The Wildlife Services employee who shot a Mexican gray wolf in January is being investigated for the incident, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services department have confirmed.
The shooter told his bosses it was a case of mistaken identity, the department told the Albuquerque Journal. The employee, a specialist, was looking into a livestock attack in which a wolf was suspected, said Carol Bannerman, a USFW spokesperson in Maryland, to the Albuquerque Journal.
“While on-site he lethally removed a canine, which was then identified as possibly a Mexican wolf,” she told the newspaper. The killing occurred in January.
Fish and Wildlife had only recently, on March 29, commemorated the 15th anniversary of the release of 11 wolves into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in Arizona. They were descended from the seven last known Mexican gray wolves captured and re-bred just before the species went extinct from being hunted and poisoned, the Associated Press said. Restoring the wolves has been a contentious project, with the wolves subject to poaching, suspected of livestock attacks and constantly being considered for exclusion from the endangered species list.
Today, the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife pointed out in the High Country News, 75 wild Mexican gray wolves roam Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico.
Fish and Wildlife did not reveal much about the investigation other than that it was happening, the AP reported.