ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials confirmed Wednesday that an animal killed by a federal employee in southwestern New Mexico in January was a Mexican gray wolf.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said genetic tests confirmed it was a small, uncollared female. More tests are under way to determine which pack the wolf was associated with.
In January, an employee with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services shot what officials described at the time as a “canine.” The employee reported the shooting because the animal looked like a Mexican wolf after closer inspection.
The wolf was shot from about 250 yards away, officials said.
“Our specialist, at the time, was upset and that’s why he reported it. Still, we’re disappointed that it occurred,” said Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman at Wildlife Services headquarters.
The Mexican gray wolf was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976. The effort to reintroduce the wolves in New Mexico and Arizona has stumbled due to legal battles, illegal shootings and other problems.
Federal officials have been tightlipped about the January shooting. They have not said what prompted the employee to shoot but implied that he may have thought it was a coyote. The employee was in the Mangas area investigating cattle deaths when the shooting occurred.
Bannerman said the employee remains on the job and the agency is cooperating with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The case has been turned over to the U.S. attorney’s office for review.