Ranch hand Mike Miller (center), wolf baiter, Catron County NM
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.