UNM Museum on Dwindling Wolves in New Mexico

The Lobo has been the mascot for the University of New Mexico for almost 100 years, but its live counterpart, the Mexican wolf, is slowly disappearing in the wild. UNM’s Maxwell Museum takes a firm stance towards conservation in its new temporary exhibit titled “Intertwined: The Mexican Wolf, the People, and the Land,” running through July 29.

The exhibit, created by Devorah Romanek, the curator of the Maxwell Museum, and Kaylen Soudachanh, a graduate student, consists of wolf specimens, a multitude of books, trapping tools and UNM Lobo paraphernalia among other artifacts.

Kaylen Jones, the co-curator, in front of a wolf pelt in the exhibit.

“When I learned the story of the Mexican wolf, about how they were prosecuted, how they were driven to extinction and removed it kind of emulated on my side as well and the Navajo Nation history,” Soudachanh said. “We experienced the same things and that’s where I felt a deeper connection about it.”

The exhibit originated in late 2017 as part of Soudachanh’s masters program when she approached Romanek with the idea during one of her classes.

“I saw the topic as current, even urgent, and because of its cross disciplinary nature, a good fit,” Romanek said.

The Mexican wolf has been listed as an endangered species since 1976. According to Soudachanh, this is an important animal that should be protected because of what it means to New Mexico.

Over the last month officials have been trying to push to remove the Mexican wolf from the endangered species list, given its slow comeback. Some states have delisted the wolf already. According to the endangered species list,the population stands at around 114 in the wild. With around 300 in captivity.

“Bringing this to light is kind of a way to bringing the public into realizing that there is an important issue going on  much more than just policies and politics in New Mexico,” Soudachanh said. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife doesn’t want to take a stand to support or deny Mexican wolves.”

Soudachanh said the exhibit hopes to have an effect on teaching and why Soudachanh thinks they’re important to the ecosystem. “What I`d like to see happen is that people realize that there are these wolves and conservation in general is at the point where general public needs to step up to change policies,”

Soudachanh said “No one is really doing anything about it.”

Soudachanh is also critical of UNM, the home of the “lobo.”

“It also takes a larger stance against the University and how we use the image of the lobo without necessarily supporting wolf conservation,” she said. She said the university uses the image of the lobo without providing proceeds or a stance on conservation for wolves.

The curators of the exhibit reached out to Native American tribes, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and pulled from their own personal collections to gather objects for exhibition.

Romanek reports that the exhibit has received a good reception from those who visit and that the Maxwell had one of its largest crowds for the opening, and general high attendance all around.

Soudachanh’s future plans for the exhibit includes hopefully a satellite exhibit to take to the Navajo Nation to further education.

Gabrielle Hockstra-Johnson is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @GHockstraJ

Anthony Chavez is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @BigAntMaster.