Conservationists Request Investigations of Reported Mexican Wolf Baiting

Conservation groups have taken action after the story about ranch hands luring wolves in so they will kill calves, so the wolves will then killed by the government “to protect the livestock.”

For Immediate Release, January 3, 2008

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Conservationists Request Investigations of Reported Wolf Baiting

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Fifteen conservation groups wrote Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today requesting an independent inspector general investigation into a reported baiting of endangered Mexican gray wolves. The baiting scheme, in which vulnerable cattle were allegedly left near a wolf den, resulted in a rare wolf being shot by the federal government.

The letter to Kempthorne states in part: “The possibility that illegal take was perpetrated through abuse of government-provided telemetry radio receivers and through taking advantage of SOP 13, the rigid predator-control protocol applied to Mexican wolves, merits thorough investigation.”

Conservationists are also requesting a law enforcement investigation, retrieval of radio telemetry receivers that may be used to facilitate illegal baiting, and release back into the wild of trapped wolves that may also have been baited on the same ranch. In addition, in separate letters to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, the concerned groups request the cancelation of grazing permits.

According to the December 24, 2007 High Country News article that broke the wolf-baiting story, ranch employee Mike Miller “branded cattle less than a half-mile from the wolves’ den, the enticing aroma of seared flesh surely reaching the pack’s super-sensitive nostrils. Miller was, in essence, offering up a cow as a sacrifice.” In fact, the article quotes Miller as saying: “We would sacrifice a calf to get a third strike” — referring to depredations in the so-called “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” rule governing the Mexican wolves, formally known as SOP 13. Miller is quoted in a subsequent Albuquerque Journal article as denying that he made such an admission.

The conservationists’ letters specifically seek the following actions:

  • A law enforcement investigation of the incident described in the magazine High Country News, along with prosecution if merited.
  • An independent inspector general investigation of whether wolves were removed from the same ranch subsequent to the Fish and Wildlife Service learning about the alleged baiting, the granting of government telemetry receivers to the livestock industry and/or rogue county governments, and related questions.
  • Cancellation of grazing and outfitting permits held by any person found to have baited wolves. (The foreign-owned ranch where the incident is alleged to have taken place holds multiple Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state grazing permits.)

Michael J. Robinson
Center for Biological Diversity

P.O. Box 53166
Pinos Altos, NM 88053
(575) 534-0360

Here is the letter to the Secretary of Interior (Dirk Kempthorne)


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Update: Story in the ABQ Journal-News. Conservationists Want Probe Into Reports of Wolf Baiting






  1. Brian Ertz Avatar

    in my opinion –
    this is such a disgraceful example of the livestock pathology … my god ~ they’re giving these people telemetry radio receivers.

    this is the culture livestock apologists seek to preserve.

    what kind of sick management regime would require a formal request for investigation given the disclosures made public via HCN ? an investigation ought have been forthcoming immediately after the story was published.

  2. vicki Avatar

    It is unfortunate that a rquest for an investigation had to be initiated. It should have been done by officials as soon as this information became available. It remains to be seen if any actual action will take place. I am quite sure that the rancher in question will deny his part, and I am sure the evidence has been disposed of very well.
    This may come down to the word of the autheor of the HCN article and that of the rancher. Since the ranchers name was already made public in the article, I hope that there is no confidential source conflict.

  3. timz Avatar

    I’m taking bets Kempthorne does little or nothing.

  4. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    This may be one of the reasons that various officials don’t fine individuals for illegal acts in nat’l parks, forest land, etc,. Once a situation is identified there is no follow thru with the process. It is rendered pointless. However that is no excuse for failing to do ones job. When the average citizen feels that writing letters and the like, are for naught, i would say it is a safe bet there are folks working under Kempthorn/DOI that feel the same way; disillusioned with the system and weary because things are just not changing. I am guessing that if their is no one supporting/’backing up’, the folks out in the field must feel helpless in performing their duties, but are still hoping for this to change. {Yes, i know there are bad folks too, but i am not refering to those.} Park rangers for example; some are doing that work because they love nature, care about the environment, etc.
    If an arrest is made sometimes the chain of command doesn’t do there job in following thru. I know i would be very angry. Basically a slap in the face as it was pointless to arrest some guy because he has ‘friends in high places’. For those of you aware of prevalent attitudes from previous posts and other sources regarding that area in NM, it can be dangerous for any type of law enforcement officers and they need outside support.
    Timz’s post says a lot.
    As i said before; i am not making excuses for people not doing their jobs, i just wanted to point out this one particular scenario. No follow thru for enforcing the law. I hope that this case with the mexican wolves is handled properly and sets an example that illegal activity is not going to be overlooked.
    There are documents from Bush that spell out what park employees can and cannot say if they want to keep their jobs. If i remember correctly links can be found at PEER’s website. That info has also been verified in conversations i have had with park personel, in case anyone was wondering.
    Everyone here probably knows this, but i just needed to rant a little bit.

  5. skyrim Avatar

    I didn’t know it, but at this stage of the game, I’m not suprised.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The groups also wrote letters to the Forest Service and BLM demanding action be taken on the grazing permits, such as cancellation after an investigation.

  7. Jim Avatar

    timz – if kempthorne makes a conscious decision to do nothing, would you consider that to be doing something or nothing? If consciously deciding to do nothing is considered doing something I’ll take your bet because I’m willing to bet that he will take more time to decide to do nothing than he will actually doing something.

  8. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    From the time the dickster was mayor of Boise to now (and tomorrow) expect nothing but the party line and go away feeling as if you were just fed a heaping tablespoon of cold bacon grease.

  9. mikarooni Avatar

    It was interesting to hear that, at least to the best of my understanding, the FS assigned Larry Cosper to investigate this alleged “wolf baiting” question. I’m not sure; but, I believe that it might be appropriate to look at the background of the Cosper family and do a quick assessment of whether there might be some entanglements there that might suggest someone else might be a wise choice for this investigation, perhaps someone who is not from the area, whose family is not from the area, and who does not have so many family ties with the local “custom and culture” in that area.

  10. JB Avatar

    I sort of hope Kempthorne does nothing. A story like this already has enviros mad as hell; if DK sits on his hands it will only serve to draw attention to the plight of the Mexican wolves and rally more people to the cause.

  11. timz Avatar

    At best I would expect the investigation to go something like this. Agent says, “we spoke to the accused and he says the story is false. Without any other evidence we cannot move forward with an investigation.”

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wasn’t there kind of an organized campaign about this particular wolf with a lot of people saying, as if one cue, “it has 2 strikes, and it will strike again?” Then it did kill the calf.

    Maybe I have this confused with another incident?

  13. Maska Avatar

    No, Ralph. You have not confused this with another incident. The animal in question, Durango AF924, was declared a “dangerous wolf” by the Catron County Commission, persuant to their anti-wolf ordinance (which is in blatant violation of federal and state law). There was a constant hue and cry in the press and on anti-wolf websites about how she was a killer, would kill again, etc. They posted signs warning of a “dangerous wolf” in the area. The whole thing was highly orchestrated.

    Then, suprise, surprise. She did depredate again. The governor issued a stay of execution, but the young woman from NMDGF arrived too late to stop the killing. She claimed that a Wildlife Services agent pointed a rifle at her in the aftermath of the killing. He, his two colleagues, and ranch employee Miller denied it. The “investigation” of that incident was handed over to the Catron County sheriff’s department. The result was predictable.

    The entire situation is desperately in need of a thorough investigation by outside investigators (DOI IG, USDA IG, and/or a Congressional subcommittee). This is only the tip of the iceberg.

  14. Maska Avatar

    To put things into a little perspective, it’s interesting to note that there were 19 Mexican wolves shot or removed from the wild in the recovery area for livestock depredations in 2007. Of those 19, 17 removals (89%) occurred due to depredations on just two adjoining New Mexico public lands grazing allotments leased by the same Sr. Eloy Vallina, a Mexican businessman, banker, and land developer.

    Three packs (Saddle, Aspen, and Durango) were destroyed as a result of conflicts with cattle on these two ranches: Adobe and Slash. (To be clear, a “ranch,” in public lands parlance refers to a relatively small base property of a few dozen to a few hundred acres, along with associated leased public lands of many thousands of acres. These wolves were, for the most part, on our public lands when they killed livestock.)

    In the case of Durango, the alpha female was shot in July, as noted above, while the alpha male, one pup, and an adult female that had begun traveling with the alpha male, all disappeared in November, after remaining localized in the near vicinity of the Adobe ranch following the “lethal control” of the alpha female.

    Are these problem wolves, or are they problem allotments?

  15. vicki Avatar

    I think that all public land leased for ranching should have a clause that specifically states “graze your cattle at your own risk.” It should be put in bold print, any livestock killed by legally protected animals are should be considered a premeditated risk. No compensation, or action against the protected animals will be taken. Violation of this policy will result in the immediate termination of the lease!
    I also think it’s time we take back our country and it’s resources. Let Mexican businessmen graze their cows in Mexico.
    Last time I checked cows were far from scarce!

  16. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you Maska. I did a web search on this Mexican banker [Eloy S. Vallina] owner of the Adobe Slash Ranch in Catron County.

    It’s for sure he can afford to lose a cow or two, but does he want his “hands” freelancing and lose public grazing permits to his large ranch?

    It would be interesting if see if he has influence with the Bush DOI.

  17. mikarooni Avatar

    Gosh, Ralph, you’re a wonderful guy with a great heart; but, for a political scientist, your naivete is touching. You want to “see if he has influence with the Bush DOI?” I just love that comment. Have you ever heard of a rich rightwing Mexican banker from a rich rightwing family who did not have “influence with the Bush DOI?”

  18. mikarooni Avatar

    Maybe you could get Larry Cosper to reassure you that the investigation and response will be free from political interference… I’m sorry and I am not critcizing; but, I can’t stop laughing. Just check out Cosper’s background if you think there will be “justice done.”

  19. vicki Avatar

    I’m sure he could afford it before the DOW agreed to reimbursement. I read that DOW agreed to pay for losses due to Mexican Wolves also. I sure hope they aren’t paying for the cow and calf used to bait the wolf in this situation.

  20. catbestland Avatar

    I spoke with Cosper on the day the HCN article was posted here. He gave me the distinct impression that he put more faith in the second article in which Miller denies ever having made the statement that he had sacrificed the cow. He also said that the grazing rights could be revoked ONLY if it could be proven that a crime had been committed, leading me to believe that he was not interested in proving that crime. I don’t trust him either.

  21. robert Avatar

    Hello out there. Doesn’t anyone out there have any emfo on the wolf sighting in Colorado. It happened last week, Wednesday I believe. I saw it on the Colorado TV evening news while I was passing through from my trip to Yellowstone.

  22. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    I just now spoke with Larry Cosper, Gila District Ranger (505-894-6677), and he confirmed that, yes, a Regional Forester as well as the Forest Supervisor and District Ranger all have the authority, to cancel, WITHOUT CAUSE, any grazing allotment on his/her forest. He said that in order for him to cancel the Adobe/Slash permit he would have to have just cause, because he felt that the issue would go to court.

    Larry Cosper is the 3rd Forest Service employee to state to me that the three managers mentioned above have the authority to cancel grazing allotments, with or without cause. The 2nd was Lucia Turner – Deputy Forester on the Gila, and the 1st was Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, U.S. Forest Service.

    I called the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional office (505-248-6282) and Liz Sloan, External Affairs Office, said she wasn’t certain of the status of the investigation but that LE – law enforcement – has decided to undertake a full investigation. I asked her if the High Country reporter used a tape recorder for the inverview and she wasn’t certain but was trying to make this determination; said she and the reporter had been playing “phone tag” for a while.

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own

  23. catbestland Avatar

    Everyone reading this blog should give all of these guys a call and let them know that you are very interested in this matter, and will keep an eye on it as the case develops. Let them know where you are from so that they will realize that people from all over the country are watching this and are concerned about how our wolves, which were introduced at great expense to taxpayers are being destroyed to promote one interest, the cattle industry.

  24. catbestland Avatar

    Check this thread out.

  25. robert Avatar

    Thanks catsbestland. I’m glad to hear that it was real and not just speculation. I hope something good comes out of it. I understand as long as it’s on national park that it will be protected. Are there others with it, or was it just the one? Keep me posted, thanks.

  26. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    I spoke to a member of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Crew this morning. They have completed their 2007 year end count. They didn’t give me any estimated population numbers for year end 2007 (those should be coming out soon) but they sounded guardedly optimistic. Apparently numerous new pairs were seen including uncollared animals. Breeding season is coming up so there is potential for decent reproduction in 2008.

  27. robert Avatar

    Castleband. How are you? Hey can you give me an up-date on the Colorado wolf sighting a while back. Was it a wolf or hi-breed? Keep in touch. Robert

  28. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Over at the Dermarcated Landscapes blog there´s the fresh info that….. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has admitted that it knew about the wolf-baiting incident in Catron County before it “removed” the “problem” wolves from the wild.

  29. Maska Avatar

    To clarify: The USFWS apparently knew about the allegations of baiting of Durango F924 only after Wildlife Services shot her. However, they were aware of the allegations before they removed the Aspen pack (an alpha male, alpha female, female yearling, and three pups, all of especially high genetic value, by the way) for killing cows belonging to the very same public lands livestock operation where the alleged baiting took place.

    The rigid application of the infamous SOP 13.0 (Kill three cows in 365 days and you’re removed, either lethally, like AF924, or non-lethally, like the Aspen pack.) is seriously damaging the chances for success of the current reintroduction, as well as the long term chances for lobo recovery. This SOP, as noted elsewhere, is not required by the 10(j) rule that governs the program. It was promulgated by the six-agency Adaptive Management Oversight Committee (AMOC) and could be rescinded by them today, had they the political will to do so.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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