A man who admitted he intentionally trapped and killed an endangered Mexican gray wolf with a shovel in Catron County has been sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay restitution to the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.

Craig Thiessen pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Albuquerque to a criminal misdemeanor charge of the taking of threatened wildlife, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Thiessen, from Datil, admitted that in 2015 he captured a gray wolf in a trap on his grazing allotment in the Gila National Forest and hit the wolf with a shovel. He admitted knowing the animal was a gray wolf “because it bore a tracking collar, which is affixed to all Mexican gray wolves in the area,” the release states. In addition to probation, Thiessen was ordered to pay $2,300 to the recovery program.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the wolves as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1976, prompting the recovery efforts. The agency reported in February that there were 114 wild wolves in the New Mexico and Arizona population, just one more than in 2016.

Center for Biological Diversity conservation advocate Michael Robinson on Friday said he was unaware of the Catron County case.

“I’m glad to see that one of the people responsible for the many illegal wolf killings has been caught,” Robinson said. “Given that the Mexican wolf is so close to extinction, it seems the penalty should have been stiffer for this heinous and cruel act.”

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