Sticking up for the Mexican gray wolf

Aurelia Valente.jpg

By Mary Katherine Ray
Chapter Wildlife chair

Aurelia Valente recently wrote her own op-ed for The Santa Fe New Mexican defending protection of Mexican gray wolves after the executive director of New Mexico Cattle Growers said wolves “haven’t proven to be able to live in the wild.” I talked to this 13-year-old Santa Fe wildlife enthusiast about what motivated her to speak out:

Mary Katherine Ray: How did you become interested in New Mexico’s wolves?

Aurelia Valente: I’ve always been interested in wildlife. I guess it was when I was smaller; my parents would take me to the zoo and I loved all the animals, but I always especially loved the wolves.

Then, several years ago, someone from the wolf sanctuary came to Santa Fe and brought one of the dog-wolf mixed breeds with her. After I saw them, I wanted to go to the wolf sanctuary. So, my mom and I went. We camped out after we saw the wolves and it was awesome to hear them howling at night!

When I really got involved in the wolves was last fall, when the governor was thinking about removing the wolf pack. I did my research and wrote a letter to her, trying to convince her otherwise. (She did write back, thanking me for my opinion.) Then, this year, Caren Cowen said that thing about nature not wanting the wolves to survive, so I wrote a letter to her. My mom gave me the idea to write a “My View” afterward.

So I guess it was sort of throughout my life!

MK: As you know, the reason wolves became extinct to begin with is not because nature didn’t want them to survive (to quote Caren Cowan), but because people killed them off. Today we have gone to a lot of trouble to bring wolves back to the wild, and some of those same factions still don’t want them. Is there a point at which we should stop trying? What do you think?

Aurelia: People ruined our ecosystems, so I think we have to fix our mistakes. I don’t think we should stop trying, because if we let all our wildlife go extinct then the world will be completely out of balance. People who are greedy and want to make money don’t see this.

MK: Envision two places, one a forest with wolves and the other a forest without. Imagine being out walking in both places and describe how each would make you feel.

Aurelia: If I was in the forest without wolves, it would feel peaceful but feel like something is missing. If I was in the forest with wolves, the ecosystem would be complete and I would feel like everything is in balance. Wolves are more scared of us than we are of them, so I wouldn’t need to feel scared. I think it would be really cool knowing that wolves are around me, somewhere. The feeling of seeing, or even just hearing, something in nature is exhilarating (for me at least). Even if it’s just a coyote or deer running across the road, the feeling is very special.

MK: What do you think other kids who care about wolves or wildlife can do to help?

Aurelia: Well, kids can do lots of things to help. They can start petitions, write My Views and letters to the editor, write letters to important people, start fundraisers, or even just educate people they know about the issue and why it’s important!