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Thanksgiving Thoughts on the Death of a Loba

By Jean Ossorio

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The life of a Mexican gray wolf in the wild is never easy. Wolves suffer broken bones from the sharp hooves of their much larger prey. Injured feet or missing legs from encounters with leg-hold traps make hunting difficult. Pups routinely die before reaching maturity. Hit-and-run drivers kill lobos on the highway. Far too many wolves have been shot by careless hunters or malicious people with guns. Only a few reintroduced lobos have died from natural causes. Hawk’s Nest alpha female AF1110 was one of the few. According to the results of a necropsy (an animal autopsy) released the day before Thanksgiving by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, she was killed by a lightning strike during one of the frequent thunderstorms that sweep through the mountains of eastern Arizona in late summer.

Although the death of AF1110 is a tragedy for her lobo family, those of us who were privileged to see her or hear her howl have much for which to be thankful.

Lobo activist Roxane George put it this way: "Standing under the night sky listening to AF1110 howl just a few weeks after losing her mate to a criminal's bullet was both thrilling and heart-rending. With so few of these critically endangered wolves in the wild, I knew that the odds of hearing that soulful song were almost as low as the odds of this lone female finding a new mate."

We are thankful that she and her original mate, AM1044, both wild-born wolves, were able to find each other in the vast recovery area. With only a handful of unattached lobos in the wild, it seems almost miraculous that they are able to locate compatible mates. The fact that AF1110 found another mate this year, following the death of AM1044 in 2010, is even greater cause for gratitude.

AF1110 was a prolific breeder, producing large litters of pups in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Several of her adult offspring have dispersed from the pack. One of them has found a mate and is now the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack. At least two others, both males, are wandering the recovery area alone.

The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team has proposed releasing two female wolves from captivity in December in order to provide potential mates for lone males. One of those lone male wolves is m1248, a son of AF1110. What a fitting tribute it would be to AF1110 for the Arizona Game and Fish Department to swiftly approve those releases and increase the odds of her son’s finding a suitable mate just a little.


This tribute to AF1110 was written by Jean Ossorio, a long-time wolf activist who has spent over 275 days camping in Mexican wolf country. She had the good fortune to see AF1110 twice in 2009 and to photograph her in May 2010, when she took the photos above.
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You can help AF1110’s son and other Mexican wolves find mates in the wild by emailing the Arizona Game and Fish Department  and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and asking them to expedite more releases. For more information on how to help, click here.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department news release about AF1110 can be found here.