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Asha, the wandering Mexican gray wolf, is captured again, returned to captivity

A Mexican wolf that has traveled into northern New Mexico has been captured for a second time and could be re-released next year.

Conservationists say her behavior says a lot about the current state of wolf management in the U.S.

Wolves once ranged in the western United States from Alaska to Mexico.

But habitat loss and predator control programs have reduced their numbers and separated the different subspecies from one another.

Conservationists say the program to bring back the Mexican wolf should expand the recovery area to allow animals to travel north of Interstate 40.

"At one point all wolves in the United States would in one way or another, all of those subspecies would have been, you know there would have been gene flow, as scientists call it. That is not the case today," said Joanna Lambert, a biologist with the University of Colorado.

She says the separation has affected genetic diversity of the Mexican wolf population.

"Now historically, populations of Mexican gray wolves would have absolutely been interbreeding with populations to the north, right?" Lambert said. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would try to find a mate for the recaptured wolf and possibly release her next year.

Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.