Federal wildlife officials killed a female wolf Wednesday night after she hung around a ranch house in western New Mexico, even spending time on the front porch.
Members of the Interagency Field Team tried to dart the wolf, tranquilize her and move her to another area, said Tom Buckley, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman. But those efforts failed and officials shot the wolf, which had mated with a dog and had pups earlier this year.
The killing is just the latest blow to the 13-year-old program to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in Eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. Last year, a Fish and Wildlife Service report said the project was "at risk of failure."
The report said shooting had been the top cause of death in the wolf population. At that point, 31 wolves had been shot to death.
The events leading to the latest shooting began Tuesday afternoon, when Crystal Diamond and her two young daughters, ages 2 and 3, returned home to the Beaverhead Ranch. In a written statement, Diamond said she was unloading her pickup truck after several days away with her kids, and the dogs were playing in the yard.
Then a neighbor came speeding up the driveway, shouting out the window, she wrote.
"He yelled for me to take the girls inside while pointing to the dogs who were roughhousing with a collared wolf no farther than 35 feet from my 2-year-old daughter. I grabbed my girls and ran inside, slamming the door behind us."
The neighbor fired a rifle to scare the wolf away, and Diamond locked her dogs and children inside, she wrote. But after the sun set, the wolf came back to the house.
As Diamond sat in her house, about 6:30 p.m., she looked over her shoulder at a window a few feet away and saw the wolf pressing its nose against the glass, she wrote. Tracks showed the wolf had been walking around the porch and yard.
"Throughout the evening my male border collie whimpered at the front door aggressively trying to get out," she wrote.
Wildlife officials came to the home the next day, Diamond wrote, and that evening they shot the wolf about 150 yards from her house.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity attributed the wolf's death to officials' failure to increase the wolf population in the reintroduction area. He said the same wolf mated with a dog from elsewhere earlier this year, and gave birth to five hybrid pups, four of which were captured and killed.
In the statement, Robinson said: "This very sad episode is a result of the Fish and Wildlife Service's refusal to release enough wolves into the wild to allow this single female to find a mate of her own kind."
The service wanted this wolf to become the mate of a male whose mate had died, Robinson said. In fact, the female who had died was this wolf's sister, he said, but the male and this wolf didn't pair up.
"After her pups were taken from her and euthanized, she ended up drawn to dogs at this residence," Robinson said.
On Dec. 2, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted to oppose any new Mexican gray wolf releases until the service completes several planning measures: revising the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan; revising the nonessential, experimental population rule; and writing an environmental impact statement.
Their decision came despite a request by the regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Benjamin Tuggle, for the commission to approve of new introductions. New releases are necessary, he told the commission in a letter, to raise the population and increase the genetic diversity of the approximately 50 wolves in Eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
On StarNet: Read the statements by Crystal Diamond and the Center for Biological Diversity on Tim Steller's blog, Señor Reporter, at azstarnet.com/senorreporter
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or firstname.lastname@example.org