January 20, 2023

Wildlife advocates say Asha the wolf should be allowed to continue wandering in northern New Mexico

(CC BY-NC 2.0) by OZinOH

Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) photographed at the Columbus Zoo. Only two populations of the species exist in the wild, one in the U.S. and the other in Mexico.

Wildlife advocates want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to allow a wolf that school children in Arizona named Asha continue moving north after she crossed the Interstate 40 boundary that serves as the northern border of the Mexican wolf experimental population area.

More than a dozen organizations signed a letter to the wildlife management agencies. The letter, provided to NM Political Report, is dated Jan. 19. It requests that the wildlife managers allow Asha to “roam free in northern New Mexico or wherever she chooses to go.”

Organizations like Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians have for years argued that the I-40 boundary is an artificial boundary that hurts the wolf’s expansion and may ultimately harm recovery efforts.

“Wolves do not see invisible political boundaries, and Asha’s epic journey northward shows us the possibility of range expansion into the Southern Rockies where lobos historically roamed,” Renee Seacor, carnivore conservation advocate of The Rewilding Institute, said in a press release. “We urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to leave Asha where she belongs, roaming wild and free.”

Earlier this week, the radio collar Asha is wearing indicated that she is roaming east of Taos, far away from the experimental population area that is primarily in Sierra and Grant counties. 

The pack that Asha grew up in is known as the Rocky Prairie pack and roams in Arizona.

This isn’t the first time that a Mexican wolf has crossed the I-40 boundary, though most of the time the wolf has circled back and returned to the experimental population area. 

In 2021, a male wolf called Anubis headed north in Arizona, ultimately reaching the Flagstaff area where he was shot and killed.

In the letter, the wolf advocates say Asha’s journey shows that the current boundaries are insufficient to meet the needs of the expanding population of Mexican wolves.

“We are inspired by her adventurous spirit and relieved that she’s safely surmounted the significant obstacles she’s already encountered. Asha serves as a living testament to the truth that wolves are individuals with their own hopes and desires,” the letter states.