Mexican gray wolves have a hard time surviving in the world we’ve brought them back to. Faced with human hostility, careless hunters, fast-moving vehicles and ubiquitous-but-unallowable prey (i.e., domestic livestock), lobo lives are often cut short on the side of a road, at the end of a poacher’s rifle, or by government agents who have agreed to the devil’s bargain of wildlife ‘management.’ Thus, when a wolf like the Iron Creek Patriarch, AM 1240, dies in the wild at the ripe old age of 13, it’s worth honoring.
Male 1240 was born into the Bluestem Pack of wolves in 2011 to parents M806 and F1042. (His mother (F1042) is the longest-lived wild Mexican wolf on record; born in April of 2006, she was last documented on a trail camera in November of 2020.) He dispersed from his natal pack and began looking for his own territory in 2013. By 2014, he found his mate in “Acalia” (F1278, born in 2012) and together they became known as the Iron Creek Pack, establishing a home range on the rugged northern end of the Mogollon Mountains in New Mexico. Together, these two wolves had litters every year between 2014 and 2022, and adopted pups through the cross-fostering program in 2018, 2020, 2022, and 2023.
At its peak, the Iron Creek Pack was estimated to have at least 11 members (2020), with a capable and experienced set of parents at the helm. The pack only ever had a handful of depredations on livestock assigned to it and was never subjected to management killings for this activity. They seemed to respond to hazing efforts and didn’t make a habit of preying on the ubiquitous livestock within their home range. The lack of management interference in their wild lives probably contributed to the pack’s stability and the Iron Creek wolves have been an enduring presence in this part of the recovery area.
Unfortunately, AM1240 was found dead in New Mexico in September, 2023. The cause of death is under investigation and as yet unknown. What we do know is that his ability to endure and thrive is a model for wolf recovery, and gives us hope for the future of the species.
We extend our condolences to AM1240s lifelong mate, Acalia, who must feel lost on the landscape she shared with him for the past nearly ten years. Their known surviving offspring include Zeus (1555), Artimis (1721), Anuk (2549) and Polaris (2545), and grandpup Gus (1856). May they also live long and wild lives!