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Tragic Killing May Go Unprosecuted Under Flawed Federal Policy
Denver— Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the wolf killed outside of Beaver, UT in December was indeed the wandering wolf, Echo, that had reached the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Having wandered over 500 miles, this intrepid wolf was killed by a reckless coyote hunter despite it being protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The killing shines a spotlight on the fundamental flaws in the federal government’s “McKittrick policy,” which enables killing of endangered animals. The policy removes the deterrent for people who might kill an animal protected under the Endangered Species Act because prosecution does not occur unless the government can prove he or she was trying to deliberately kill that animal. Thus, despite coyotes weighing approximately 30 pounds and a wolf weighing at least 70, and the fact that this wolf was wearing a distinctive radio collar, the person who killed the Grand Canyon wolf will likely go unpunished.
“With its ‘shoot first ask questions later’ policy, the government is paving the way for more endangered and dispersing wolves to be shot without consequences,” said Bethany Cotton wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the government to ditch the flawed McKittrick policy and ensure that critically imperiled species receive every protection they deserve under the law.”
The Grand Canyon wolf, along with other dispersing wolves including OR-7, further demonstrate that gray wolf recovery is only just beginning in the lower 48 states. Wolves have returned to just five percent of their historic range and are only just starting to return to areas suffering ecologically in their absence including southern Oregon, Utah and the Grand Canyon ecoregion. Leading wolf scientists identify the Grand Canyon ecoregion as one of three areas in the Southwest capable of supporting robust, ecologically viable wolf populations. Wolves, as native apex carnivores, are integral to ecosystem health.
“This vitally important species was absent from the Grand Canyon region for far too long,” said Cotton. “The Government should be doing everything it can to protect dispersing wolves including prosecuting those people who carelessly kill protected animals.”