Anubis, the wandering Mexican gray wolf, is shot and killed near Flagstaff

The Arizona Republic (Original) Posted January 7, 2022 by Lindsey Botts

Anubis, an intrepid Mexican gray wolf whose travels from eastern New Mexico to northern Arizona last year earned him fame, was shot and killed Sunday west of Flagstaff. It wasn't clear who pulled the trigger.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal manager of endangered and threatened species, disclosed news of the killing in a conversation with Greta Anderson, the deputy director of the Western Watersheds Project, who was following up on the wolf’s whereabouts.

While details of the killing are limited because of the ongoing investigation, a USFWS official confirmed to The Arizona Republic on Friday that the wolf, also called m2520 by state and federal wildlife officials, was illegally shot.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can confirm that Mexican wolf male 2520 was killed the first weekend in January," read a statement sent via email. "The incident is currently under investigation and therefore, no additional information will be released at this time."

Conservation groups, including the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project and Western Watersheds Projects, issued a press release Friday lamenting the killing. They also elaborated on some of the details, revealing that the wolf was shot in the Kaibab National Forest, west of Flagstaff.

“I think there's always a risk of caring about a wild animal. We just have to keep doing that," said Emily Renn, executive director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. "It takes a community of people that live here, a community of people that care about wildlife to continue to advocate for the safety of wolves, no matter where they are. It's a tragedy that one individual with a gun can take that away."

Renn and other advocates had hoped that the wolf's journey to northern Arizona would highlight the suitability of habitat north of Interstate 40. The freeway has become a lightning rod in the battle between conservation groups, who want recovery efforts expanded north, and wildlife officials, who have worked to restrict recovery to south of the interstate.

"People were engaged with this issue and wanted to see him make it. And I think that knowing that he was killed, and so senselessly, it hurts," said Anderson." And it hurts every time one of these animals is killed. There's no good reason. The loss of any individual that you care about ... it's hard.”

Making the incident more egregious, advocates said, Anubis was wearing a bright pink tracking collar when he was shot, meaning the shooter knew the wolf was an animal of value to science. The killing also puts into sharp relief some of the deficiencies of the Mexican wolf management, say the advocacy groups.

"Arizona Game and Fish could have done a lot more to raise a lot more awareness to protect him because he is a fully endangered wolf once he crosses north of I-40," said Renn. "And they have access to know who has hunting tags. And in every unit, they had much more reliable access to his up-to-date locations than we did. So they knew where he was and could have done a lot more to prevent his illegal killing."

Certain areas could have been closed, depending on Anubis's proximity, or the department could have reached out to hunters in areas where the wolf was present, said Renn, who believes the agency recovered the wolf's body.

A special rule governing the management of Mexican gray wolves, called the 10(j) rule, is currently under review by the USFWS. In 2018, a court order remanded the rule back to the department to address several deficiencies that conservation groups said undermine recovery.

Some of those concerns include lack of genetic diversity, a rigid population cap, and limited connectivity. A separate lawsuit, filed in 2018, challenged the wider Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. Last October, a judge ordered the federal agency to address several issues concerning that as well.

One of the more salient issues of that lawsuit concerns the illegal killing of Mexican wolves. Such killings are the primary cause of death, with 105 wolves being killed between 1998 and 2019, according to Earth Justice. As a result, the judge ordered USFWS to add specific requirements to address poaching.

For now, the agency has not released any new details on what specific actions it has taken to stop poaching, but that may come into sharper relief given the plight of Anubis, said Anderson. The agency has until next spring to revise the rules in the recovery plan.

Last summer, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, with the help of federal land managers, captured Anubis just north of Flagstaff and released him into the Mexican gray wolf recovery area, closer to the White Mountains. This was done for several reasons, said Jim DeVos, the Arizona Game and Fish lead on Mexican gray wolf recovery.

Chief among those were to make sure the wolf would be closer to others of his kind and to ensure safety. With Anubis’s killing, those concerns have come to fruition.

"Sometimes wolves are intentionally shot. And we know that there are times when wolves are accidentally shot by people that think it's a coyote," said DeVos at the time. "The probability of the demise of 2520 increases with the number of sightings."

The wolf's loss could be especially detrimental to the future recovery of Mexican gray wolves given their genetic constraints. The population is dangerously inbred and faces a dire future without further intervention. In total, there are 186 Mexican gray wolves left in the wild, according to USFWS.

Since Mexican gray wolves are classified as an endangered species, it is illegal to kill them in the wild. Killing one can lead to fines of up to $50,000, and/or up to one year in jail, plus a potential civil penalty of up to $25,000, according to the news release issued by conservation groups.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and conservation groups are offering a reward totaling almost $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of the offender. Tips can be filed at 1-844-397-8477 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

"Every loss of a wolf when there are so few wolves, is a problem," said Anderson. "And the loss of Anubis to illegal poaching is just a shame on so many other levels, too."

Lindsey Botts is an environmental reporter for The Arizona Republic and azcentral. Follow his reporting on Twitter at @lkbotts and Lkbotts on Instagram. Tell him about stories at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Environmental coverage on and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow The Republic environmental reporting team at and @azcenvironment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.