In 2018, the American public learned about the brutal killing of an endangered Mexican gray wolf—identified as Mexican wolf No. 1385 of the Willow Springs pack, and named "Mia Tuk" by an Albuquerque schoolchild—by Craig Thiessen, who held a grazing permit on the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.
While the news reported that Thiessen pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating the federal Endangered Species Act, acknowledging that in February 2015 he intentionally captured the young male wolf in a trap and hit the animal with a shovel, we have since learned via documents released under the Freedom of Information Act that "Mia Tuk" wasn't just hit with a shovel, but bludgeoned so hard as to shatter his lower jaw and dislocate his teeth. In addition, numerous wounds were present on his left front paw and his stomach was ruptured. This evidence may not only contradict Thiessen's claim he only acted to briefly stun the wolf in order to safely release him from the trap, but could be proof of severe injury and malice that violates New Mexico's animal cruelty statute, which defines "extreme cruelty to animals" as "intentionally or maliciously torturing, mutilating, injuring or poisoning an animal" or "maliciously killing an animal." The act of breaking a trapped animal's jaw with a shovel, if that's in fact what Thiessen did, would clearly fit this description.
What happened to "Mia Tuk" is about even more than endangered species conservation. It is also about heinous, unwarranted, extreme animal cruelty. Studies have shown that maltreatment of animals is often linked with other violent crimes. State cruelty laws serve to protect animals and the public alike.
The statute of limitations for extreme animal cruelty is five years—which means prosecutors have until February 2020 to take action. There is no time to waste to seek justice for "Mia Tuk."
New Mexico's Seventh Judicial District Attorney, Clint Wellborn, should investigate and—if warranted—bring forth extreme animal cruelty charges for the brutal killing of "Mia Tuk."
If DA Wellborn refuses to bring charges, then the only other path forward for justice is if he formally declines to prosecute and refers this case to the New Mexico Attorney General, Hector Balderas.