My short piece about the Baldy Pack and the politics of wolf reintroduction is in the June issue of The Sun in the “Readers Write” column.
On November 8, 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States. Now, three weeks later, winter has arrived in the White Mountains of Arizona. Temperatures have dropped to single digits, and there is new snow on the ground. Undeterred by the cold, two Mexican wolves trot through stands of ponderosa pine and weave among bare aspen trees. A mated pair, they are tracking a herd of elk. The heavy undercoats they have grown over the last few months keep them warm and dry.
The wolves know nothing of politics or national borders. Their territory straddles the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF) and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR) in the shadow of Mount Baldy. They are two of fewer than a hundred Mexican gray wolves left in the wild. Threats to their population abound: A blow to the head from the hoof of an elk. Ambush by a mountain lion. Starvation. Humans with vehicles and guns. And inbreeding. Local resistance—primarily from ranchers and hunters—to reintroducing wolves has made it nearly impossible to move animals bred in captivity into the wild.
Our pair of wolves, though, are not related. In January or February, if all goes well, they will breed. By then a new president will have been sworn in. So far the incoming administration has shown little regard for endangered species. There are numerous bills and amendments in Congress that aim to cut funding for the reintroduction effort and possibly remove wolves from the endangered-species list, stripping all protection. These bills are nothing new, but after January 20 we will have a president who is likely to sign them.
The days are growing shorter. The two wolves run silently through the woods. They are lucky: they do not know they have lost.
Six months have passed since I wrote those words. In November and December the two wolves, M1347 and f1445, were “located within their traditional territory in the eastern portion of the FAIR and the northern portion of the ASNF.” Since then they have not been located according to the monthly status reports.
I hope for the best, but fear the worst.