Thirty years ago, the first wolves were released in Arizona in an area designated the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. This followed a 15-year bi-national captive breeding program that brought the wolf back from near extinction after the population in Mexico had dwindled to about 50 individuals remaining in the wild. Currently, there are about 113 wolves roaming within Arizona and New Mexico. A smaller number of wolves, approximately 28, run free in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico.
The effect of an impermeable border wall or fence would have obvious negative consequences for a whole suite of organisms that make their living in the borderlands. Currently, there is broad opposition to the proposals put forth to construct a 2000-mile long border wall. This is heartening. However, walls on the border already exist and pressure to expand them does not seem to be abating. Scientifically-valid Mexican wolf recovery relies on connected, binational populations across the suitable range for this species to ensure robust genetic health. Habitat analysis has shown connectivity and core habit stretch across the border and would be immediately negatively impacted by further border wall construction.
And Mexican wolves have already shown a desire to move across the border. In 2016, a female was born in a breeding facility near Cananea in the state of Sonora, Mexico. She was fitted with a collar and, in October of the same year, released in the neighboring state of Chihuahua, 90 miles from the international border. Known by wolf managers as f1530, and named Sonora by wolf advocates, she then traveled north. Her collar last located her 21 miles south of the border on Valentine’s Day, 2017. On March 19, she was sighted in Arizona, and a week later she was captured by an Interagency Field Team in charge of the species’ on-the-ground management, and taken to a breeding facility, pending a decision on her future. Sonora showed a wild courage in traveling through the rugged terrain of the borderlands, undeterred by highways and other obstacles in her search for a family.
Map reproduced from Wildlands Network’s report Four Species on the Brink