For immediate release November 29, 2023
Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project
Chris Smith, WildEarth Guardians
Claire Musser, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project
Mary Katherine Ray, Rio Grande Chapter Sierra Club
Regan Downey, Wolf Conservation Center
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Conservation groups are applauding state and federal agencies’ willingness to let Asha, a roaming Mexican gray wolf (#2754), stay wild as she explores the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. This is the second time this year that she’s crossed the invisible and ecologically senseless border out of the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) and ventured north of the arbitrary boundary of Interstate 40. However, unlike with her January 2023 foray, the state and federal wildlife agencies say they have “no immediate plans” to capture her at this time.
“She’s tasting a freedom that no other known Mexican gray wolves have experienced since they were killed off in the U.S. at the behest of the livestock industry during the last century,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. “She’s been wild in northern New Mexico for 27 days, which is almost twice as long as the amount of time they let her roam north of Interstate 40 last January. This shows progress, and we’re delighted that they are following the science and letting her stay where she chooses.”
“The fact that Asha has been allowed to do what most wild animals do is perhaps a sign that wildlife policy is in fact progressing,” said Chris Smith, southwest wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “She is exploring an area where wolves lived for thousands of years until humans wiped them out. It’s a natural thing to do and it’s good to see that heavy-handed management isn’t getting in the way of that exploration.”
Numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers have demonstrated that Mexican gray wolf recovery depends on multiple subpopulations of wolves in the wild, including in the southern Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico and in the Grand Canyon Ecoregion of northern Arizona and southern Utah. Advocates have repeatedly asked the agencies to remove the Interstate 40 boundary and let wolves expand northward.
“It’s great that there are no plans to capture her at this time, and why should they? Asha is leading the way by keeping a low profile and fulfilling her ecological roles in great wolf habitat,” said Claire Musser, executive director of Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. “Any movement to capture her now would be as arbitrary as the boundary, and we’re pleased to see the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting rationally to let her stay wild.”
There has been overwhelming public support for her continued freedom. Conservation organizations report that thousands of members of the public have sent letters or signed a petition asking New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the wildlife agencies to let her wander. Multiple letters to the editor and opinion pieces have expressed favorable opinions of her continued roaming.
“Over ten thousand voices across the country, stemming from a variety of platforms, have called on the agencies to let Asha roam and we’re grateful that they’re letting her do so,” said Regan Downey, director of education at the Wolf Conservation Center. “The American public wants Asha to stay north of I-40, and Asha herself wants to stay north of I-40. We’re thrilled!”
“As someone who lives and recreates in the Gila region in southwestern New Mexico where wolves are returning, the possibility of seeing or hearing a lobo is life enriching,” said Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Whether Asha finds a mate or not in Northern New Mexico, her presence is repairing something that was broken when wolves were extirpated there. Let her stay and let us humans learn from her.”
“When I heard Asha was in the Jemez Mountains, I wanted to throw her a ticker tape welcome parade for all the ecosystem benefits she would bring”, said Leia Barnett, a northern New Mexico hunter who harvested an elk in the Jemez Mountains this fall.
“It will be so interesting to see where she goes and what she chooses to do on her journey. Sure, she might miss a chance to find a mate this winter, but she might accomplish so much more for her species by demonstrating corridors of wolf dispersal,” said Anderson. “I really hope they let her continue to wander.”