A Mexican gray wolf popularly know as Asha in the U.S. Southwest has been captured outside of the endangered species' recovery area in New Mexico, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now she will be relocated. Photo courtesy of USFWS
Jan. 23 (UPI) -- In a move criticized by some environmentalists, a Mexican gray wolf was captured outside of New Mexico territory that had been set aside for the endangered species' recovery and now will be relocated, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday.
The female wolf, known officially as f2754 yet more popularly as Asha after being named that by school children, was tracked by helicopter that followed signals from her radio collar and captured north of Interstate 40 in New Mexico on Sunday.
"As it is breeding season and there are no other known wolves in the area, there was a high likelihood of a negative interaction or breeding with domestic dogs," Fish and Wildlife Service officials said in a statement.
While the Fish and Wildlife Service is required to capture wolves that roam north of I-40 to help boost their population in the southwestern United States, environmentalists have been fighting to get rid of the arbitrary barrier and let the wolves roam wherever they want.
More than a dozen organizations, such as Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians, signed a letter last week to wildlife management agencies, asking them to allow Asha to "roam free in northern New Mexico or wherever she chooses to go."
"Wolves do not see invisible political boundaries, and Asha's epic journey northward shows us the possibility of range expansion into the Southern Rockies where lobos historically roamed," Renee Seacor, carnivore conservation advocate of the Rewilding Institute, said in a statement. "We urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to leave Asha where she belongs, roaming wild and free."
The wolf was captured in compliance with the agency's current recovery permit.
"Authorized permittees may capture and, at the direction and discretion of the USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, return to the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area, or transfer to captivity or Mexico, any Mexican wolves that have dispersed from the experimental population and that establish wholly outside of the MWEPA in Arizona, New Mexico or Texas," the permit reads.
Fish and Wildlife authorities said the wolf first moved north of Interstate 40 on Jan. 2 and had not returned to the population recovery area since.
Last week, the wolf was reported south of the Colorado border near Taos.
The captured wolf is currently being held at the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility and will be returned, along with a male Mexican wolf, to Mexico later this year.
A number of students in Arizona have been tracking the wandering wolf and decided to name her Asha, which means hope in Sanskrit.