Bounty on wolf killers

  Government agents and environmental groups are offering $25,000 to anyone who turns in those responsible for killing Mexican gray wolves. The reward followed an announcement by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators that a wolf found dead near the Arizona-New Mexico border in early November had died of a gunshot wound. It was the fourth shooting since Fish and Wildlife reintroduced 11 Mexican wolves into the Apache National Forest last spring.


"I call it terrorism," says Phoenix wolf activist Bobbie Holaday. "There's a systematic effort by somebody to sabotage the (reintroduction) program," she says. "They're trying to terrify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wolf advocates into abandoning the program, and that's not going to happen."


Fish and Wildlife Regional Director Nancy Kaufman vowed to "hit this investigation hard." Her agency teamed with Defenders of Wildlife and local conservation groups to offer the reward.


Wolf advocates have criticized the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to prosecute a Tucson mail carrier who shot a wolf on a camping trip in April. Richard Humphrey claimed he shot the wolf because it was charging his wife. Lab reports showed the wolf was shot broadside.


"If they would have made an example out of him like they should have," says Holaday, "I don't think we would have seen all this wolf killing."


So far, the Mexican wolves have steered clear of livestock, feeding on wild game instead. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt helped move two female wolves into pens in November. Later this winter, they will join the three male wolves remaining in the wild.


Anyone with information about the wolf deaths can call Arizona Game and Fish Department at 800/352-0700 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 602/835-8289.


*Greg Hanscom


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