Will Killer of Protected Wolf Get Away Scott Free?
Yesterday, Utah wildlife officials confirmed that a protected 3-year-old female collared gray wolf was mistaken for a coyote and killed by a hunter near Beaver on Sunday. It is also possible that this wolf could be the female wolf, affectionately named “Echo” in a recent worldwide contest, that was found to roam around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon earlier this year. Today Federal wildlife officials are using DNA to determine if the animal slain is indeed Echo.
Either way, a protected wolf has been illegally killed and it’s likely the crime will go unpunished. The the U.S. Justice Department’s 16-year-old McKittrick policy prohibits prosecuting individuals who kill endangered wildlife unless it can be PROVED that they knew they were targeting a protected animal.
The McKittrick policy provides a loophole that has prevented criminal prosecution of dozens of individuals who killed grizzly bears, highly endangered California condors as well as dozens of federally protected Mexican wolves including two released from the Wolf Conservation Center.
What can we do?
“Ultimately, the criminal provisions of the Endangered Species Act will not be applied as Congress intended until the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) directive prohibiting the use of the jury instruction upheld in U.S. v. McKittrick is rescinded. Who can order the DOJ to rescind the directive? Certainly, the U.S. Attorney General, as could someone higher in the Executive Branch. Perhaps additional Congressional inquiry or action is necessary to reaffirm Congress’s intention with regard to criminal culpability in ESA cases… It may fall to the public to assert its will with lawmakers to ensure that the ESA is applied as intended for the benefit of the American people.” Learn more.