Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rich bizman's Gila NF ranch baited wolves to kill

The Miller family at their home in Catron County, New Mexico. JOHN DOUGHERTY
Ranch hand Mike Miller (center), wolf baiter, Catron County NM

UPDATE, 3/5/08

UPDATE, 12/21: More coverage in the ABQ Journal.

UPDATE, 5pm: Five prominent conservation groups, including PEER and Western Watersheds Project, today asked the Gila National Forest and BLM's New Mexico State Office to immediately cancel Mr. Vallina's public lands grazing permits.


TUCSON -- A very important story broke today in High Country News which reveals how a ranch hand on the Datil NM-based Adobe-Slash ranch of rich Mexican businessman Eloy S. Vallina -- mostly your public lands grazed by permit -- unethically and intentionally used cattle to bait endangered Mexican wolves so they would be killed and removed from the wild.

Vallina's Magdalena NM-based ranch hand, Mike Miller, hates wolves. Last summer when he saw one he didn't try to scare it off, he did the opposite. On June 21, he branded cattle less than a half-mile from the wolves’ den, the enticing aroma of seared flesh surely reaching the pack’s super-sensitive nostrils. Miller was, in essence, offering up a cow as a sacrifice.

Miller also intentionally left a pregnant cow near wolves with hope they would attack it.

"We would sacrifice a calf to get a third strike (and take out a wolf)," Miller said.

Because the wolf took Miller's pregnant cow bait, Bush/Cheney US Fish and Wildlife Service officials issued an order to kill her on July 3. Federal hunters shot the wolf on July 5, moments before a New Mexico Game and Fish officer arrived with orders not to kill her. The New Mexico Game and Fish employee said federal gunmen pointed a rifle at her that day, and told her she had no business there and should leave.

The killing of this wolf rightly outraged New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who directed the state Game and Fish Department to exercise its authority as a member of the consortium of agencies managing the reintroduction program and suspend the killing of wolves in New Mexico. But Richardson’s power is limited, because the Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately makes the call on how and when wolves are removed from the wild.

John Morgart
, the Fish and Wildlife Service's Mexican gray wolf recovery program coordinator, said he has never before heard or seen evidence of ranchers using cows to bait wolves so they would be killed or removed. Morgart, who is largely seen as a ranching apologist, says he has asked federal criminal investigators to look into Miller’s actions in the matter. Good for him, but let's see if anything comes of it.

Baiting endangered wolves so they can be killed or removed from the wild is completely immoral and unethical. Miller and Vallina should be fully investigated by law enforcement and prosecuted, and the Gila National Forest should immediately cancel Vallina's grazing permit.

Wolves are not the problem. Unethical ranchers, poor animal husbandry and political, uncaring bureaucrats are to blame for the deep problems in the federal Mexican wolf program.

FWS is taking public comments until Dec 31 on the Mexican wolf program. Please take a minute and speak for the wolves.


Ron said...

The ranch hand is disputing what was written in the article according to a link from this site:

Daniel R. Patterson said...

HCN and John D. have high credibility and no reason to lie. The ranch hand has low credibility and every reason to lie, now.

halina said...

Imagine that. Catron County, New Mexico, ranchers using live cattle to bait endangered Mexican gray wolves into killing livestock so they will be captured or destroyed. The report is easily believable, since these publicly subsidized bullies have openly declared war on the wolf, threatened agency employees, and set themselves above federal law.

On this particular ranch managed by the Millers, more wolves have gotten in trouble than anywhere else in Arizona or New Mexico. Sloppy ranching practices, or worse?

Rancher Laura Schneberger’s defense of the Millers is meaningless. In 2003 she herself refused to let wolf managers remove a cow carcass from her property which was attracting a female wolf. Predictably, the wolf attacked live cattle; she was destroyed by USFWS. Schneberger insisted that she knew better than the wolf biologists, which certainly is true if the goal was another dead wolf.

Thirty-four confirmed or likely illegal wolf killings since 1998. One prosecution. US Department of Justice - enforce existing law! Cattle dead from disease or weather, left to rot. USFWS – demand modern grazing rules. Better yet, let’s buy out these mythical “rugged individualist” 19th century holdovers for whom public money is used to destroy our wildlife on our lands.

Anonymous said...

This is getting more and more outrageous as the days go by. Do you mean to tell me that our program to reintroduce wolves into our PUBLIC LANDS is being wrecked by a man who is not even a US citizen who is moreover being allowed to graze his cows on our taxpayer's property at a pittance?? It's bad enough we're fighting US citizens but to have a rich Mexican dictating our wildlife programs and getting more $$ back by claiming constant predation??? It's absolutely mindboggling!!
This man and his ranch hand should be sent packing immediately and his welfare ranching lease dissolved!

Ron said...

EDITORIAL: Feds Need Full Look Into Wolf Program:

I hardly recognize the present-day USFWS I devoted over 25 years of service to as an employee.