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ICE Shadow Wolves

Shadow Wolf at Car Door Shadow Wolf patch

Overview

The Shadow Wolves are a Native American tactical patrol unit assigned to Homeland Security Investigations in Sells, Arizona located on the Tohono O’odham Nation. The name "Shadow Wolves" refers to the way the unit hunts, like a wolf pack. The Shadow Wolves specialize in the interdiction of human and drug smugglers through the rugged terrain of the Sonoran Desert utilizing both technology and the traditional art of tracking. Despite the use of high-tech equipment, the unit relies on their ability to track, a technique called "cutting for sign" which includes any kind of physical evidence left by smugglers, (footprints, tire tracks, thread, clothing, etc.). This elite unit was established by Congressional mandate in 1974 in response to rampant smuggling occurring through the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Key Facts

  • The Shadow Wolves are the Department of Homeland Security’s only Native American tracking unit specifically utilized for targeted interdiction operations.
  • The Tohono O’odham Nation, patrolled by the Shadow Wolves, covers 2.8 million acres, including a 76-mile stretch of land shared with Mexico.
  • The Shadow Wolves are a key component of the Native American Targeted Investigations of Violent Enterprises (NATIVE) Task Force, a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative formed in August 2013, to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations operating within or through the Tohono O'odham Nation. NATIVE’s partners include HSI, the Tohono O’odham Police Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs-Drug Enforcement Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Land Management.
  • Congress has recently introduced a bill to modernize the Shadow Wolves Program, by providing the flexibility to reclassify the Shadow Wolves, current and future, from GS-1801 Tactical Officers to GS 1811 Special Agents.  This change would broaden the Shadow Wolves authorities while preserving the important legacy of the unit.

Success Stories

  • Multiple law enforcement agencies including the Shadow Wolves participated in Operation Rocky Top 2, as part of the HIDTA NATIVE Task Force, dismantling a component of the Sinaloa Cartel that exploited the U.S.-Mexico border within the Tohono O’Odham Nation. https://www.justice.gov/usao-az/pr/final-defendant-largest-cartel-drug-scout-prosecution-arizona-sentenced-prison
  • Interdiction and investigative efforts the Shadow Wolves have led and participated in between 2010 and 2020, resulted in 437 drug and immigration arrests; the seizure of over 117,264 pounds of drugs, 45 weapons, 251 vehicles and $847,928 in U.S. currency.
Updated: 11/16/2021