Wolf Killer Should Be Charged with Animal Cruelty

Co-authored by Jessica Johnson, chief legislative officer, Animal Protection of New Mexico; and Greta Anderson, deputy director, Western Watersheds Project

Last year, the American public learned about the brutal killing of an endangered Mexican gray wolf—identified as Mexican wolf number #1385 of the Willow Springs pack, and named “Mia Tuk” by an Albuquerque schoolchild—by a grazing permittee on the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. 

The news reported that Mr. Craig Thiessen pleaded guilty in federal court in May 2018, acknowledging that in 2015 he intentionally captured the young male wolf in a trap and hit the animal with a shovel, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. 

What we have since learned through documents released under the Freedom of Information Act is that “Mia Tuk” wasn’t just hit with a shovel. Medical examinations of his body showed he was bludgeoned so hard as to shatter his lower jaw and dislocate his teeth. This evidence may contradict Mr. Thiessen’s claim that he only acted to briefly stun it in order to safely release it from the trap. In fact, it could be proof of severe injury and malice that violates New Mexico’s animal cruelty statute. 

“Mia Tuk” deserves the protection of the state animal cruelty law. The animal cruelty statute, Section 30-18-1, applies to all animals except insects or reptiles. “Extreme cruelty to animals” is defined as “intentionally or maliciously torturing, mutilating, injuring or poisoning an animal” or “maliciously killing an animal.” The act of breaking a trapped animal’s jaw with a shovel would clearly fit this description. Although the statute exempts lawful hunting, taking and trapping, that exemption would not apply to wildlife not permitted under Department of Game & Fish laws and rules.

Unfortunately, despite multiple inquiries and requests made to the local District Attorney and the Attorney General’s office,to our knowledge, no extreme cruelty charges have been filed in the Mia Tuk case thus far. The statute of limitations for extreme animal cruelty is five years—meaning prosecutors have until 2020 to take action.

“Mia Tuk” is just one of many endangered wolves that have been intentionally harmed by humans in recent years—fueled by fear, hatred, and opposition to species recovery. In 2018 alone, 21 Mexican wolf deaths were documented. Despite the gradually growing population in the wild (there are now just 131 living in the southwestern U.S.), each individual Mexican wolf is an important contributor to the genetic health of the species. Every unnecessary death is a tragedy not just for that wolf, but for a program in which Americans have invested so much for decades.

But what happened to “Mia Tuk” is about even more than endangered species conservation. It’s also about the heinous, unwarranted, destructive animal cruelty. This is exactly the type of cruelty that must be vigorously condemned by our society. 

Most New Mexicans strongly support wolf recovery in the Southwest and know that wolves are an essential part of the balance of nature. Many people believe the wolf needs greater protections in order to fully recover, and that they certainly should not be subject to outright physical abuse. Holding wolf killers accountable under state animal cruelty statutes would be a good start. 


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  1. Kim Sandling Avatar
    Kim Sandling

    I hope the wolf recovered and I hope they charged the idiot who did this… that kind of violence and cruelty will NOT end with an innocent, helpless wolf.

    1. Edgar Figueroa Avatar
      Edgar Figueroa

      I’m behind you on that

    2. Hawken Carlton Avatar
      Hawken Carlton

      The wolf died from this treatment, as stated in the article, and the man responsible was not charged…one can only hope every ounce of pain he put the wolf through will be experience by him in short order.

      1. Greta Anderson Avatar
        Greta Anderson

        Just to be clear, he hasn’t (yet?) been charged under the NM Animal Cruelty statute, but he did plead guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act and was penalized under that statute. The U.S. Forest Service also cancelled his grazing permit: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-environment/2018/12/17/forest-service-moves-revoke-grazing-permit-endangered-mexican-gray-wolf-case/2232098002/

        1. Lu Avatar
          Lu

          That’s the least they could do. Thanks for writing about this. More people need to know what’s happening and what they’re getting away with.

        2. Trish Marie Avatar
          Trish Marie

          The article says that Thiessen would appeal the decision, and that the process would take about 6 months. Does anyone know if he’s gotten his cattle out of the Gila forest yet?

    3. David Robson Avatar
      David Robson

      Karma.

  2. Frances Rouse Avatar
    Frances Rouse

    Where do we complain? How can the public voice against this heinous crime? Please provide info – are there any organizations raising a complaint? Many thanks for the article. Attorney General’s office only list phone number no email.

    1. Greta Anderson Avatar
      Greta Anderson

      I suppose you could try an online complaint at: https://secure.nmag.gov/ecs
      Several organizations have asked the AG to investigate and prosecute if appropriate.

      1. B Harrington Avatar
        B Harrington

        Is there a petition to sign that would be submitted to the AG’s office to up his charges?

        1. Greta Anderson Avatar
          Greta Anderson

          There isn’t — yet. If some New Mexico voters wanted to start one or contact the AG’s office about this, please know that citizen action DOES matter.

            1. Mabel Avatar
              Mabel

              Thank you for the link to the pathology report. Submitted my complaint.

            2. GPC Avatar
              GPC

              Thanks for posting the necropsy report. No mention of what possibly happened to left front paw or what might have caused the injuries. Possibly the trap?

              1. Greta Anderson Avatar
                Greta Anderson

                We asked some experts their opinions and it definitely could have been a trap injury

    2. Karen Avatar
      Karen

      Frances Rouse, it seems one would contact the Attorney General of New Mexico.

  3. Kyrstal Avatar
    Kyrstal

    Heinous, vicious crime like this, along w/trophy hunting reflects the sad state of humanity, including gov’t officials (are some of them even “human”) who take a “pass” on doing their jobs…be it enforcing existing laws, or passing appropriate new legislation when/where needed ~ at state AND federal levels.

  4. idaursine Avatar
    idaursine

    It’s very violent. 🙁

    At least they cancelled his grazing permit, but I don’t know what the appeal status is.

    He claims he was ‘afraid for his life’ so he hit the wolf with a shovel, let it go, and then it was ‘another wolf’ killed him:

    https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Mexican_gray_wolf/pdfs/thiessen-20190107-THIESSEN-APPEAL-OF-PERMIT-CANCELATION-THIESSEN-DECLARATION.pdf

    1. Greta Anderson Avatar
      Greta Anderson

      the FS is standing behind its decision so far —

  5. Tracy Avatar
    Tracy

    Any petition(s) available to sign????

    1. Greta Anderson Avatar
      Greta Anderson

      No petitions. It is at the discretion of the District Attorney and Attorney General. We certainly hope they will investigate.

  6. Carli Pintozzi Avatar
    Carli Pintozzi

    Would love to sign if there was a petition. Acts like this are cruel and unsettling, this man deserves to pay for his actions against a beautiful creature like this.

  7. Victoria Mejia Avatar
    Victoria Mejia

    I hope and pray they prosecute him. That’s horrific!

  8. Janet Rasor Avatar

    The district attorney needs to get off his ass and do his job or you folks need to vote him out! No excuse did inhumane animal cruelty which this POS openly admitted to. He needs to be held fully accountable for his treatment if this poor animal and fined and jailed to the fullest extent of the law! No excuses, if your damned jobs!

  9. Jennifer Harper Avatar
    Jennifer Harper

    Why are you not upholding the law. This animal was tortured for no reason other than this guy is a sick bastard. Endangered species means No killing.. come on .. don’t allow this to keep happening with no consequences. Remember god is watching..

  10. Suzette Stadler Avatar
    Suzette Stadler

    Punishments needed. Monetary seems to make people consider their behavior. Jail time for repeat torturers needed. RIP beautiful Mia Tux.

  11. Trish Girardin Avatar
    Trish Girardin

    Man needs to be held accountable for actions. If he was worried about live stock he could handled different. This is SAD

  12. Pamela W Avatar
    Pamela W

    Awesome letter! Well done, Greta!

  13. Annette Luffman-Johnson Avatar
    Annette Luffman-Johnson

    This is an evil, sick, cruel bastard that needs to be tortured himself. He lied his stupid butt off about “letting him go and another wolf killed him”. Another wolf wouldn’t break his jaw and shatter his teeth…..this wolf was beaten in the head ON PURPOSE,TO KILL IT.He must pay for every crime committed here, including the cruelty. Lock him up and throw away the key!!!

  14. Monica thorn Avatar
    Monica thorn

    Hell yes! The farmer needs a lesson as we. Prosecute him

  15. Suzanne Avatar

    Abuse is abuse! Laws are a man made construct as we cannot, like MOST mammals, find our ass from our brain and be balanced, ethical, fair. We are the corrupt not them.

  16. Laraine m. Palmer Avatar
    Laraine m. Palmer

    If he gets away with killing that precious wolf this time he will continue to do it and know the law doesn’t mean anything

  17. Susan Chapman Avatar
    Susan Chapman

    If this report is true the perpetrator should be prosecuted. If he is found guilty he should be punished according to the law.

    Susan Chapman

  18. snaildarter Avatar
    snaildarter

    Can we charge Trump with animal cruelty for thinking about a wall that would completely disrupt and destroy much of the border area eco-system.

  19. Mabel Avatar
    Mabel

    Thank you Greta for shedding more light on this horrific act of brutality. I will send in a complaint via the link you shared. Is there a legislator who could help get more attention to the AG?

    1. Greta Anderson Avatar
      Greta Anderson

      Right now, we’re just trying to get the attention of the New Mexico Attorney General who can prosecute as his discretion. The positive comments on this post should help his staff understand the support for investigation and prosecution. Thanks for yours!

  20. Nancy Avatar
    Nancy

    Wow! So many comments in such a short period of time!

    So I’ll have to ask, as a long time blogger, for all those folks who posted comments just for this one thread, I hope you are also paying attention (and getting motivated) about all the other threads/articles on TWN, having to do with injustices being committed against wildlife and wild lands, elsewhere on the planet?

    1. Hiker Avatar
      Hiker

      Yes, thank you Nancy and welcome to you all!

    2. Mabel Avatar
      Mabel

      Yes! Having found such a good site will definitely be reading the articles!

      1. Nancy Avatar
        Nancy

        A good read Mabel:

        https://www.wilderness.org/articles/article/wallace-stegner

        And Stegner’s books are available in many places on the internet 🙂

    3. Greta Anderson Avatar
      Greta Anderson

      Yes, Nancy — we’ve been lucky that numerous lobo organizations have been posting this article and driving new people to the site. I hope they stick around and read all the other great articles that Ralph, et al. post.

  21. Alulkoy Avatar
    Alulkoy

    Free grazers are the welfare queens of ranchers, they are nothing but freeloaders who are mooching grass on federal land. This is land that belongs to the Native Americans, and the habitat of the Mexican Greywolf and countless other animals who have evolved on the land. Theissen wants to graze his cattle on someone else’s land and what ever animal that makes it its home is to be exterminated because it threatens his bottom line. Theissen feels he doesn’t have to follow the law, or even the law of decency to receive federal welfare that the Rancher losers like the Hammond’s and Bundy’s of the world feel its their god given right to the land and all its resources. Knowing full well other people and their Wolf brethren inhabited the land for thousands of years in harmony and balance. To Theissen beggars can’t be choosers and you are fortunate you get to feed your cattle on Indian land for free.

  22. Anne ODonnell Avatar
    Anne ODonnell

    This man was cruel and vicious. He should be charged with animal cruelty. I am glad his grazing rights will be taken away as he does not deserve it.

    1. Greta Anderson Avatar
      Greta Anderson

      Just to clarify, there are no such things as grazing rights. It’s a privilege, and public lands permittees who abuse that privilege should lose them. Those are OUR lands they are profiting from.

  23. Frank Krosnicki Avatar
    Frank Krosnicki

    Several years ago while volunteering at a remote location in Idaho, I encountered a sinister creep who bragged about killing wolf pups in their den. By doing so, he explained that he saved dozens of Elk and Moose! The hatred of the Wolf has survived for hundreds of years due to ill informed and ignorant people. I also know individuals in Idaho who “hunt” specifically to kill wolves. I cannot understand that kind of hatred. Maybe some day we can outlaw trapping of all animal species, and “manage” wildlife in a more natural way.

    1. GPC Avatar
      GPC

      Right, Frank. The irrational hatred for predator species is palpable. Nothing is beneath a trapper. There are probably enough of us who oppose trapping but we just can’t seem to organize well enough.

  24. Bruce Bowen Avatar
    Bruce Bowen

    Greetings: In October of 1979 the U.S. Dept of Commerce published a study called ” Public Attitudes Toward Critical Wildlife and Natural Habitat Issues.” One of the questions asked was “Illegal killing of wildlife should result in stiff fines and, if done repeatedly, even prison sentences”> Yes or No. 87% of the general population polled said yes.

    Another yes or no question was -“I see nothing wrong with using steel traps to capture wild animals”. 78% of the general population disagreed.

    If we truly lived in a responsive democracy there would be no trapping on public lands and wildlife law violators would be treated more harshly.

    The report mentioned above scared the republican utilitarian groups so much that they began a counter campaign against the environment. They will doggedly try to win even if it destroys the planet. And so far congress seems content to argue about it a little and that’s about it.

    A few of us biologist types used to have a saying- “If there was one salmon left in the Sacramento River system, the republicans would try to kill it and the democrats would stand around and watch them do it”.

    Great Spirit help our planet!

    1. idaursine Avatar
      idaursine

      +1

      It’s very frustrating!

  25. snaildarter Avatar
    snaildarter

    Steel traps make a tolerably good artificial reef when thrown is the deepest part of the river.

    1. GPC Avatar
      GPC

      I like the way you think!

  26. Rick Cameron Avatar

    Calling this savage murder “animal cruelty” is akin to calling killing a little boy or girl “child abuse”. Interesting that we think our vicious specie is so damn sacrosanct.

  27. Mary Branch Avatar
    Mary Branch

    The horrific cruelty humans inflict on all animals should be punishable by jail time equivalent to a human crime. We need to protect animals, expecially the threatened or endangered species. Wolves have made somewhat of a comeback and now they want to eradicate them again. The cruelty people inflict on animals is consistent with psychotic, aberrant behavior and they most likely want to to mean things to humans but fear the consequences, so they torture and kill animals! Sick! Punish these cretins.

  28. AZ Sunflower Avatar
    AZ Sunflower

    The NM State Attorney General is the person who needs to get the ball rolling to prosecute this man for animal cruelty which is a state statute. If the statute of limitations is up in 20 20 there is very little time to get this going. How does one take this on to get the public attention it needs. I live in AZ so I am not even a resident of NM/

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