Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alpha Male of the Three Amigos Pack

Mexican Wolf #2, 16" x 16", Oil on canvas board

Mexican Grey Wolves, also known as Lobos, are among the most endangered of all the wolves in the world. They were  completely wiped out of their natural environment by the US Government and ranchers by the 1970's.  They are small wolves, around 65-90 pounds, about the size of a German Shepherd Dog.  Smaller, rounder ears, shorter nose than their northern cousins, and very striking and beautiful markings. 

The re-introduction program in New Mexico and Arizona had hoped to have well over 100 wolves  in numerous packs established by now.  But, sadly, because of continued illegal killings and removal of wolves that have killed livestock in their limited allowed range, that number is around 50 wolves. That is all that exist in the wilderness right now. They have to co-exist in this limited  wilderness area with free-ranging cattle, angry ranchers, an adversarial USDA, and state governments that are anything but supportive of the re-introduction program. 

These two paintings were done from photos we took of captive wolves who were born and raised on the Armendaris Ranch ( one of Ted Turner's holdings) in S. New Mexico.  There are three brothers, known fondly as The Three Amigos, who are residing at Wild Life West Naure Park in Edgewood, NM,  near my home.  They have been recently joined by their two sisters.  Wild Life West will probably be their home for life.  They will never be released, mainly because their genes are too common among the "wild" wolves and they cannot offer genetic diversity to the wild gene pool.  And, now, they have become too habituated to humans.

It has been a great privilege to observe and photograph these wolves from within their enclosure.
I have mixed feelings about it.  I'm happy for them, as individuals, that their lives will be safe from bullets and leg-hold traps.  But at the same time, they are captive.  They are fed by humans. They are not living out their "natural" lives.  Since they were born in captivity, perhaps they don't understand what they are missing. But something tells me, as I watch them in their enclosure, that, indeed, they do know full well.  I wonder what they would choose if they could:  a life lived free with all the inherent dangers, or the one they now have, one of safety, but limited to the relatively small enclosure they have access to?  We need wolves in the wild. They are a vital part of a healthy eco system.  The re-inroduction of wolves to Yellowstone has been the key to its salvation. So much threatens the success of their survival here in NM and Arizona.  I pray they make it, and prove their worth to generations to come.

Mexican Gray Wolf #1

I've been wanting to paint wolves for a while now, at least a year or two. I've been waiting for the time, and some good reference photos. And opportunities to actually see wolves, up close and in person. Wild Life West, a rescue park for native animals that can no longer be released, had several Gray Wolves for a while, but not Mexican Gray Wolves, until a pack of three brothers came to live out their lives there. They were born on the Armendaris Ranch in SW New Mexico. One of Ted Turner's vast holdings in New Mexico. They were to be released in the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, but one of the wolves, in spite of best attempts by the keepers, just became too friendly with humans. In fact, I'm sure it was the same wolf who gave me several magnificent "play bows" (or perhaps they were challenges!)  on the day we went to photograph them. We were allowed to go inside their enclosure, and once settled in, the three brothers ventured closer and closer, circling us back and forth. My husband got some great photos and I just absorbed their beauty and wildness, still very much apparent, even though they are captive born and will be captive all their lives. There are only 50 Mexican Gray Wolves, also known as Lobos, left in the wild. They are on the very edge of extinction. I am hoping that the paintings I plan to do in the coming year(s) will assist with fund raising to help insure their recovery. I'll have prints and greeting cards available soon, if you're interested. This painting is 9" x 12", oil on board, and will be available for sale soon for $365.00 If you're interested, please contact me.