Conservationists celebrate northward-roaming Mexican gray wolf

Mexican Wolf running

Mexican Wolf (Source: USFWS)

The week of January 11, a young female Mexican gray wolf ran into northern New Mexico, passed over the arbitrary Interstate 40 boundary, and is continuing on her way toward Colorado, breaking records for the recovery program’s geographic extent and giving conservation groups a reason to celebrate. 

The wolf, named Asha by schoolchildren in an annual Pup Naming Contest, is originally from Arizona and part of the Rocky Prairie pack. She moved east of Interstate 25 late in 2022 and has since journeyed back and forth over Interstate 40 east of Albuquerque. 

“Wolves like Asha clearly show us that political lines like the Interstate 40 boundary are meaningless to a wolf, and the policies limiting wolf dispersal to the northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico must be revised. We’re cheering her progress north and hope that the wildlife management agencies will let her run wild and free,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project.

“So long as wolves are allowed to roam and search for suitable habitat and mates, that is a huge win for conservation and healthy ecosystems,” said Chris Smith, southwest wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish would do well to let her find what she is looking for as she moves into the Southern Rockies. This is a great sign for wolf recovery and a great moment for the iconic lobo.”

“Wolves evolved to play a profound role in the ecosystem, supporting the health of forests, riparian areas, and meadows, along with nearly all of the plants and animals that live there,” said Sally Paez, staff attorney for New Mexico Wild. “We celebrate Asha’s journey and urge policymakers to expand opportunities for wolves to reclaim the remaining wild, remote landscapes across the southwest, where they belong.”   

“Asha is doing what wild wolves are born to do, roam wild and free,” said Renee Seacor carnivore conservation advocate for Project Coyote and The Rewilding Institute. “We celebrate her wanderings and urge U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to allow her to roam freely. Her trek gives us hope that one day lobos may return and expand their range into the Southern Rockies.”

“Wolves are explorers by nature,” said Maggie Howell of the Wolf Conservation Center. “With recovery as the ultimate goal for the Mexican gray wolf program, Asha’s peaceful and independent passage through her ancestral turf is cause for celebration, and folks from coast to coast are rooting her on!”

Mexican gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000, and/or up to one year in jail, plus a potential civil penalty of up to $25,000. Hunters are expected to know their targets before shooting. More information on the physical distinctions between Mexican gray wolves and coyotes is available online (https://bit.ly/3itGtdy, p 117-118).  

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