Wildlife: Murder Rate

Federal wildlife officers stumbled onto a murder mystery on Nov. 5 when they found the corpses of a Mexican gray wolf and bald eagle near each other in New Mexico's Gila National Forest. There's a spate of deliberate killings of federally protected species. Wolves and grizzlies, predators reviled by hunters and ranchers in parts of the West, are the most common victims. In Montana, a record 11 grizzly deaths this year are considered deliberate killings. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is investigating the deaths of two radio-collared lynx. In Idaho, 10 wolves have been shot or poisoned this year. In New Mexico and Arizona, 21 wolves have been illegally shot since 1998, when the endangered animals were reintroduced to the Southwest. Even when culprits are apprehended, proving guilt is difficult. Wolf killers often claim self-defense, though there are no known cases of fatal wolf attacks on humans. The rising death toll comes as the Bush administration tries to de-list the roughly 600 grizzlies around Yellowstone National Park from the endangered-species list, against the wishes of many conservation groups.