GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz.— The endangered female gray wolf recently confirmed north of Grand Canyon National Park now has a name-Echo. Her name was chosen from over 500 entries in a contest sponsored by conservation groups across the western U.S. and by facilities who house and breed wolves for endangered species recovery. Ten-year old contest winner Zachary Tanner from Milwaukie, Oregon, said he chose the name Echo “because she came back to the Grand Canyon like an Echo does.”
DNA tests from scat show that Echo traveled hundreds of miles from the Northern Rockies to the Grand Canyon region, an area that scientists identified as one of the last best places in the Southwest for wolves. A government extermination campaign in the early twentieth century wiped out the region’s native wolves by the early 1940’s. Echo is the first wolf confirmed in the area since. She is currently fully protected under the Endangered Species Act, but could be left completely vulnerable to shooting and trapping under an Obama administration plan to strip legal protections for gray wolves nation-wide, ignoring the majority of 1.6 million public comments calling for continued protections.
In his winning contest entry, Zachary said he cares about wolves because “they are a part of the food chain, and they are so beautiful and we need them. All of them. All of every creature. We need them. ”
Since the news of her presence on the north rim became public in October, Echo has been celebrated all over the world, including close to home. Contest entries were received from throughout the U.S. and Canada, and from South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia.
Local business woman Ellen Winchester, whose family has owned and lived at the Kaibab Lodge five miles north of the Grand Canyon North Rim for the past ten years, said she and her family feel blessed to have heard and seen this wolf.
“This is our home and business and we who live in the forest have a healthy respect for the animals. The Kaibab National Forest, The Grand Canyon North Rim and the animals that live there are a legacy for our children and our children’s children. I was thrilled to hear wolf song. I welcome Echo to the Grand Canyon, which is my back yard. There is plenty of room for all to live together safely.” said Winchester.
Conservation organizations and wolf species survival plan members across the U.S. collaborated on the naming contest (see list at end).
“This is an exciting, historic development that affirms both the peer-reviewed science that identifies this area as excellent habitat for wolves and the need to maintain Endangered Species Act protections for wolves.” said Emily Renn, executive director for Flagstaff-based Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project.
Kim Crumbo, conservation director for Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, said. “That a determined wolf could make it to the Grand Canyon region from the northern Rockies is greatly hopeful and cause for celebration, and every effort must be taken to protect Echo and to continue the work to protect the wildlife corridors she used to get here.”
Many contestants said Echo’s story gave them hope as well. Students from Flagstaff and Phoenix, Arizona; Evergreen, Colorado; and Coventry, Rhode Island submitted the second place entry, “Esperanza,” Spanish for hope. The Flagstaff students said they chose Esperanza because “we believe the wolf will give hope to the ecosystem.” Several students also submitted the name “Hope.”
She came, she saw, she made history, and now she has a name!” said Maggie Howell with the Wolf Conservation Center in NY, a facility that houses and breeds endangered wolves for species recovery. “Echo’s wild milestone is a demonstration of the great potential for wolf recovery in areas where this keystone species has yet to take hold.”
It is likely that Echo’s travels led her through Utah to get to Grand Canyon. “In spite of political and physical obstacles, Echo traveled hundreds of miles to demonstrate that Utah and northern Arizona are home to wolves! We should welcome this and future wolves home, and let them live in peace,” said Kirk Robinson, Executive Director for Western Wildlife Conservancy in Utah.
Pacific Wolf Coalition coordinator Alison Huyett said “Just like Oregon’s Journey (Wolf OR-7), who took an unprecedented trek down to California and was the first wolf to enter the state in nearly 90 years, Echo’s story shows that wolf recovery has just begun in many places throughout the West. Both of these treks highlight the ample amount of suitable habitat for wolves and the need for connected Western landscapes for recovery. Neither Journey nor Echo would have been able to make these landmark journeys without federal protections granting them safe passage.”
National WolfWatcher Coalition’s Northern Rockies regional representative Kurt Holtzen said “As well documented by Journey’s travels, wolves disperse widely and over long distances, often through natural and political boundaries. The arrival in Arizona of a northern Rockies wolf, appropriately named Echo, illustrates specifically why wolf recovery is not complete, and why we should maintain federal protection.”
The Obama Administration’s planned national wolf delisting would remove federal Endangered Species Act protections across most of the continental United States, and would give individual states, many of which are extremely hostile to wolves, the authority to manage wolves. Without federal legal protections, wolves would not be able to safely move across state lines to suitable habitat, as this one has.
Currently, wolves have returned to less than ten percent of their historic range in the lower forty-eight states. Wolves from the north and south historically met, interbred and thrived in the Southern Rockies and today’s science tells us there continues to be an abundance of suitable wolf habitat in southern Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, including the Grand Canyon area.
Naming Contest Collaborating Organizations
Photo: Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council