Rancher’s Grazing Permit At Risk After Wolf’s Death

The Mexican Wolf Recovery Program began in 1982 after designation as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. ( U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service )

New tensions have arisen in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program after a New Mexico rancher pleaded guilty in federal court in May to knowingly taking threatened wildlife.

Thirty-three organizations and 20 individuals have requested “the immediate cancellation” of the rancher’s permit in a June letter to Gila National Forest Supervisor Adam Mendonca and U.S. Forest Service interim Chief Vicki Christiansen.

The controversy surrounding rancher Craig Thiessen began in February, 2015, when he trapped the year-old male wolf on his Gila National Forest grazing allotment. Thiessen admitted he hit the wolf with a shovel, but disputed killing it in an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican.

“I was afraid that if I didn’t hit it with a shovel, it would kill me when I released it, Thiessen told the court. He also admitted he knew he had caught a Mexican gray wolf because it wore a radio tracking collar attached to all Mexican wolves in the area.

In a brief interview with the New Mexican, Thiessen said, “It doesn’t say I killed it. After I let it go, it left. It wasn’t dead.”

Upon the guilty plea, Thiessen was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay the wolf recovery program $2,300. That sentence is too lenient, according to supporters of the wolf recovery program.

The letter to the Forest Service seeking Thiessen’s permit revocation says, ‘The public should not subsidize Mr. Thiessen’s private business after his brutal, violent and unconscionable crime.”

Mendonca told the New Mexican the Forest Service is reviewing the case, and Thiessen has the right to an appeal. Mendonca also said the agency has received over 200 calls and about 1,000 emails is support of revoking Thiessen’s grazing permit.