The reward to find the killer of three gray wolves found dumped in northern Minnesota has tripled thanks to The Humane Society, which has described the crime as "heinous."
The frozen carcasses of the wolves, which are on the United States endangered species list, were found off Highway 8 in Floodwood around Jan. 22.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is offering $2,500 to catch the killer, and The Humane Society of the U.S. and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are stumping up a further $5,000 for the person who provides information that leads to a conviction.
Christine Coughlin, Minnesota state director for The Humane Society, said: "There is no excuse for deliberately killing three members of a threatened species and discarding the animals like litter along the road for all to see.
"The poacher responsible has callously wasted the lives of these wolves and removed them from their pack during breeding season, which can cause serious disruption in pack structure. We’re hopeful this reward will bring forward anyone with information about this heinous crime."
Marla Wilson, acting executive director of the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, added "Clearly the person responsible for killing these magnificent animals has no regard for the law that helped bring them back from the brink of extinction."
The date and time the wolves were killed is still being determined, but the USFWS says evidence shows the wolves were killed elsewhere and purposely moved to the area where they were found.
It’s illegal to kill a gray wolf in Minnesota, except in the defense of human life, the state Department of Natural Resources website shows. The punishment for poaching a wolf is up to six months in prison and a fine up to $25,000, the Star Tribune says.
This decision has proved contentious however, with several proposals to remove those protections being put forward after concerns about wolves preying on livestock and pets. These efforts have failed.
While Tina Shaw, of the USFWS, told CityPages she can't say what motivated the killer in this case, she did say some agents believe the wolves may have been killed to "make a statement."
"They wanted these wolves to be found," she told the website. "This is not something that an ethical hunter would ever do."