Contact: Carol Norton, WildEarth Guardians, 505 819-5912
Santa Fe, NM. WildEarth Guardians today announced the winning names in its wolf-naming contest for a pair of wolves who inhabit the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico. The names selected are “Bacho” for the alpha male and “Esperanza” for alpha female of the Middle Fork Pack, who up until today have been identified as “AF861” and “AM871.”
WildEarth Guardians devised the contest as a part of its ongoing campaign to enhance Mexican wolf recovery and to deepen the connection between individual wolves and the general public.
The idea of naming wolves is not novel. In the old West, pioneering settlers also commonly named wolves such as “Lefty” and “Two Toes.” Ernest Thompson Seton immortalized the most famous New Mexican wolves, naming them “Blanca” and “King of Currumpaw.” Initially a government-paid trapper in New Mexico, Seton killed these two wolves but later regretted his actions only to become a nationally known author and early wolf conservationist.
Narrowing the list down from an original 800 names, participants voted on one of four names selected for both the male and the female wolf. “Bacho” received the most votes for the male and is the Apache word for wolf and given that the Middle Fork Pack roams the highlands that were once the summer home of the Apache people, this selection recognizes them. In addition, this name honors a now deceased wolf pack of the same name, whose alpha male was killed by a poacher; poaching remains one of the biggest threats to Mexican wolf recovery.
“Esperanza” received the most votes for the female wolf and is the Spanish word for hope. In addition to honoring the long history of Spanish culture in the Mexican wolf’s region, this beautiful name conveys the multiple feelings these wild animals evoke including our hope for their survival and conservation.
The Middle Fork pack’s dominant pair is particularly special: each survives with just three legs. Esperanza had her leg shot by a poacher, while the Bacho sustained an injury from a steel-jawed, leg-hold trap. The Middle Fork pack’s disabilities also symbolize the hobbled Mexican gray wolf’s conservation status. Despite reintroducing wolves in 1998 with a recovery goal of 100 wild wolves by 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts have faltered.
“Every day wolves in the Southwest face a phalanx of illegal poachers and trappers, while state and federal have agents have taken far too few measures to protect them,” said Horning. “By naming the Middle Fork pack’s wolves, we individuate and celebrate their resiliency in the face of adversity and call attention to the plight of all Mexican wolves in the wild,” he added.