U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service letting ‘Asha’ the Mexican gray wolf roam free
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Almost like clockwork, Asha the Mexican gray wolf is making another journey into northern New Mexico.
Asha was released into the Arizona wilderness over the summer, roughly six months after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first captured her near Taos.
While wildlife officials say she is not a threat they are prepared to take action, and they say that’s for her own good.
“There’s a lot of factors that play into this as well, and we’ll monitor those. But again, the biggest one is going to be her safety,” said Stewart Liley, Wildlife Management Division chief of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Wildlife managers with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish say there’s no active plans to recapture Asha, the Mexican gray wolf, at least right now.
“When wolves do leave the Mexican wolf experimental population area, we do monitor them to see if they return,” said Liley.
Radio data from Asha’s tracking collar last placed her in the mountains near Jemez Springs, roughly 50-miles north of the recovery zone’s I-40 border, and the Mexican gray wolf’s historical range.
“Our goal is to recover Mexican wolves in their historic habitat in those portions of the United States and Mexico,” Liley said. “And right now there’s no wolves in – either gray wolves or Mexican gray wolves – in northern New Mexico.”
Without any breeding opportunities, officials suggest Asha’s northern journey is actually putting her in danger.
“What we do see is these wolves that make these long movements have a higher risk of mortality from road strikes, etc. They’re crossing multiple interstates,” said Liley.
There’s concerns Asha could be mistaken for a coyote and killed – which would be a federal crime.
“I think the biggest thing is, like always know, your target, no matter what,” Liley said. “All protections of the Endangered Species Act do apply to her.”
While Mexican gray wolves are still critically endangered, Officials say Asha’s second journey into northern New Mexico may be a sign recovery efforts are working.
“We’re seeing some of these bigger movements because our population is doing well,” said Liley.
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they are developing a plan to recapture Asha, but there’s no timeline when that could happen. It is possible she could head back south on her own.
Asha’s determination may remind you of Marty the Moose who went viral on social media last winter after he was spotted at Ski Santa Fe.
Game and fish officials eventually captured and relocated him to southern Colorado back in September because – just like Asha – they believe he was looking for a mate that just doesn’t live in northern New Mexico.
“We maybe would have had the occasional few moose there. We know of no cow moose. That animal is not contributing towards the population as a whole as an individual, their goal, right? Evolutionary history, the goal of these animals is to produce offspring and contribute to recovery. We’re trying to help them do that,” said Liley.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says Asha is currently in a forested area, and it would be near impossible to catch her right now.
As for Marty, his Facebook fan group last spotted him near the Rio Grande two weeks ago.