The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it has sent Asha, a well-known Mexican gray wolf, back to the Arizona wilderness. She was captured last January for hiking outside an arbitrary management area and heading north to the Rocky Mountains in southern New Mexico. Their trip last winter was innovative, sending them east of Interstate 25, across Interstate 40 and near Taos.
“Asha is a brave young wolf, and we are glad that she is free again to continue living her life on her own terms,” said Cyndi Tuell, director of the Western Watersheds Project in Arizona and New Mexico. “It is scientifically indefensible and inherently unfair that wolves have to stay south of Interstate 40. Wolves like Asha have repeatedly shown that this purely political boundary is ecologically irrelevant.”
Under the current Mexican gray Wolf reintroduction rule, Mexican wolves are restricted to the Arizona and New Mexico areas south of Interstate 40. The regulations of the service provide for the removal of all Mexican wolves found beyond this border. However, prominent scientists have stated that the habitat in and around the Grand Canyon national Park and in the southern Rocky Mountains are key places for new populations of Mexican wolves to establish themselves and ensure a real rest. Conservation organizations are currently in court to challenge this limit.
“Welcome home, Asha!”said Emily Renn, executive director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. “I can only imagine what it’s like to live a wandering wolf born in the wild, if he is kept in captivity for no good reason. The authorities responsible for the management of Mexican wolves must recognize that long-distance dispersal is a natural behavior inherent in many wolves and should be included in their recovery and should not be denied to these endangered mammals with a large range.”
“It’s great to know that Asha is free again,” said Michael Robinson, senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “She can not understand the harsh policy of the livestock industry, which drove her to detention, but she certainly loves her freedom. Hopefully, a court has ordered the government to finally follow science and allow wolves to roam around if she or one of her future puppies goes on another such trip.”
“Asha’s story is both a story of human taxation and wild resilience,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center. “His unnecessary capture was in sharp contrast to his instinctive willingness to look for suitable habitats. Today, when she returns home, we are reminded of our duty to make sure that the policy is in line with the inherent instincts and environmental needs of the world’s most endangered gray wolves.”
“This incident is a strong reminder that wolves cannot understand or recognize political boundaries. Gray wolves once wandered freely from coast to coast and from Alaska to Mexico. Now more than ever, the national protection of wolves under the endangered species Act is critical to their recovery,” Leslie Williams and Samantha Attwood, founding members of the #RelistWolves campaign, told WAN.