Mexican Gray Wolf
Canis lupus baileyi
Species Survival Plan
Mountains and forests
White-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, mice, squirrels, rabbits and sometimes carrion
Originally Native To
Mexico and southwest U.S.
30 inches at shoulder
65 - 85 lb.
Smallest of the gray wolf species with a coat containing black, brown, rust and gray
4 - 7 pups
April - May
Wild 7 - 10 years
Captivity 12 - 15 years
Packs (alpha pair, their offspring and other non-breeding adults); lifelong mates
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 that time, there were only seven Mexican wolves known to exist.
In 1977, 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 2020 survey, there were at least 186 Mexican wolves in the wild in the U.S. - a 14 percent increase from 2019 and the fifth-consecutive year of growth. The majority of the wolves are in New Mexico and the rest are in Arizona. Roughly 30 wild wolves live in Mexico.
There are also approximately 350 Mexican wolves in captive breeding facilities across the United States and Mexico.
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. Overall, nine Mexican wolf pups have been born here.
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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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.