MEXICAN GRAY WOLF
The Truth About Mexican Gray Wolves
Wolves have been trapped, poisoned and hunted to the brink of extinction, and have received little popular defense because of age-old prejudices against these amazing but misunderstood animals.
Wolves are family oriented, social animals. They live in extended families called packs. Each member of a pack helps, from hunting to caring for pups.
Mexican wolves are native to the American Southwest and Mexico, but most were wiped out early in the 20th century by a government extermination campaign.
At last count, there were only 114 Mexican gray wolves in the wild, making them the most endangered wolf in the world.
Unlike wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, Mexican gray wolves are still protected by the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to kill or harm them.
Like most wildlife, wolves have an innate fear of humans and tend to keep their distance. Mexican wolves selected for reintroduction are managed with minimal exposure to humans in an environment that maintains natural wolf behaviors.
Attacks by wolves on humans are extremely rare in North America. You are more likely to be killed by lightning than by a wolf. However, many wild animals, including bears and wolves, are potentially dangerous; people should treat all wild animals with respect.
Wolves are very intelligent and beautiful animals.
Wolves help create and maintain a strong and healthy ecosystem.
Wolves are responsible for less than 1% of livestock losses. Most livestock losses are due to disease, accidents, and bad weather.
Over $35 million is generated by wolf-related tourism around Yellowstone each year.
BASIC FACTS ABOUT MEXICAN GRAY WOLVES
The Mexican gray wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf. Commonly referred to as "El lobo," this wolf is gray with light brown fur on its back. Its long legs and sleek body enable it to run fast. Though they once numbered in the thousands, these wolves were wiped out in the U.S. by the mid-1970s, with just a handful existing in zoos. In 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 11 Mexican gray wolves back into the wild in Arizona. Although their numbers have grown slowly, and they remain the most endangered subspecies of wolf in the world.
The lobo was once “top dog” in the borderlands, and when the wolf population returns to healthy numbers, biologists believe that lobos will restore balance to the Southwest’s ecosystems by keeping deer, elk and javelina—a type of peccary —populations healthy and in check. Wolves strengthen these animals by preying on the old, sick and young, and prevent their populations from growing so numerous that they overgraze and destroy habitat that countless other species depend on.
Mexican wolves mostly eat ungulates (large hoofed mammals) like elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer. They are also known to eat smaller mammals like javelinas, rabbits, ground squirrels and mice.
After being wiped out in the U.S. and with only a few animals remaining in Mexico, Mexican gray wolves were bred in captivity and reintroduced to the wild in Arizona beginning in 1998. There are only about 300 Mexican wolves total in captivity. The goal of the reintroduction program was to restore at least 100 wolves to the wild by 2006, and it will take many more than that before the lobo is safe from extinction. Today there are approximately 114 of these wolves in the wild.
HABITAT & RANGE
Mexican gray wolves prefer mountain forests, grasslands and scrublands. They once ranged widely from central Mexico throughout the southwestern U.S. Today, the Mexican wolf has been reintroduced to the Apache National Forest in southeastern Arizona, and may move into the adjacent Gila National Forest in western New Mexico as the population expands. Recently, Mexican wolves have also begun to be reintroduced in Mexico.
Mexican gray wolves are very social animals. They live in packs, which are complex social structures that include the breeding adult pair (the alpha male and female) and their offspring. A hierarchy of dominant and subordinate animals within the pack help it to work as a unit.
Pups are born blind and defenseless. The pack cares for the pups until they mature at about 10 months of age.
Mating Season: Mid February - mid March
Gestation: 63 days
Litter size: 4 - 7 pups
26-32 inches at the shoulder
4.5-5.5 feet from
nose to tail-tip
Males are typically
heavier and taller than
Up to 15 years in captivity
The Mexican gray
wolf is the world’s most endangered wolf.
The Mexican gray wolf is about half the size
of its cousin, the North American gray wolf.
Mexican gray wolves are not necessarily gray. In fact, their fur is a mix of gray, rust, black and cream.