A demand by Catron County officials to remove an endangered Mexican gray wolf from the wild in southwestern New Mexico has been rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

County officials wanted the female wolf removed because they said it had a history of cattle depredations. The county threatened to enforce an ordinance it passed earlier this year, which says the county has a right to trap and remove wolves deemed accustomed to humans or which have a high probability of physically or psychologically harming children or other defenseless people.

The Fish and Wildlife Service responded to the county in a letter last week, saying it doesn’t plan to remove the wolf. The letter also contained a warning, Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Victoria Fox said.

“We’ve emphasized that any action taken that would affect the Mexican wolf population that isn’t authorized under federal law will constitute a violation that will subject the entity or individual to the full prosecutorial power of the U.S. government,” she said.

Catron County Manager Bill Aymar said he didn’t know how the county would respond to the agency’s position. He said the decision will be up to the county’s three commissioners.

Federal biologists began releasing wolves on the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998 to re-establish the species in part of its historic range after it had been hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.