Interior Department officials placed the welfare of wolves over public safety, neglecting to inform residents when wolves were roaming and killing cattle in New Mexico, according to a new audit.
An official in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, which was established to conserve the species, was found to be protecting wolves she considered “genetically valuable,” even though they posed a danger to residents in the area.
The agency’s inspector general released an audit last month detailing how the former program coordinator covered up complaints against a wolf that posed a “human safety hazard.”
Team employees in Catron County “deliberately avoided documenting complaints to protect certain wolves,” the inspector general found. Allegations made by the Catron County Board of Commissioners were confirmed by Fish and Wildlife Service employees.
“As an example, the county employee described an incident involving one male wolf, serial number M1133, that had been captured in a residential area of Reserve, NM (the Catron County seat), after numerous complaints,” the inspector general said. “[The Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program] said that wolf M1133 could be paired with a female and released because [the program] considered the wolf genetically valuable and stated that it had no documented history of nuisance behavior. [Interagency Field Team] IFT personnel, including the former IFT coordinator, met with ranchers and county officials to discuss the release plans.”