Wonders of April: Mars and Mexican Wolves

Snow is in the forecast this weekend for New Mexico, but the lilac bushes are full of buds and the temperature reached seventy degrees earlier this week.  Summer is inching closer each day.

In the meantime, April offers a great view of Mars and a new wolf pack in the Apache National Forest.

 Earth and Mars to Scale Photo Credit: Bluedharma via Compfight cc

Earth and Mars to Scale
Photo Credit: Bluedharma via Compfight cc

On April 8th, last Tuesday, the sun and earth and Mars lined up.  The orbit of Mars around the sun takes about twice as long as earth’s so this opposition of Mars only occurs  once every twenty-six months. For a few more days as the sun goes down, Mars will rise in the east and will be overhead by midnight.  In the morning as the sun comes up, Mars will be setting in the west. The red planet is easy to spot since it is the brightest object in the sky, except for the waxing moon.

 Photo Credit: James Zeschke via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: James Zeschke via Compfight cc

In another rare occurrence, a pair of wolves was released on April 2nd in Arizona, part of the Mexican Gray wolf recovery program.  The special thing about these two wolves is that the male, M1290,  was born in the wild in 2012 and his mate, F1218,  was born in captivity.  The two were paired after the male was trapped earlier this year and have spent the breeding season together in captivity.  If all goes as planned, M1290’s experience growing up in the wild will  help them establish a territory, dig a den (if the female is pregnant), and hunt deer and elk.  When F1218 does give birth to a litter, she will  bring new, much needed, diversity to the gene pool of the wild population.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department filmed the release of the pair, now known as the Hoodoo Pack.

Dark clouds gathered over the Jemez Mountains this evening and the air cooled quickly, no view of Mars tonight.   As I watched from the kitchen window,  the storm moved closer and I thought about M1290 and F1218.  So much depends upon their ability to learn quickly how to live wild.  But tonight they are just two wolves, eyes shining, ears tuned to every sound, running through the ponderosa pines and Douglas firs of the dark, quiet forest..

For more news and information about the Mexican gray wolf recovery program check out this website.


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