Scarlett. Dark Fang. Howl. Elpis. Prosperor.*
These are five of the 91 names submitted in the third annual Mexican wolf pup naming contest hosted by Lobos of the Southwest. Students from kindergarten through eighth grade competed to name 17 pups born in the wild in 2014 (38 were documented in the annual census, but only those captured and collared received names.)
I had the honor of being a judge this year for the first time and spent three days looking at artwork, reading essays, considering names and marvelling at the creativity that went into the entries. It was a tough job and after submitting my rankings I awaited the results as eagerly, I’m sure, as the students.
The winning entries—Tempesta, Fuerza, Apache, Pecos, Griselda, Dakotah, Essential, Vida, Century, Atoyaatl, Adero, Survivor, Guardian, Monty, Tiara, Bravery, and Mia Tuk—can all be seen here along with the artwork and essays.
The wolf pups, born in the spring of 2014, will soon be a year old and are almost full grown. They spent the winter learning to hunt with their families/packs. Some will stay for another year, helping out with the new pups, but others will start to travel on their own, looking for mates and trying to establish their own territories.
One of my favorite entries is the one pictured above. Apache. It’s a great name for a wolf, but it’s also a success story in the recovery effort of the Mexican gray wolves, just barely saved from extinction.
Apache, assigned the official studbook number of m1383, is a male wolf born to the Hawks Nest Pack that runs in Arizona in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
He is the great grandpup of the original Bluestem Pack alpha female (F521), named Estrella (Spanish for star), by the zookeepers at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo when she was born in 1997. She was released into the wild with her mate and pups in 2002 and lived a long and productive life.
One of her daughters (F1042), Apache’s grandmother, is the current alpha female of the Bluestem Pack. F1042 had four pups in 2012 that received names in the first naming contest—Huckleberry, Keeper, Little Wild, and Clover. All have died (two in illegal shootings and one in a routine capture by the field team) except Clover (F1280).
Clover dispersed from her family, the Bluestem Pack, late in 2013, found a mate, and became the alpha female of the Hawks Nest Pack. Apache was born in her first litter of pups.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in two years I’ll be writing about Apache’s first pups.
*These entries all received honorable mentions.