By Associated Press - Thursday, March 18, 2021

EAGAR, Ariz. (AP) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating what it says is a suspicious death of an endangered Mexican gray wolf near Eagar.

The agency and others are offering a reward of up to $37,000 for information that leads to a conviction.

Federal law enforcement officers removed the carcass from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on Feb. 19, a day after they say a vehicle was seen stopped or driving slowly near the Saffel Canyon trailhead.

The wolf was part of the Hoodoo pack that was hazed away from Nutrioso in December, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Agency spokesman Al Barrus declined to provide other details, citing the ongoing investigation and the need for the public to bring forth specifics on the wolf’s death.

Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to the American Southwest began more than two decades ago. The results of the latest annual survey show there are at least 186 wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona, a figure that has increased for five consecutive years.

Still, environmentalists have said that high rates of illegal killings continue to slow recovery efforts. At least 105 wolves have died illegally from shootings, trappings and other methods between 1998 and 2019, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, representing 57% of all deaths.

“To senselessly kill one of these imperiled animals is despicable, and we hope anyone with information does the right thing and comes forward,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has contributed to the reward money.

Killing a Mexican gray wolf violates state and federal laws. Its punishable by up to a year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines upon conviction.

The investigations are extensive, said Amy Lueders, who directs the Southwest Region of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“With the assistance of our partners and the public, we will find the person responsible for the death of this endangered animal,” Lueders said in a statement.

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