ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CN) - State agencies are letting hunters trap Mexican gray wolves in violation of the Endangered Species Act, an environmental group claims in Federal Court.
WildEarth Guardians says it "has invested substantial time and resources to protect and conserve wolves and is harmed by the continued authorization of trapping in New Mexico's occupied wolf range where Mexican gray wolves have been, and will continue to be under the current rules and regulations, trapped and subsequently injured or killed."
The population is estimated to be around 50 wolves, according to the complaint.
Between March 2002 and February 2009, 14 wolves were allegedly captured 15 times in traps, and 13 of these incidents happened in a recovery area of New Mexico's Gila National Forest.
Of the seven wolves injured, two required leg amputations, one had his toes amputated and the pad removed from his right foot, two died from their injuries, WildEarth says.
"Even a wolf that appears 'unhurt,' may, upon release from a trap, be dehydrated, exhausted, or suffering from reduced fitness to hunt resulting from bruising, soreness, or undetected ligament or muscular injury," the complaint states.
Since wolves rely on "mobility for chasing their native wild prey such as deer and elk, injuries, even unapparent injuries, can affect an individual's fitness and ability to hunt and thus survive," WildEarth claims.
Injuries may force wolves to kill domestic livestock, and wolves that die as a result of trapping may leave behind abandoned pups, the complaint adds.
Most of the trap types allowed in New Mexico have the capacity to capture, injure or kill a Mexican gray wolf, but no existing New Mexico regulation requires "any licensed trapper to take any measure to avoid capturing a wolf in any trap type set for a furbearer," the lawsuit claims.
The Mexican gray wolf was listed as endangered on April 28, 1976, after they were completely exterminated from the United States "largely as result of concerted federal eradication efforts undertaken on behalf of American livestock interests," WildEarth says.
WildEarth Guardians wants the court to rule that James Lane, the director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and New Mexico State Game Commission Chairman Jim McClintic are violating the Endangered Species Act. It is represented by James Tutchton.