Law enforcement agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have wrapped up their investigation of the Aug. 6 illegal killing of an endangered Mexican gray wolf and presented the results to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Nick Chavez, Albuquerque-based special agent in charge of the FWS Southwest Region law enforcement office, said Wednesday that federal agents have a suspect in the killing of the wolf.
The animal's corpse was recovered Aug. 15 on private land in the Gila Hot Springs area near the Gila Cliff Dwellings after a mortality signal was emitted Aug. 6 from its radio collar, according to a federal search warrant obtained this week by the Journal.
The wolf, the alpha male of the Laredo Pack, was one of seven lobos killed under suspicious circumstances in 2008 and under investigation by Fish and Wildlife.
If charges are filed, the case would be the first brought against someone in New Mexico for the illegal killing of a wolf — a violation of the Endangered Species Act punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $50,000 or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.
Only one poaching case has been successfully prosecuted in the 11-year history of the wolf reintroduction project. A 21-year-old Arizona man was sentenced in 2000 to four months in prison in that case.
About 31 wolves have been illegally killed since lobos were first released in southeast Arizona in early 1998.
Chavez declined to name the suspect, state how the wolf was killed, or detail where on the ranch the wolf was located. Norm Cairns, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque, declined to comment on the case.
According to the search warrant, the wolf, designated AM 1008, and its mate were released in the McKenna Park area of the Gila Wilderness on June 24. By early July, the pair had traveled about 15 miles south to the Gila Hot Springs area, and wildlife technicians were dispatched to monitor the wolves and haze them away from residential areas.