The Baldy Pack
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 Forests and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation 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.
Paula K. Nixon
Santa Fe, New Mexico