Editor's Note: The print version of this story used the headline, "Student org brings real lobos to UNM campus." It has been changed to read, "Event brings real lobos to UNM campus" to clarify that a separate organization brought the animals, although the student organization, BUGS, hosted the event. The Daily Lobo apologizes for any confusion.
The Biology Undergraduate Society created an opportunity for students to meet real lobos, Angel and Bindi, during the University of New Mexico’s annual Wolf Fest on Friday near Popejoy Hall.
Angel, a high-content Arctic wolf-dog, and Bindi, a gray wolf/coyote/husky mix, greeted passersby.
Conservation groups, such as Defenders of Wildlife, tabled alongside the Wanagi Wolf Fund and Rescue, answering questions about conservation. Donations were also welcome.
Vice President of BUGS Ashvini Vaidya said the event aims to educate about wolf conservation and general environmental protection.
“It’s important for the community to understand that wolves are indeed wild animals. They can’t just be brought in on a whim and serve as pets — they are wildlife. So, not only is it important for the community to know that, but it is also important for us to understand our role in wolf conservation and how our actions impact wolf populations around New Mexico,” Vaidya said.
In 1973, the Mexican gray wolf was added to the Endangered Species Act and four years later, conservationists caught the remaining wild lobos for captive breeding, according to a Daily Lobo article.
As of 2018 there have been more than 140 captive-bred wolves released into the wild — all descendants of seven wolves captured in the late 70s, according to earthjustice.org.
There are 114 wild wolves between New Mexico and Arizona. One of the major issues concerning Mexican gray wolves are genetics — those seven founding animals negatively impacted diversity within their species, said Michael Dax, the national outreach representative for Defenders of Wildlife.
People also need to be willing to live alongside wolves, he said.
Defenders of Wildlife aims to help ranchers in New Mexico coexist with wolves. The group employs range riders to protect cattle from wolves and also promotes the use of non-lethal measures, such as fencing and lighting, to keep wolves away from humans and keep them preying on wild animals, Dax said.
Wolves in the wild help balance nature, but people are tampering with nature when they breed wolves and wolf-dogs in captivity, said Stephanie Kaylan, the founder and president of the Wanagi Wolf Fund and Rescue, who also teaches piano through the UNM Music Prep Program.
The wolves and wolf-dogs she rescues are born in captivity, she said, adding, “I just wish that people would learn more before going out and adopting an animal that is not going to fit their lifestyle.”
Dax said he suggests community members use their voices by writing letters to the editor and contacting political representatives to let them know wild Mexican wolves are important for the state.
Vaidya said she hopes those attending the event walk away knowing that “wolves are probably one of the coolest creatures in New Mexico, and they’re our mascot of course. Everyone can play a role in wolf conservation and just general wildlife conservation. And it’s really important for us in New Mexico to really maintain our diverse ecosystem.”
Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnJackson.
Elizabeth Sanchez is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Beth_A_Sanchez.