*Trigger warning: Animal cruelty and wolf abuse discussed below

Photo courtesy the awesome Wolf Conservation Center, nywolf.org

For over a year, my colleague at Western Watersheds Project and I have been paging through gory reports of dead livestock, most of them (questionably) attributed to Mexican wolf predation. I’ve gotten somewhat inured to seeing the bloody corpses of cattle, decapitated calves, and dissection necropsies. It’s unpleasant work, but it’s turned up some very interesting results: Namely, many of the confirmed Mexican wolf depredations are unsubstantiated based on the evidence in the reports, and some are so full-scale bogus as to call into question how, exactly, Wildlife Services is making these decisions.

Still, all the mangled livestock in those color photos didn’t prepare me for looking at photos of dead Mexican wolves. I have recently been poring through law enforcement reports of lobo deaths that were provided to me by the Center for Biological Diversity who obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act and, let me tell you, there are some real sickos out there killing wolves. Like, really sick.

I recently uncovered some evidence that Craig Thiessen, already known as a brutal wolf-hating rancher who whacked a trapped young wolf #1385 (named “Mia Tuk”) with a shovel so hard that it broke loose the lobo’s jaw, actually admitted to beating trapped wolves twice. He apparently confessed that he beat two trapped lobos into submission, and in a later declaration, he claims he let Mia Tuk go free afterwards and “sadly, it was later killed by other wolves.” The “sadly” of that sentence really ices the cake of this guy’s crime, given that he’s the same person who was investigated for leaving out poisoned meatballs near cow carcasses on the public lands that he rents from the American public to graze his cattle.

Other wolves from the same pack went missing the same year, and many of these disappearances look pretty darned suspicious. There’s the skull of Mia Tuk’s mother, AF1279, that was recovered a few months later in the vicinity of Mia Tuk’s body. The lower jaw had been cut with a handsaw, meaning (maybe?) that someone knew something about this wolf’s death and went back to try to… I don’t know… retrieve some wolf teeth? Why does someone take a saw to a wolf skull?

I wish that I could put these reports into a file called “Isolated Incidents,” and close that box. But then there’s female pup fp1389 who was shot with a projectile twice, hit in the head with a hammer-like object, and didn’t die until several days later when she developed a secondary infection. There’s adult female wolf #1212 who was caught in a snare trap by a rancher who knew there were wolves in the area but went ahead and set up traps for “coyotes.” (And yes, I’m just as horrified that coyotes are treated this way, but lobos are a highly endangered species, already at high risk of a second wild extinction, and every loss of an individual wolf puts the recovery of the entire species at risk). Then there are the poisoned meatballs, the high-powered rifles, the people who intentionally ran over a wolf with their truck, all the various ways that people kill wolves simply out of hatred and stupidity.

Somehow, even after years of hearing about “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up” from ranchers and trophy hunters, and seeing social media posts that boast about acts of extreme cruelty, the existence of these sick people still shocks me. I’m shocked at the maliciousness, the remorselessness, and the sheer spite it would require to torture or kill these creatures, and it enrages me how so many of them get away with it. My outrage alone doesn’t change anything; 96 wolves were known to have been killed illegally and missing under suspicious circumstances between 1998 and 2018.

So how do we change this? How do we get state law enforcement interested in prosecuting under the Animal Cruelty laws? How do we get federal prosecutors to actually go after these bastards? How do we get rid of the McKittrick policy that allows liars to claim they “thought it was a coyote” despite the brightly colored collars and the knowledge that there are lobos in the area? How do we solve the problem of entitled sickos who think it’s OK to rob wolf packs of family members and ecosystems of essential predators? I sure don’t know, but I know that by burying the crimes deep in the agency files isn’t helping, but maybe bringing some of these horrible stories to light will. Maybe with enough public pressure, we’ll see more interest in pursuing and prosecuting these crimes.



P.S. You can support this type of investigative work by supporting Western Watersheds Project.

About The Author

Greta Anderson

Greta Anderson is a plant nerd, a desert rat, and a fan of wildness. She is the Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project and lives on the land of the Tohono O'Odham and Yaqui people in what is now called Arizona. Greta's opinions and world views are not necessarily reflected in the posts of other authors on this blog.

30 Responses to Mexican wolf killings expose a dark underbelly of western culture

  1. julie long gallegos says:

    How do people feel about the nomination of Representative Deb Haaland as Biden’s Interior Secretary, in relation to wolf protections wildlife in general?

    • SANDY LEE says:

      I am hopeful she may bring some sanity to the work of the Interior Secretary, I am afraid she may not make it past Moscow Mitch. She seems like she will work for the environment and the natural wildlife that inhabit it. We can and need to allow wolves to survive without such perverse persecution. They will always be hated by ranchers but as far as I am concerned the ranchers are wrong and need to to..

    • Robert Goldman says:

      Optimistic. When Deb Haaland spoke after Biden introduced her, I was touched to watch her first turn around and look at the bison image in the Dep’t of Interior logo. As a smart native woman, she must feel that way also about wolves. That’s what I want to believe right now.

  2. Linda says:

    It’s so disgusting on many levels. The torturing of wolves, way past just killing them with a rifle. My heart aches for all of these great predator species that are beaten and bloodied by the hands of humans. The violence toward and hatred of wolves is almost like DNA mutation in the genes of these human killers. I would call them (Human wolf killers) the real super predators on this planet. Thank you for sharing your research with the public. We need to start Public Service Announcements nationwide and billboards to educate the public about all the bloodshed and cruelty that is going on in wolf country.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      I feel the same way – it’s like a deep-seated hatred of wolves in the DNA of European settlers who came to this country, and it still exists today.

      Wi is planning a hunting season nearly a year in advance, and the delisting hasn’t been finalized. I pray that it will not be. 🙁

      • Linda says:

        I live in AZ. It’s one of the few if not only states (and NM) that has wolves and protects them. I’m beside myself thinking of the unleashed cruelty of these people.

    • Robert Goldman says:

      Good ideas all. This has to be put in a lot of people’s faces and in their consciousness.

    • jeff says:

      Totally agree with you, wolves are so beautiful wild animals!

  3. Maggie Frazier says:

    I have heard of this Thiessen guy before & I read somewhere on Peer ? maybe that he was actually getting some consequences for his actions. I know I saw it on some site but of course cant find it now. How many years is he going to be allowed to do this? Does he still have a grazing allotment??
    January 20th cant come soon enough. And I hope & pray that the new DOI gets thru the nomination process – she sounds like a keeper.

  4. Ida Lupine says:

    A hand saw? Just when you think you’ve heard the worst of how love human behavior can sink. 🙁

    I wouldn’t say I’ve become ‘used’ to hearing about these things now, but I no longer feel such huge anger and outrage (which really goes nowhere), just a sense of grief and disappointment. Just enough to keep working to save our endangered species, and exposing corruption.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Oops, sorry that should read ‘low’ not ‘love’ (by no means!) Don’t know how that got in there. 😉

  5. Ida Lupine says:

    As far as the new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, I just don’t know, we’ll just have to wait and see what kind of job she does, I guess. As always.

    I really hope that the wolves won’t be given up as appeasement, as they always are. It doesn’t work, hasn’t worked and never will.

  6. Robert Goldman says:

    Thank you, Greta, for being in the arena and fighting for the lobos and for all wolves. I hope deep in my soul that the Biden team, with Deb Haaland as head of the Department of Interior will finally implement real protection of Mexican wolves and all wolves, and severe punishment for sadistic criminal perverts such as Craig Thiessen and all the other deviants like him.

  7. Beeline says:

    I have noticed that people respond more to wolves and horses than other topics. Folks in America tend to cheer for and defend what they are more familiar with I guess. Kind of like their favorite football team or movie star. Or perhaps it reflects a kind of nostalgia or subliminal desire. Wolves are the under dog and horses are the universal symbol of power.

    But they seldom cheer for the community of species. It takes a lot of species of plants and animals to end up producing one wolf. Without a healthy ecological infrastructure there cannot be a healthy wolf population.

    Federal lands have been over used for decades and the destruction of the lands net primary productivity and species diversity continues. The soil vegetation complex is ever weaker and yet people push for their single favorite species like horses when the horse population is somewhere between 3 and 4 times the recommended carrying capacity already. Add to this cattle, sheep and drying effects and habitat destruction of fracking, plus de-vegetation projects and doomsday from “desertification” is not far off.

    Rabbits and some species of rodents, once common prey species, are dying of various serious diseases causing predatory species to turn elsewhere for food but if the land cannot even produce mice and rabbits, how can it produce wolves?

    Arid lands managed by BLM in the southwest are not like an irrigated pasture. It could take 55/60 acres or more to produce one animal unit month of forage. So if you really want wolves out there it will be necessary to allow the producer level of plant life in the food chain to recover. The producer level of plants constitute the foundation of the food chain. It’s one of the first principles of ecology and one of the most violated.

    In the mean time I think that congress women Haaland is a good candidate for Secretary of Interior due to her cultural back ground where community counts more than individualism.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Of course we do. I’ll it say again, wolves are unfairly persecuted, to say the least, and violently brutalized in overkill for irrational reasons. It’s disappointing that you would think so little of it. So that’s why they seem to get the most attention. People are very uncomfortable with extreme violence towards any living creature.

      The archenemy of all species is humanity [cue a community gasp of denial!]. There’s a very small percentage that cares, or even know about, any of it.

      For example, why don’t people know about wolverines? I’ve heard from people who weren’t even aware we still have wild horses!

      Keep in mind that wolves are bordering on a delisting yet again, and hunting is the first thing proposed after a delisting. So nobody is really cheering for a football team here, except where a certain species is used as a political one, both figuratively and otherwise. I worry that there will come a point in time when the only way you will have Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Diamondbacks and other animals is the names of sports teams.

      Whoever is Interior Secretary will still have to carry out the will of the Administration, and I worry that there is still loyalty to the decision made when Biden was last in the White House.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      Predators are NEEDED as much as other species – and wolves have been slaughtered & “culled” for hundreds of years. And yes arid lands are NOT like an irrigated pasture – which should make clear they are not the place for domestic livestock! Wild horses have existed in these lands for hundreds of years & done so quite well until they are outnumbered by cattle. The only entity that states there are “between 3 & 4 times THEIR recommended capacity is the BLM, who are supposedly “managing” the horses, while allowing large numbers of livestock in almost every so-called HMA. Between the BLM & the FS seeming to safeguard any allotment user over wild species – be it wolves, horses, sage grouse, prairie dogs, rabbits & rodents – sure dont appear to be very good “managers”. Of course, all wild species deserve to be protected against this kind of habitat grabbing. But right now, wolves are being slaughtered and wild horses are being rounded up right this moment & hauled to pens where we , the taxpayers, pay for their upkeep. You know, horses dont breed like rabbits! Without the livestock producers killing off predators, like wolves & mountain lions, the numbers would be kept lower by predation. Which also applies to elk, deer & other prey species. Any grazing species (domestic or wild)needs some predation to keep the numbers from over-whelming the environment. Without it, the plant live would be wiped out.
      I agree that Rep. Haaland should make a good DOI secretary. Altho, have to admit, theres only one way to go at this point.

  8. As Wolf Depredation on Domestic Livestock escalates, in the U.S. and throughout the World with the Wolves successful re-introduction populations spread, the contentious anger between Livestock Producers and Conservationists does also spread. My published research web site at http://WWW.FENCEFLAGWOLFTRAINING.COM is a tangible NON-LETHAL suggestion, with minimal cost, to mitigate some of the anger on both sides of the fence!

  9. Maggie Frazier says:

    Yeah – did read that he was still trespassing. I think its past time for these trespassers (which are many) to either lose their livestock or actually BE penalized PLUS lose the ability to LEASE a grazing allotment.

  10. Jeff N. says:

    This doesn’t pertain to Mexican Wolf Killings but it is an incredible story about a female Lobo.


    • Ida Lupine says:

      This is great news. Thanks for posting!

    • Ida Lupine says:

      I should add also, I hope she is carefully watched before she is targeted for killing.

      I’m glad to see that we don’t always know everything about what happens when these animals disappear from the human radar.

  11. Beeline says:

    If anyone is interested in seeing the where your tax money goes relative to management activities by federal land management agencies:


    From what I can see the funding for endangered species management by the FWS has been decreased by 43.7 million dollars over all.

    The BLM will have 116.8 million to manage horses and burros but only 83.5 million for wildlife. The BLM is going to use 10.3 million to “prioritize activies that support active forest management- including forest thinning and range management to increase the resilience to wildfire, insects, disease and drought- and support timber harvest and biomass use” They will also get 94.6 million for livestock management to “renew grazing permits more efficiently”.

    The FWS Law enforcement budget has been substantially cut.

    There appears to be nothing so certain as death, taxes and the ignorance of ecological principles.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      The whole “renew grazing permits more efficiently” by the BLM?? Well, theres a new thought!

    • Ida Lupine says:

      I think the Wild Horses and Burros program has been incompetently managed for years. The reason the budget is so high is due to mismanagement, IMO. The agency’s fault, and not the horses.

      There needs to be an entirely new way, where the horses are left more alone and that the ranchers’ wishes are not constantly catered to. But is has been neglected for years – transparency (what transparency?) – when under Ken Salazar the wild horses, (and supposedly with BLM brands observed) were mysteriously lost track of and assumed to have been dropped into the slaughter pipeline, where the agency ‘looked the other way’, and had no idea what happened to them, as if having dealt with organized crime!

      Law enforcement budget cut? Vicious and violent poachers will rejoice. We don’t need to be reminded of that father and son team brutalizing infant bears and their mothers in their den.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      Of course there is more money going towards the “wild horse & burro program” – it costs a LOT of money to do these roundups – pay contractors – pay for pastures in other states for non-reproducing wild horses! On the other hand, IF done scientifically & using commons sense, leaving the horses wild in their own areas with NO livestock just might be the answer – volunteers and advocates would be happy to manage them. Its being done in Spring Basin in Colorado – on a smaller herd number, but its being done. Would PZP be necessary? I dont know, possibly if the wild predators werent slaughtered – maybe so.

  12. Ida Lupine says:

    Here’s hoping they do well! And that the wrong of driving them to extinction in North America can be repaired!:



December 2020


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey