The other day as a young boy walked past the large map at the entrance to the El Paso Zoo he yelled out to his mother and brother and said “look they got wolves!” Little did he know that it is very possible that unless those of us who can make a difference today dedicate ourselves to making it happen, children in Texas will never experience wolves living in the wilds of the Lone Star State. Today Texas has thousands of square miles of potential wolf habitat that could support a viable wolf population and in areas where wolves used to live. This National Wolf Awareness week, which highlights the vital role wolves play in our native ecosystems.
Unfortunately before we knew any better, Canis lupus baileyi, often called the Mexican wolf, was systematically killed by government trappers during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today we know that wolves play a critical role in maintaining the ecosystem that we are a part of and it is possible to return wolves to their former homes. Here in the southwest thanks to a federal reintroduction project now underway in the mountains of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, wolves are making a comeback just hours away from Texas. But why can’t wolves re-inhabit their former habitats in Texas?
We believe that if given a chance, wolves can return to Texas. There are large areas of habitat available and the only thing holding them back is our political will. If wolves can return to Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Washington, Arizona and New Mexico they can also return to Texas.
Former Big Bend Chief of Interpretation Roland Wauer - who went on to become the Chief Scientist of the National Park Service - had this to say during the years that wolf advocates in Texas were trying to get the support of state and federal officials during the 1990s - “I believe that reintroduction of Mexican wolves into the Big Bend country is both feasible and proper, and every effort should go into the program.” In his book Naturalist Big Bend Wauer states that “the recovery of a wolf population, if it occurs, would be definite evidence of the restoration of Big Bend National Park to conditions as they were before the appearance of Europeans and cattle.”
This week you can celebrate National Wolf Week with Ash, Ivy and Zephyr at the El Paso Zoo! See the wolves together for the first time as they run through their double exhibit space.