Letter urges agencies to allow Mexican gray wolves to continue voyages into northern New Mexico

SANTA FE, NM– Conservation advocates today sent a letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish urging authorities to allow a female Mexican gray wolf to continue her migration journey in northern New Mexico.

Nicknamed “Asha” by schoolchildren, the wolf is originally from the Rocky Prairie pack of Arizona but has recently roamed northern New Mexico, beyond the arbitrary boundary of Interstate 40, which currently delineates the species’ recreational area. A recent map showed it to be east of Taos.

Today’s letter has been signed by 18 regional and national organizations and individuals.

“It’s insane that the government is planning to capture and expel this intrepid wolf from the moose-rich Rocky Mountains so that ranchers in northern New Mexico can feel safe,” said Michael Robinson, senior conservationist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scientists have found that Mexican gray wolves must eventually live and thrive in these mountains to no longer be endangered. The Fish and Wildlife Service should immediately change the silly rules preventing Asha and other Mexican gray wolves from migrating to landscapes that can aid in their recovery.”

“We want Mexican gray wolves to be able to roam freely and not be constrained by politically motivated borders like Interstate 40,” said Greta Anderson, associate director of the Western Watersheds Project. “Wildlife management agencies must allow wolves like Asha to roam into the habitats of their choice and not waste valuable resources trying to force wolves back into inadequate recreation areas.”

“Wolves spreading beyond their historical range and appropriate habitat are so important to restoring the Lobo in a meaningful, scientific way,” said Chris Smith, Southwest Wildlife Advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “Removing roaming wolves is completely at odds with their recovery. Leave her alone.”

“Through her amazing travels, Asha shows us that there is good living north of Interstate 40,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center. “This political boundary is neither biologically appropriate nor relevant to her or any other wolf distribution.”

“Wolves know no invisible political boundaries, and Asha’s epic journey north shows us the possibility of range expansion into the southern Rocky Mountains, where lobos once roamed,” said Renee Seacor, carnivore conservation advocate at the Rewilding Institute. “We are calling on the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to let Asha roam wild and free where she belongs.”

“Wolves are widespread animals that can scatter hundreds of miles in search of new mates and establishing new territories,” said Camilla Fox, founder and chief executive officer of Project Coyote. “Confining them to arbitrary political boundaries goes against the best science – and ethics – available. We have both a moral and scientific duty to allow the animals to disperse to form families and to support the recovery of wolves through the natural spread of the species.”

“This wolf’s name, Asha, means ‘hope’ in Sanskrit,” said Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “What could be better suited to a wolf exploring the big wide world on its own and surviving as wolves once did throughout the Southwest? Their migrations give us all hope for restoring these beautiful and important animals to where they belong.”

The Mexican gray wolf is the only endangered species the service has mandated by regulation to be confined to an arbitrary geographic zone. Independent scientists have determined that restoring this critically endangered subspecies, and particularly replenishing its limited gene pool, will require the establishment of three linked populations totaling at least 750 animals. The scientists found that two such populations could find adequate habitat in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and the southern Rocky Mountains — both north of I-40 and the latter where Asha is now.

Mexican gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Killing an animal violates the federal Endangered Species Act and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000 and/or up to one year in prison, and a possible civil penalty of up to $25,000.