Wandering Mexican gray wolf Removed From Northern New Mexico
A wandering Mexican gray wolf, named Asha by school children, also known as F2754, had her journey cut short by wildlife officials who captured her after she attempted to roam beyond the designated recovery area in New Mexico. As we mentioned last week, we, along with several other conservation groups, supported allowing Asha the freedom to continue her journey unabated. Given our support of the leading science that says supplementing Mexican gray wolves’ limited gene pool will require the establishment of three connected populations totaling at least 750 animals, it’s short-sighted for wildlife agencies to limit the range of Lobos below the I-40 divide in New Mexico and Arizona. The Mexican gray wolf is the only endangered species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has committed through regulation to confining within an arbitrary geographic zone.
This isn’t the end of “Asha’s” story, according to The Times Union, “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials in Albuquerque said the wolf will be held temporarily in captivity and paired with a male Mexican wolf ‘for transfer as a pair to Mexico later this year.’” While we support the recovery efforts in Mexico and hope that Asha and her chosen mate continue to help the species grow, the larger issue is whether it makes sense to limit the natural migrations of wolves to such a limited range, despite evidence showing wolves having a much larger historical range, and independent scientists claiming that the path to genetic diversity might lie in expanding that range.
We’ve even supported the idea of introducing Mexican gray wolves in Colorado, the border of which Asha nearly reached, with reports of her showing up near Taos, NM, a town just over 50 miles from the southern Colorado border.
An Outdated Law
The law that prompted wildlife officials to stop Asha on her trek is an outdated 1998 ruling called 10j, which limits the movement of Mexican wolves to a few designated recovery areas south of an arbitrary man-made highway, I-40. But Mexican wolves once ranged across New Mexico, Arizona, west Texas, northern Mexico, and possibly as far north as southern Utah and Colorado. Humans nearly wiped out Mexican wolves before they were established as endangered in 1976, and it’s been a slow journey to get their numbers up to the 196 wild wolves that the last census in 2021 counted. That number won’t ever make the sort of progress we’re seeking without the establishment of wider ranges and new habitats for several distinct packs to thrive in.
The reasons for this need center around genetic diversity and risk management. It makes sense, if one large group of wolves in one area were to get a contagious disease, it would likely run through the whole population. If a genetically diverse smattering of several groups of wolves is spread across a larger area, that’s much less likely.
That’s why we will continue to fight for overturning the ruling that FWS must capture wolves that naturally attempt to expand the rigid boundaries they’ve been placed in, and will continue to advocate for new territories for wolves to be reintroduced. If you’d like to help us in that mission, consider donating, or joining Wolf Pass, a monthly subscription that gets you access to inside information, updates on the wolves at the WCC, special offers, and more, all while helping us maintain and expand our conservation efforts for wolves across North America.