TUES: Mexican Wolf Breeding Program Gets Boost From Zoo+ More

Jul 20, 2021

Mexican Wolf Breeding Program Gets Boost From Zoo - By Fabiola Sánchez Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Five gray wolf pups born at Mexico City's Chapultepec Zoo are giving a boost to efforts to broaden the endangered species' genetic diversity amid continuing efforts to reintroduce the animals to the wild decades after they were reduced to captive populations.

The pups' father, Rhi, alerts them every midday to the delivery of breakfast, in the form of chicken and quail meat brought by zookeeper Jorge Gutiérrez, 58.

Gutiérrez has cared for Rhi since he was born, and is now proud to see he has formed a pack with the pups' mother, Seje.

"It's marvelous. What I am experiencing is something unique," says Gutiérrez.

He watches as the five wolf pups stumble out of their den to eat. The three males and two females were born in early April.

They are part of a four-decade, binational program between the United States and Mexico to breed the gray wolves in captivity and release them back into the wild.

Even the "endangered" classification is progress for the Mexican wolf; two years ago, given the success of the breeding program, Mexican authorities were able to move the subspecies up from its previous "probably extinct in the wild" classification.

For more than two decades, the effort to return Mexican gray wolves to the wild in the U.S. Southwest has been fraught with conflict. Ranchers have complained about the challenges of having to scare away the wolves to keep their cattle from being eaten. Many have said their livelihoods and rural way of life are at stake.

Environmentalists argue that wolf reintroduction has stumbled as a result of illegal killings and management decisions they contend are rooted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's attempt to accommodate ranchers and the region's year-round cattle calving season.

North America's rarest subspecies of gray wolf, the Mexican gray wolf was listed as endangered in 1976 after being hunted, trapped and poisoned to the brink of extinction. From the 1960s to the 1980s, seven gray wolves — believed to be the last of their kind — were captured and the captive breeding program began.

Wolves started being released in the late '90s. The wild population has nearly doubled over the last five years, with the latest annual census finding about 186 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.

In northern Mexico, the other part of the wolves' historic range, reintroduction initially stumbled.

An effort to reintroduce them to the wild in the border state of Sonora in 2011 ended in tragedy when all five wolves were poisoned, it's not clear by whom. But another release was carried out in 2012 in the state of Chihuahua, and those wolves now number around 40, most born in the wild.

Mexico is now studying other areas for possible releases.

Fernando Gual, a veterinarian who serves as director of Mexico City's zoos, notes that the Chapultepec Zoo also has a sperm and egg bank that provides backup for genetic material.

But the best guarantees are animals like Seje, who holds out a piece of meat with her mouth to show the pups how to eat.

"This is our jewel," Gual says. "Every litter of pups is hope for the life of this species."

Trial In Las Cruces Girl's Death Put On Hold By State CourtAssociated Press

A New Mexico Supreme Court order has brought a trial in the death of a 2-year-old Las Cruces girl to an abrupt halt.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports opening statements were given Monday before the trial of 26-year-old Lalo Anthony Castrillo had to stop.

The issue stems from prosecutors' appeal of Judge Douglas Driggers' decision to exclude exhibits involving Faviola Rodriguez's 2018 death. According to the judge, the Third Judicial District Attorney's Office had missed too many deadlines to turn over exhibits to the court and defense attorneys.

The exhibits include tangible evidence like 911 calls and photos of the young girl's body. Prosecutors would have to rely mainly on witness and expert testimony.

Castrillo, who was dating Faviola's mother, is accused of abusing the girl while babysitting her. Authorities say he abused her to the point where her injuries were fatal.

Castrillo's attorneys say the prosecutors' lag in turning over exhibits severely damaged their ability to prepare for the trial.

Assistant District Attorney Daniel Sewell says the judge's ban on physical evidence is too severe.

Judge Driggers has until July 26 to respond to the order suspending the trial, according to the Supreme Court.

Las Cruces Lawmaker Says Politics Led To Denial Of CommunionAssociated Press

A New Mexico lawmaker says he was denied Communion by his local Catholic priest because of his politics.

Democratic state Sen. Joseph Cervantes said Monday that he has been treated differently by the church since voting to repeal a state law banning abortion under most circumstances.

Cervantes' statement came after he tweeted over the weekend about not getting Communion from Peter Baldacchino, bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he said he "felt it necessary to address those who would politicize, and thereby belittle, the promises of the Eucharist."

Cervantes, of Las Cruces, says the outdated law, which would have jailed women for getting an abortion, was unconstitutional.

A spokesman for Baldacchino declined comment to media outlets. The diocese, however, put out a statement.

"The Diocese regrets that Senator Cervantes chose not to enter into dialogue with any diocesan official and felt that Twitter would be the most appropriate outlet to express his concerns," the diocese wrote.

The controversy reflects an ongoing effort by some bishops in the U.S. to rebuke politicians who support abortion rights but continue to receive Communion.

New Mexico Marks Record Year Of Spending By Film Industry - Associated Press

Despite the coronavirus pandemic that led to a shutdown for months in film production, the show did go on in New Mexico.

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The New Mexico Film Office announced Monday that this fiscal year, which began in July 2020, broke records in the state with film and TV productions spending roughly $623 million. An estimated 40% of production budgets are spent on procuring goods and services from New Mexico businesses, according to the state.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham touted the numbers, saying the productions would otherwise have been shot elsewhere had it not been for the state's crew base, stunning locations and film incentive program.

“As New Mexico opens this summer and production ramps up, now is the time to ensure we remain invested in the New Mexico film and television industry, as it is key to our state’s recovery and to diversifying New Mexico’s economy,” she said in a statement.

Earlier this year, NBCUniversal marked the opening of its production hub near downtown Albuquerque. It joined Netflix, which has plans to expand its footprint on the southern edge of the city. Both have received millions of dollars in state and local economic development funds as incentives for locating in New Mexico.

An estimated 9,000 New Mexico residents work in the industry with an average wage of over $56,000 annually, according to the state. About three-quarters of below-the-line crew and cast members involved in productions over the last year were residents.

Production was halted for about one quarter of the fiscal year because of the pandemic. Since resuming in September 2020, the state saw 26 film, 24 television and 19 additional media productions. During that time, the COVID-19 positivity rate among crew and cast remained low, averaging about 0.1%.

Amber Dodson, director of the New Mexico Film Office, said there are more productions in the pipeline for the remainder of the year and well into 2022.

“We expect this growth to continue as we work to expand the ecosystem to include a larger crew base, expanded sound stage infrastructure, and increased post-production, visual effects and multimedia production,” she said in a statement.

Denial Of Public Financing To Mayoral Candidate UpheldAlbuquerque Journal, KUNM News

The Albuquerque city clerk’s decision to deny mayoral candidate and Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales public financing has been upheld.   

The Albuquerque Journal reports the decision regarding over $600,000 dollars in public campaign funding was issued yesterday.

Administrative hearing officer Ripley Harwood ruled that Gonzales failed to prove that city clerk, Ethan Watson, who was appointed by opponent and incumbent Mayor Tim Keller, was politically motivated in his determination, or that Gonzales was denied due process.

Gonzales’ campaign has admitted that it turned in forged documents submitted to qualify for public financing, saying doing so is common practice. Harwood rejected that argument.  

Gonzales plans to appeal the ruling in state District Court and argued again yesterday that the fraudulent documents of support do not invalidate the valid contributions to his campaign.

Navajo Nation Revives Horse Ride For New Council Session – Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press 

The Navajo Nation Council is commencing its summer session with a return to tradition.

Tribal officials marked the beginning of the session Monday with a horse ride to the council chamber in Window Rock, Arizona, the Farmington Daily Times reported.

The horse ride was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The ride's participants typically would travel to various chapters before arriving at the session. The event honors how previous tribal leaders would go to the Navajo Nation's capital.

Delegate Mark Freeland said he rode alongside more than two dozen others.

Still, some delegates chose to attend the session by telephone.

The reservation is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. 

Hard hit by the pandemic with more than 31,000 known cases, the Navajo Nation is seeing cases going down. But leaders are continuing to urge mask wearing and vaccinations.

Navajo Nation Reports 6 New COVID-19 Cases, But No Deaths - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation on Monday reported six new COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths.

The latest numbers brought the total number of coronavirus-related cases on the vast reservation to 31,201 since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

The number of known deaths remained at 1,366 for the second consecutive day.

The Navajo Nation recently relaxed restrictions to allow visitors to travel on the reservation and visit popular attractions like Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley. 

New Mexico Is 2nd State To Make Gas Stations Liable For DUI - Associated Press

Gas stations have a legal obligation not to sell fuel to drivers who are believed to be intoxicated, the New Mexico Supreme Court said Monday in a decision that could have far-reaching effects on businesses and that only one other state applies so strictly.

The divided court outlined a precedent-setting ruling that raises the implication that not only gasoline merchants but other types of businesses — from auto parts stores and tire shops to mechanics — could be on the hook for ensuring they don't sell products to people who then drive drunk.

The decision notes that only one other state — Tennessee — applies the law in such a way to create a “duty of care” for businesses to refrain from supplying fuel to drunken drivers because of the risk of driving while intoxicated.

The ruling came in response to a request from a federal appeals court to resolve a question of state law concerning the potential liability of a retailer that sold gasoline to an intoxicated driver in 2011. After refueling and returning to the highway, that driver crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming vehicle, killing a person.

Under the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment, the owners of potentially dangerous goods have a responsibility to supply those goods only to someone competent to safely use them. New Mexico courts have recognized in past decisions that the owner of a vehicle who entrusts an intoxicated person to drive it may be liable for injuries caused by the drunken driving.

While New Mexico has no law that would prohibit the sale of gasoline to intoxicated drivers, the court's majority wrote that a duty not to sell gasoline to someone who is drunk is consistent with liability for giving that person alcohol or a vehicle.

“Gasoline is required to operate most vehicles today. Providing gasoline to an intoxicated driver is like providing car keys to an intoxicated driver," the majority wrote.

The court reviewed past legal precedents, statutes and other principles of law in reaching its decision. The majority noted that the New Mexico Legislature this year prohibited the sale of hard liquor at convenience store gas stations one county. State law also holds businesses and others liable for selling or serving alcohol to intoxicated people.

In her dissenting opinion, now-retired Justice Barbara Vigil wrote that selling or serving alcohol is regulated and that laws don't warrant extending liability for drunken driving to retail sales of nonalcoholic goods.

She noted that “this sea change in the law could have far-reaching consequences for retail businesses” — from auto parts stores and tire shops to mechanics and others who will be left guessing as to whether they are subject to the new duty.

Vigil added that it's unclear how much investigation gas stations will have to do to determine whether a person may be intoxicated when trying to refuel a vehicle, particularly when many drivers pay at the pump rather than dealing with a worker inside.

Las Vegas, NM Officers Shoot And Kill Armed Suspect - Associated Press

Police in Las Vegas, New Mexico, are investigating a fatal officer-involved shooting.

The Las Vegas authorities say officers were responding Saturday night to a domestic call when they encountered 30-year-old Jeffery Scott walking out of the home.

According to investigators, Scott had a gun and pointed it at the officers and fired several rounds.

Two officers returned fire.

Scott fled on foot but officers found him a short time later dead from a gunshot wound.

Police say no officers were wounded by the gunfire.

The incident remains under investigation. The officers' names will not be released until interviews with them have been completed.