Mexican Gray Wolf Named Asha Returned To The Wild After Being Captured For Wandering Past USFWS Regulated Zone

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it returned Asha, a well-known Mexican gray wolf, to the wild in Arizona. She was captured last January for wandering outside of an arbitrary management zone and heading north into the southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. Her journey last winter broke new ground and sent her east of Interstate 25, across Interstate 40, and up near Taos.

“Asha is a courageous young wolf, and we’re thrilled she’s once again free to continue living her life on her own terms,” said Cyndi Tuell, Arizona and New Mexico director of Western Watersheds Project. “It’s scientifically indefensible and inherently unfair that wolves need to stay south of Interstate 40. Wolves like Asha have shown, time and time again, that this purely political boundary is ecologically irrelevant.”

Under the current Mexican gray wolf reintroduction rule, Mexican wolves are confined to the areas of Arizona and New Mexico south of Interstate 40. Regulations from the Service provide for the removal of any Mexican wolf found beyond this boundary. However, leading scientists have said that habitat in and around Grand Canyon National Park and in the southern Rocky Mountains are key places for new populations of Mexican wolves to establish themselves and ensure real recovery. Conservation organizations are currently in court challenging this boundary.

Map: F2754 Disperal Locations
Female wolf 2754 dispersed from her natal pack in Arizona and travelled more than 500 miles to northern New Mexico before she was captured and returned to the Mexican wolf recovery area. Credit: Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team

“Welcome back home, Asha!” said Emily Renn, executive director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. “I can only imagine what it is like for a wandering, wild-born wolf to go through when they are confined in captivity for no good reason. The agencies responsible for Mexican wolf management need to acknowledge that dispersing long-distances is an inherent natural behavior for many wolves and needs to be incorporated into their recovery and not denied for these endangered wide-ranging mammals.”

“It’s great to know that Asha is once again free,” said Michael Robinson, senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “She can’t understand the hardball livestock industry politics that led her into confinement, but she surely loves her liberty. I hope by the time she or one of her future pups sets out on another such journey, a court will have ordered the government to finally follow the science and allow wolves to roam.”

“Asha’s story is both a tale of human imposition and wild resilience,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center. “Her unnecessary capture stood in stark contrast to her instinctive drive to seek out suitable habitats. Today, as she steps back into her rightful home, we are reminded of our duty to ensure policies align with the inherent instincts and ecological needs of the worlds most endangered gray wolves.”

“This incident is a powerful reminder that wolves are unable to understand or recognize political boundaries. Gray wolves once freely roamed from coast-to-coast and from Alaska to Mexico. Now, more than ever, nationwide protection of wolves under the Endangered Species Act is crucial for their recovery,” Leslie Williams and Samantha Attwood, founding members of The #RelistWolves Campaign, told WAN.

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