Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

For Immediate Release: May 7, 2002
Michael J. Robinson: (505) 534-0360
More Information: Mexican Wolf Web


The only established pack of wolves in New Mexico lost their entire litter of seven newborn pups to a government capture operation. The pups of the Pipestem Pack, with eyes closed and still nursing, were dug out of their den on state land near the Beaverhead area of the Gila National Forest on Sunday.

Their parents are still free but slated for capture. This pair, the only two survivors of the two packs released into the Gila in March 2000 and not recaptured since, began scavenging on livestock carcasses this spring and then transitioned into killing cattle.

This is confirmed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field reports available on-line at The March 15 2002 report for the Pipestem Pack includes the following: “Intensive efforts are being made to monitor their activity in an active livestock area. No depredations have been documented; however, they have been found feeding on livestock carcasses.” The April 1, 2002 report on the Pipestem Pack includes the following: “Intensive monitoring and hazing efforts have been in place ever since in attempts to prevent any depredations. However, on March 22, they killed a newborn calf on the Adobe Ranch. Another calf was confirmed killed by the pair on March 24.” Trapping efforts to remove the pair began then.

Before being released in the Gila, these two wolves had been part of the Mule and Pipestem Packs. The male had been the alpha male of the former pack, and was first captured in 1999 when the Mule Pack scavenged on the carcasses of a cow and horse, neither of which they had killed. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), intended to move them before they became habituated to cattle – but in the trapping process accidentally injured the alpha female’s leg and had to amputate it. When re-released the following spring, the once-cohesive pack split apart. The female survived several months despite her missing limb. The pups were repeatedly recaptured and re-released; one was killed last fall in the course of an aerial pursuit intended to recapture him again for having left the recovery area boundaries (although he had no interaction with livestock and was not creating any problems). The other was recaptured for the same reason and remains in captivity.

The female and mother of the pups recently removed from the wild was part of the original Pipestem Pack that suffered similar destructive management. Three of her siblings died in the course of a recapture operation in 1999. Her father was (again) removed from the wild in 2000, after the survivors of the pack were re-released in the Gila, when a single sheep was killed. (The new sheep flock had been introduced to the area by a longtime cattle ranching/outfitting family the same week wolves were first released into the Gila in March 2000.) Her mother died of natural causes last year, and other pack members have disappeared and have been recaptured and re-released multiple times.

The history of these animals is verifiable by documents released under FOIA; contact Robinson for copies. The Center has filed a new FOIA request pertaining to the (current) Pipestem Pack.

The known Mexican wolf population has been declining over the past year due to illegal killings, the aggressive removals of wolves from the wild and the failure of the Fish and Wildlife Service to institute reforms recommended by agency scientists in 1999 and reiterated and elaborated upon by an outside panel of eminent wolf biologists in June 2001. Last May, according to this last scientific report, 28 wolves were known to survive in the wild (Paquet, P. C., Vucetich, J., Phillips, M. L., and L. Vucetich. 2001. Mexican wolf recovery: three year program review and assessment. Prepared by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 86 pp). By the end of that year, the number was down to 21 wolves, according to the periodic email updates issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Currently, the number known to survive in the wild is only 19 wolves (including two pairs recently re-released into the Gila); with the planned capture of the adults of the Pipestem Pack that number will be down to 17 animals.

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a formal sixty day notice of intent to sue the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management over their failures to address the problem of livestock carcasses, thus leading to wolves scavenging on them and suffering removal from the wild.

According to Michael J. Robinson of the Center’s office in Pinos Altos, NM, “The Pipestem wolves are the victims of a control program masquerading as a recovery program. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to reform its rules according to the urgent recommendations of the scientific community will guarantee future such removals, killings and maimings of these wolves.”

The entire Mexican wolf population stems from five animals captured from the wild between 1977 and 1980, and two other animals already in captivity then. The species is considered the most imperiled mammal in North America.


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