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Judge rules wildlife officials must do more to prevent illegal killing of Mexican gray wolves

Center for Biological Diversity/Robin Silver

Wildlife advocates have scored a legal victory in their attempt to reduce illegal killing of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. They say federal wildlife managers haven’t done enough to stop the biggest threat to the endangered animals. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

A 2018 lawsuit claimed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan failed to meet the basic requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and others said the agency didn’t provide specific objectives and measurable recovery criteria to prevent illegal killing of the species. A federal judge on Thursday agreed and ruled Fish and Wildlife must add specific actions to its plan to prevent poaching.

According to conservationists, 70% of Mexican wolf deaths are human-caused and illegal killing remains the biggest hindrance to the species’ recovery. The groups have suggested restricting the use of telemetry receivers that can track collared wolves to government personnel only. They also want wildlife officials to stop publicizing the locations of collared wolves, and for law-enforcement to focus on long-term investigations of illegal killings.

Mexican wolf recovery in the Southwest has long been hampered by poaching. But despite the threat, their numbers have steadily grown in recent years with at least 186 roaming eastern Arizona and New Mexico at last count.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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