Public lands permittee received over $300,000 in subsidies since beating juvenile lobo to death
Mary Katherine Ray, (575) 740-2858, firstname.lastname@example.org
Madeleine Carey, (505) 660-0161, email@example.com
SANTA FE, NM — Conservation groups and individuals are calling on the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to cancel the grazing permit of Craig Thiessen, a rancher based in Datil, New Mexico who pled guilty in May to intentionally trapping and beating to death an endangered, federally protected Mexican gray wolf named Mia Tuk (mp1385). Thiessen admitted to knowing that the animal was a Mexican gray wolf protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Killing an animal protected by the ESA is a federal crime. Thiessen was ordered to pay a meager $2,300 to the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program and was placed on probation for one year.
In a June 8th letter, 30 organizations and many individuals formally requested that Gila National Forest Supervisor Adam Mendonca “immediately cancel any and all grazing allotment permits that [Thiessen] holds.” Mendonca has the authority to cancel the permit if the permit holder is convicted for failing to comply with Federal laws or regulations relating to protection of fish and wildlife.
“This horrific crime should not be tolerated, and it proves that we need to protect all wolves even more and have more restraints against trapping and killing,” said Jaryn Allen, an Albuquerque sixth grader who named Mia Tuk. “Wolves should be allowed to roam free and if they are killed the person should get prison time. This is not just a day-to-day thing, like someone stealing a log of wood, though this is what people are treating it like. Killing an endangered animal, and in the way he did, when he knew it was an endangered species is intolerable. It makes me sick to picture this act. I wanted the wolf that I named Mia Tuk to roam free and flourish, not have its life ended in this way.”
Mia Tuk was less than a year old when he was trapped and violently killed in 2015. He was one of only roughly 100 Mexican wolves in the wilds of the U.S. that year.
“Thiessen is clearly not worthy of using public lands, much less for his own personal gain,” said Christopher Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “He should lose the privilege of grazing on our public lands, where wolves are a native species and cows are not.”
“The Forest Service has full authority to penalize the permittee for the brutal and reprehensible actions he took in knowingly trapping and bludgeoning to death an endangered species,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. “The livestock operator should lose his public lands grazing privileges as part of the restitution to the American public.”
Wild wolves are generally very fearful of people and do not pose a safety threat. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) hunting rules and information booklet explicitly instructs a trapper who has captured a lobo to immediately call the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Office or NMDGF’s 24-hour dispatch. A NMDGF officer or Interagency Field Team member will arrive to remove, secure, and process the wolf. There is no required education for trappers and lobos frequently fall victim to traps. This winter, three Mexican wolves were trapped in New Mexico. One victim lost a leg and another was found dead after the incident.
"Traps are dangerous and cruel devices even when used according to law," said Mary Katherine Ray, Wildlife Chair of the Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter. "Beating a helpless, trapped animal to death with a shovel demonstrates a disturbing disregard for basic decency in addition to the animal being an endangered species."
Thiessen grazes cattle on a Gila National Forest allotment called Canyon Del Buey, and has received over $300,000 of taxpayer money since 2015 in livestock subsidies. Just this year, NMDGF planned a $59,000 project on the allotment Thiessen uses to further subsidize his public lands grazing business. Grazing cattle on public land is not a right, but a licensed privilege, the terms of which include complying with all federal laws. Thiessen’s admitted bludgeoning of Mia Tuk is a clear violation of the ESA, and his illegal act therefore forfeited his grazing privileges.
The Mexican wolf is the smallest, one of the rarest and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf. The species was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1978, but recovery efforts have largely foundered because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to implement scientifically recommended recovery actions. Killing a Mexican wolf can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000, and/or not more than one year in jail, and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.