Anubis, a fearless Mexican gray wolf whose travels from eastern New Mexico to northern Arizona made him famous last year, was shot on Sunday west of Flagstaff. We didn’t know who pulled the trigger.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal manager of endangered and threatened species, revealed news of the murder during a conversation with Greta Anderson, deputy director of the Western Watersheds Project, who was tracking the whereabouts of the wolf.
While details of the murder are limited due to the ongoing investigation, a USFWS official confirmed to The Arizona Republic on Friday that the wolf, also known as m2520 by state and federal officials in the wildlife, had been illegally shot.
“The US Fish and Wildlife Service can confirm that the 2520 male Mexican wolf was killed on the first weekend in January,” read an emailed statement. “The incident is currently under investigation and therefore no further information will be released at this time.”
Conservation groups, including the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project and the Western Watersheds Projects, issued a press release on Friday lamenting the murder. They also clarified some details, revealing that the wolf was shot in the Kaibab National Forest, west of Flagstaff.
âI think there is always a risk in worrying about a wild animal. We just have to keep doing it, âsaid Emily Renn, executive director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. âIt takes a community of people who live here, a community of people who care about wildlife to continue to stand up for the safety of wolves wherever they are. It’s a tragedy that someone with a gun can take it away. “
Renn and other advocates hoped the wolf’s journey to northern Arizona would highlight habitat suitability north of Interstate 40. The highway has become a lightning rod in the battle between the groups. conservationists, who want recovery efforts extended north, and wildlife officials, who have worked to restrict recovery south of the highway.
The threatened species:Wildlife officials drew a line at I-40 for gray wolves in Mexico
âPeople were involved in this problem and wanted to see him come out of it. And I think knowing that he was killed, and in such a crazy way, it hurts,â Anderson said. “And it hurts every time one of these animals is killed. There is no good reason. Losing a loved one … it’s hard.”
To make the incident more glaring, defenders said, Anubis was wearing a hot pink tracking collar when he was shot, meaning the shooter knew the wolf was a valuable animal for science. The murder also highlights some of the flaws in the management of Mexican wolves, rights groups say.
âArizona Game and Fish could have done a lot more to raise awareness to protect the public, as he is an endangered wolf once he crosses north of I-40,â said Renn. âAnd they have access to who has hunting tags. And in each unit, they had much more reliable access to his up-to-date locations than we do. So they knew where he was and could have done a lot more to prevent his. illegal murder. “
Some areas could have been closed, depending on how close to Anubis, or the department could have contacted hunters in areas where the wolf was present, said Renn, who believes the agency recovered the wolf’s body.
A special rule governing the management of gray wolves in Mexico, called Rule 10 (j), is currently under review by the USFWS. In 2018, a court order sent the rule back to the department to address several shortcomings that conservation groups say are jeopardizing recovery.
Some of these concerns include lack of genetic diversity, a rigid population cap, and limited connectivity. A separate lawsuit, filed in 2018, challenged the larger Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. Last October, a judge ordered the federal agency to deal with several issues on the matter as well.
One of the most salient issues in this lawsuit concerns the illegal killing of Mexican wolves. These murders are the leading cause of death, with 105 wolves killed between 1998 and 2019, according to Earth Justice. As a result, the judge ordered the USFWS to add specific requirements to combat poaching.
Wolf recovery:New rules would lift limits on number of species, but campaigners say changes are not enough
For now, the agency has not released new details on the specific steps he has taken to stop poaching, but it might be more obvious given Anubis’ plight, Anderson said. The agency has until next spring to revise the rules of the recovery plan.
Last summer, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, with the help of federal land managers, captured Anubis just north of Flagstaff and released him in the Mexican Gray Wolf Salvage Area, closer to the White Mountains. This was done for several reasons, said Jim DeVos, Arizona Game and Fish manager on Mexican gray wolf recovery.
The main one among these was to make sure that the wolf would be closer to others of its kind and to provide security. With the murder of Anubis, those concerns materialized.
âSometimes wolves are intentionally shot. And we know there are times when wolves are accidentally shot by people who think it’s a coyote,â DeVos said at the time. “The probability of disappearance of 2520 increases with the number of sightings.”
The loss of the wolf could be particularly detrimental to the future recovery of Mexican gray wolves given their genetic constraints. The population is dangerously inbred and faces a dire future without further intervention. In total, there are 186 Mexican gray wolves left in the wild, according to the USFWS.
Since the gray wolves of Mexico are classified as an endangered species, it is illegal to kill them in the wild. Killing one can result in fines of up to $ 50,000 and / or up to one year in prison, as well as a potential civil penalty of up to $ 25,000, according to the press release issued by the conservation groups.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and conservation groups are offering a reward totaling nearly $ 50,000 for information leading to the offender’s arrest. Tips can be dropped off at 1-844-397-8477 or by email at [email protected]
âEvery loss of a wolf when there are so few wolves is a problem,â Anderson said. “And the loss of Anubis to illegal poaching is just a disgrace on so many other levels as well.”
Lindsey Botts is an environmental reporter for The Arizona Republic and azcentral. Follow her reports on Twitter at @lkbotts and Lkbotts on Instagram. Tell him stories at [email protected]
Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow The Republic’s environmental reporting team on environment.azcentral.com and @azcenvironment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.