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Wolves in the Southwest

California Wolf Center

Commonly called "lobo," the Mexican gray wolf historically ranged throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. They are the most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf and are unique to North America. A typical Mexican gray wolf is about 4.5- 5.5 feet long, from snout to tail, weighs from 50 to 90 pounds, and has a coat with a mix of buff, gray, red and black. Like all wolves, the Mexican gray wolf communicates using body language, scent marking and vocalization. The main prey for Mexican gray wolves is elk making up 74% of their diet. Other prey animals include white-tailed deer, mule deer, javelina, jack rabbit, cottontail rabbits and smaller mammals.

Predatory controls from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s made the Mexican gray wolf the rarest gray wolf in North America. By the late 1960s, the Mexican gray wolf had virtually disappeared in the southwestern United States. It was listed as endangered on the federal endangered species list in 1976. Recovery goals of a wild population of at least 100 wolves over 5,000 miles of its historical range were approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Direccion General de la Fauna Silvestre in Mexico in a 1982 recovery plan.

In 1997, a plan was approved calling for the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. In March 1998, 11 Mexican gray wolves were released into the wilds of the Apache National Forest of southeastern Arizona. Two additional wolves were released later that year. One major highlight of the recovery program took place in 2001 when, for the first time in 50 years, a Mexican gray wolf pup was born in the wild.

Today there are about 110 Mexican gray wolves in the wild and about 300 in Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan centers, like our own, throughout the Unites States and Mexico. However, human caused mortality is still the number one cause of death for wild Mexican gray wolves.

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