The two-year-old male, known to scientists as “Mr. Goodbar,” is expected to live but will likely have all or part of his right hind leg amputated, according to a statement from the nonprofit conservation organization the Center for Biological Diversity.
An investigation has been launched to track Mr. Goodbar’s shooter. Mexican gray wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The maximum penalty for violating the law is a year in jail and a $50,000 fine.
“Mr. Goodbar’s painful experiences illustrate the inhospitable world we’ve created for Mexican gray wolves and other vulnerable animals,” Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement provided to HuffPost. “We hope the criminal who shot Mr. Goodbar will be brought to justice.”
Mr. Goodbar’s injury was spotted during an annual count by helicopter of the Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He was tranquilized with a dart fired from a helicopter and transported for treatment to the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo, the Center for Biological Diversity reported.
He made news earlier this month as the first tracked wolf to prove the Trump border wall is creating a problem for endangered species. Mr. Goodbar left his pack in eastern Arizona last year and roamed for months to strike out on his own to start his own family in new territory. He was finally stopped in southern New Mexico in late November — not by the challenges of the Chihuahuan Desert, but by Trump’s 30-foot-high border barrier.
The young wolf trotted along the wall for days, likely looking for an opening, which would have provided the possibility of mating with Mexican gray wolves on the other side of the border. But he finally turned back north again, and ended up close to his old territory.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups are now battling to open up the border wall in “priority” areas identified as important for animals — not just wolves, but for pronghorn, cougars, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, bobcats, mule deer, kit fox and ringtail.
The reintroduced Mexican gray wolf population numbered some 186 in Arizona and New Mexico in the last count in 2020 (there were 30 across the border in Mexico).
This year, the tally will likely be higher, Robinson said. But the species risks extinction by inbreeding without more genetic diversity, which requires large swaths of unimpeded range for the animals to branch out.
“These wolves are beautiful, intelligent, social animals that we should want to save just because of empathy,” Robinson told HuffPost. “And because we played a role in their decimation, we have an obligation to help them.”