wildlife Services (WS) is being investigated for killing a Mexican wolf. The news came as the Mexican wolf recovery program reached its 15th anniversary. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which oversees the Mexican wolf program, refuses to comment.
The Mexican wolves released by FWS are wolves bred in zoos. David Parsons, the original director of the Mexican Wolf reintroduction program, decided to exclude wild wolves who were not genetically pure Mexican wolves, thus limiting the release candidates to animals who had spent several generations in zoos. Under the 1982 amendment to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, zoo wolves are considered experimental and nonessential, and are do not have the full protection of the ESA.
When he established the final rule governing Mexican wolf recovery, Parsons answered public concerns about the use of leghold traps for wolf management. Parsons declared: “The Service believes leg-hold traps are an essential tool for wolf management. Their use will be primarily for research and relocation purposes.” To this end, Parsons included “depredation specialists” from Wildlife Services in the Interagency Field Team he created to implement the Mexican wolf program. Long known as Predator and Rodent Control, later renamed Animal Damage Control, the USDA agency now known as Wildlife Services has always been dedicated to killing wolves, coyotes and other predators, along with such dangerous creatures as prairie dogs, on behalf of the livestock industry.
As FWS director at the time, Jamie Rappaport Clark approved Parsons’ plans to treat the Mexican wolf as an experimental species. She now serves as President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, which is is campaigning to restore federal protection for wolves. Their campaign may succeed in raising money, but it is almost certain to fail to protect wolves, thanks to members of Congress like Rancher Senator Jon Tester, (Democrat of Montana). Two years ago, under Senator Tester’s leadership Congress amended the Endangered Species Act to remove protection for the grey wolf in the Northern Rockies and upper Midwest. Tester’s action earned him a 100% rating from the Defenders of Wildlife Action fund, and an endorsement of his 2012 reelection campaign from the League of Conservation Voters. Removal of grey ESA protection for the grey wolf, Canis lupus, potentially affects subspecies including the Mexican wolf, Canis lupus baileyi. Prominent wolf biologist David Mech, whose work was used to support the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, has endorsed the political delisting of the grey wolf.
Since Mech includes mink trapping among the hobbies he lists on his web site, he clearly agrees with his colleague Parsons that leghold traps are an acceptable form of wildlife management. Wildlife biology has taught Clark, Mech and Parsons to view wolves and other wild beings as interesting experimental subjects, not as sentient beings. Environmental lobbyists who advocate “science-based” policies do not realize that science is not concerned with cruelty.