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SAT: Endangered Mexican gray wolf shot in leg at the border, Oppenheimer film pre-production begins in New Mexico, + More

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Mexican gray wolf that tried to cross border shot in legAssociated Press

An endangered Mexican gray wolf that drew media attention late last year after it appeared to spend five days pacing along the border fence separating New Mexico from Mexico has been found with a serious gunshot wound.

The Center for Biological Diversity announced Friday evening that the male wolf that was released into the wild in Arizona in 2000 had been found with a gunshot to one of his legs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used a helicopter to track the injured wolf and used a tranquilizer dart to sedate it.

The animal called "Mr. Goodbar" was then brought to the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo and veterinarians planned to amputate part or all of the injured leg, according to Michael Robinson, of the Center for Biologic al Diversity.

Robinson said the wolf is expected to survive and be released back into the wild once he recovers.

The injured wolf was spotted during the Fish and Wildlife Service's annual census of wolves in the southwest. Last year's census counted 186 Mexican gray wolves living in New Mexico and Arizona. Robinson said that number is likely to rise above 200 when the current census is completed.

Mexican gray wolves were wiped out in the U.S. by 1950. After the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, some of the last remaining members of the species were captured in Mexico and bred in captivity. Wolves began to be reintroduced to the southwest in 1998.

The Center for Biological Diversity believes Mr. Goodbar was trying to go to Mexico while searching for a mate when it wandered along the new border fence for days in November. The fence blocks wolves and other animals from crossing back and forth in search of mates.

"Mr. Goodbar's painful experiences illustrate the inhospitable world we've created for Mexican gray wolves and other vulnerable animals," Robinson said in a statement.

Preproduction of Oppenheimer movie underway in New Mexico Associated Press

Preproduction is underway in northern New Mexico for a film directed by Christopher Nolan about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist called the father of the atomic bomb for his leading role in World War II's Manhattan Project.

Four-hour casting calls were scheduled Saturday and Sunday in Santa Fe and Los Alamos for people to portray local residents, military personnel and scientists, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

According to Alessi Hartigan Casting, additional extras are needed for academics, college students, drivers, executives and military wives.

"This is an exciting opportunity for locals to be part of a film that showcases our area, and we encourage all community members to register and participate," said Kelly Stewart, marketing manager for Los Alamos County. "Those who have already submitted Google forms for different characters should be sure to register and consider attending one of the casting calls."

Universal Pictures said in September that it had acquired rights to finance and distribute the film.

Though the Manhattan Project included work at locations around the country, Los Alamos was the site of the secret base where bomb components were assembled for the July 16, 1945, test code-named Trinity at a desert location in southern New Mexico.

US judge won't rein in federal wild horse roundup in NevadaBy Scott Sonner, Associated Press

A federal judge decided Friday not to rein in the roundup and capture of wild horses in eastern Nevada, rejecting advocates' claims the federal government was "needlessly and recklessly" killing free-roaming mustangs in violation of U.S. law.

With a little more than four weeks to go for federal land managers to complete what they call a drought-prompted "gather" near the Utah state line, U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said she wasn't convinced groups trying to stop the process would win their underlying lawsuit.

"The court finds that plaintiffs have not shown they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims and that the balance of equities in this instance weighs against enjoining the 2022 gather," she said.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management insists it must round up the mustangs before the end of February — one of several operations scheduled on an expedited basis due to historically dry conditions on the Western range.

Maggie Smith, a Justice Department lawyer, told the judge on Wednesday that a delay of even two or three days would prevent the agency from completing planned removals before the end of the year.

"This is a very high priority (for the bureau). It's an area that is suffering from extreme drought conditions, very limited forage and a huge overpopulation of horses," Smith said.

The bureau plans to capture more horses this year than ever before, at least 19,000 across 10 western states. The 13,666 gathered last year was the previous high.

Agents are prohibited from using helicopters to drive herds into temporary corrals from March 1 to June 1, when mares typically are pregnant and give birth. After that, summer heat adds stress on the animals and contractor availability becomes a problem in the fall, Smith said.

Horse advocates led by Laura Leigh, Wild Horse Education, Animal Wellness Action and the nonprofit CANA Foundation say the agency is squeezing the roundup of 2,030 horses in Nevada into a month under an illegal environmental assessment of a series of gathers over 10 years.

Of 1,048 horses rounded up as of Wednesday, the bureau said 11 died.

The horse groups say the low-flying helicopters combined with "unsafe muddy conditions on the ground in mid-January create a purely artificial hazard that is deadly to these wild horses, a congressional protected, public natural resource."

The bureau said a 1% fatality rate was consistent with the 1.1% rate estimated as the average for all horse gathers from 2010-19.

"In short, there is nothing to suggest the conditions of this gather are unusually dangerous to the horses," it said in response to the request for Du's emergency order.

"It fact," Smith told Du, "it is proceeding very smoothly. While we certainly regret the harm to any animal, what we are seeing here is exactly what we expected,."

Du asked lawyers for the horse groups if they expected no horses to die in the roundup.

Jessica Blome, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that while some deaths do typically occur, in this case, there have been "more than necessary."

"This particular herd is foaling now and pregnant now," Blome told Du on Wednesday. "If they had followed the proper process and monitored the herd, they would know that."

Albuquerque lawmaker resigns to focus on mental healthAssociated Press

A Democratic lawmaker who represents an Albuquerque district in the state House resigned Friday and said she was doing so to focus on her mental health.

Rep. Brittney Barreras was halfway through her first term in the House when she abruptly announced her resignation through a statement issued by the Democratic caucus.

Barreras said she had been honored to be trusted by her neighbors and community to represent them and did her best to serve the 12th District.

"The huge amount of pressure in such a big job has become increasingly difficult for me," she said in the statement. "All of the pressure and stress has taken a toll on my mental health."

She said that she knows many are like her and have experienced stress and anxiety after two years facing the coronavirus pandemic and "I want you to know that I feel you, I see you, I hear you, and we're in this together.

"I know that I need to take care of myself right now in order to be a good mom, daughter, co-parent, and community member," she said.

Barreras said she has arranged to ensure her district is well represented until the Bernalillo County Commission can appoint a replacement.

Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf said in a statement that he had been impressed with Barreras' warmth, energy and dedication.

"I have come to deeply appreciate her skill as a legislator and her fierce and compassionate advocacy for her community," Egolf said. "I wish her and her family the very best for the future."

Albuquerque mayor pleads with lawmakers to help with crimeBy Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller told a panel of state lawmakers Friday that they need to help New Mexico's largest city deal with its persistent crime problems by clearing the way for the most violent defendants to be kept behind bars pending trial.

While making his latest plea, the Democratic mayor said residents are "screaming for the Legislature to help our city."

"We are doing everything we can and we need your help," he said. "So if that means amending things later, if it means new bills, that's fine. We just need your help."

At issue is legislation that would allow for keeping defendants accused of murder, rape and other violent crimes jailed pending trial. District attorneys contend it would help close a revolving door in the criminal justice system, but public defenders and civil rights advocates say there are constitutional concerns and have questioned whether it would address the problem as intended.

Republican Rep. Greg Nibert, an attorney who represents constituents in a rural district 200 miles away from Albuquerque, said he has been working for years to fix what many have recognized as a broken system. He likened the current state of criminal justice to a slap on the wrist.

"I know that we as a legislative body have got to get a handle on crime if we have any reasonable expectation of having economic growth and having more prosperity for our citizens," he said. "Businesses will not come to a place where there is rampant crime."

The legislation comes as residents focus their frustrations on New Mexico's 2016 bail reform effort, which was designed to do away with the cash bail system and keep low-level offenders without financial means from languishing in jail. It also allowed prosecutors to seek detention for defendants deemed dangerous.

Officials with the Albuquerque Police Department testified Friday about the rise in crime over the last several years. Others talked about crime in the suburbs and in communities like Gallup, Aztec and Taos.

Albuquerque shattered its homicide record last year, and there have been several homicides since the start of the year.

In a nod to promises made by politicians during an election year, some lawmakers said they were worried about rushing any changes to the pretrial detention system without fully vetting them.

"We as legislators, we need to make sure that if the legislation moves forward, that we do everything in our power, that we do everything that we could possibly do to ensure that this piece of legislation passes constitution muster," Nibert said.

Nibert expects the matter to end up before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

"It will be challenged," he said. "And if we are wrong, it will cost the state of New Mexico a lot of money."

Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey of Albuquerque, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said she had concerns about how the bill was written and worried that it wouldn't address the problem.

"I just hope we have actually have a solution that isn't ignoring the reality and the data that we have now," she said.

Chief Public Defender Ben Baur warned Chasey's committee that lawmakers should not be legislating and making policy based on anecdotes. He and other defense attorneys said the Legislature should instead look at improving pre-trial supervision and making sure that monitoring of defendants is constant.

"Unfortunately, it appears that this bill is something which has been presented over the last few weeks and few months as the only way to address the crime problem in Albuquerque," he said. "It is that sense of crisis that I think has been created in the media and in this Legislature that leads to poor decision making."

While police officers can attest to seeing more crime, Albuquerque Deputy Police Commander Kyle Hartsock testified that the number of criminals hasn't necessarily grown, but rather the same people are committing more crimes.

"The same criminals know it's a joke. They know they can just come out and keep doing these crimes over and over," Hartsock said. "They know how easy it is to avoid detection of pretrial services monitoring, of probation officers and even police. Keeping certain violent criminals incarnated until their trial is honestly one of the only ways to keep this society safe."

Defense attorneys argued that the crimes being committed by people on pretrial release account for a small percentage of the crime rate and that they are not the driver of Albuquerque's problems.

Law enforcement officials also disputed the effectiveness of GPS ankle monitors when it comes to violent offenders, pointing out that defendants are not monitored around the clock nor are there immediate consequences if they violate conditions of their release.

"We have to match the right tool to the right process and the right crimes, and right now GPS monitoring is not the right tool for violent crimes," Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said.