Mexican Gray Wolf

QUICK FACTS

Scientific Name

Canis lupus baileyi

Species Survival Plan

Yes

Habitat

Mountains and forests

Predators

Man

Food

White-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, mice, squirrels, rabbits and sometimes carrion

Originally Native To

Mexico and southwest U.S.

Height

30 inches at shoulder

Weight

65 - 85 lb.

Characteristics

Smallest of the gray wolf species with a coat containing black, brown, rust and gray

Gestation Period

63 days

Offspring

4 - 7 pups

Birth Season

April - May

Lifespan

Wild 7 - 10 years
Captivity 12 - 15 years

Social Behavior

Packs (alpha pair, their offspring and other non-breeding adults); lifelong mates

Badge_Critically_Endangered

About Mexican Gray Wolf

Mexican gray wolves, aka lobos, are the smallest of the gray wolf subspecies. This is the most genetically distinct lineage of gray wolves in the Western Hemisphere and one of the most endangered animals in North America.

Adults have a mixed coat of white, gray, brown, tan, and black. These wolves live in a pack of 4-8 individuals with only one alpha breeding pair that will typically breed for life or until they are pushed out by a lower-ranking animal in their pack.

In the wild, the Mexican gray wolves’ diet consists of elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, rabbits, javelinas, and other small mammals. They will work together as a pack in order to take down the larger prey, such as elk and deer.

Historically, Mexican wolves were found in a variety of southwestern habitats; however, they were not low desert dwellers. They preferred mountain woodlands, probably because of the favorable combination of cover, water, and available prey.

Like all wolves, the lobo is a social creature with an intricate system of communication and social structure. However, because the primary prey of Mexican wolves is smaller than the moose and caribou hunted by northern wolves, wolf pack sizes are probably smaller, as well. A typical pack of five or six animals might consist of an adult pair and their offspring, with a territory encompassing up to several hundred square miles.

The Mexican gray wolf used to be prominent in southern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, southwestern Texas and central and northern Mexico back in the mid-1800s, but was effectively eliminated from the United States by the mid-1900s with Mexican populations severely reduced. Wolves were trapped, shot, and poisoned by both private individuals and government agents, as bounties were paid.

In 1976, the Mexican gray wolf was listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

This was huge recognition for the Mexican gray wolf showing that they needed help, and efforts between the U.S. and Mexico would continue to do just that. The captive Mexican gray wolf program, Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP), began in 1977 with a huge push to also create a reintroduction program for these animals.

At this time, the last remaining Mexican gray wolves in the wild of the U.S. and Mexico were caught and efforts began. In 1982, the U.S.F.W.S. approved the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan, which aided in finding appropriate strategies to allow the Mexican gray wolf populations to recover.

Over time, the captive breeding program and the recovery program grew with great success, and in 1998, 11 captive-bred Mexican gray wolves were released into the wild in a small area of Arizona and New Mexico. From 1976-1998, the Mexican wolf had been considered extinct in the wild.

Upon the conclusion of a 2019 survey, there were 163 Mexican wolves in the wild in the U.S. - a 24 percent increase from 2018. There are also roughly 30 in the wild in Mexico, as well as more than 300 in captive breeding facilities.

Fossil Rim has had Mexican gray wolves since 1990 when we first started to participate in the captive breeding program. Over the years, we have become mainly a holding facility wherein we are able to keep animals that are not recommended to breed or are older in age in order to help other facilities that need space for breeding.

However, in 2018, one of our wolves had two pups. Then, she gave birth to two more pups in 2019. They breed from late January through early March and give birth to an average of 4-6 pups about 63 days later.

Our Mexican gray wolves are located in the Jim Jackson Intensive Management Area.

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ANYTHING YOU GIVE HELPS THE ANIMALS

As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.