Mexican gray wolves (also called just Mexican wolves or "lobos" ) are mammals. The Mexican wolf is the smallest
of the five kinds (subspecies) of gray wolf in North America. They are also the most endangered - there are only
about 350 Mexican wolves in the world today. Adult lobos usually weigh 60 to 80 pounds and are about 4 to 5 feet
long, about the size of a German shepherd. They usually have coats that are a mixture of gray, brown, rust and
tan over light-colored underparts. The tail, ears, and legs often are highlighted in black.
Wolves are very social animals. They live in a "pack", which is a family group of about 5 or 6 animals,
consisting of the adults, their pups, and one or two older siblings (pups from previous years). The adult pair
usually stays together for life. They breed in late January to early March, and give birth to an average of 4-6
pups in April or May. Caves, enlarged burrows, and areas under tree roots and rock ledges are used by Mexican
wolves for shelter and den sites.
Mexican wolves communicate with each other in a variety of ways. Packs of wolves rarely meet face to face because
territory boundaries are "drawn" by howling and scent-marking (urine, feces and scratching). Within a pack,
communication is even more varied. Wolves howl, bark, whimper and growl, and they also communicate through facial
expressions, body posture and movement. Most of these behaviors can be seen in our pet dogs today, as they try to
communicate with us! Wolves are the ancestors (thousands of years ago) of domestic dogs.
Wolves usually eat only meat and are classified as "carnivores" (meat-eaters). Their natural food, or prey, are
wild hoofed mammals like deer and elk. They might also eat javelina, rabbits, and small mammals. They will
sometimes eat cows and sheep, but most wolves prefer their natural wild prey. Contrary to "Little Red Riding
Hood", wolves do NOT eat people! Most wolves are naturally shy of humans and avoid them when possible.
In the past, Mexican wolves lived in the mountain forests, grasslands, and shrublands of central and northern
Mexico, southwestern Texas, southern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. They did not live in low deserts, like
their close relative, the coyote.
Mexican wolves were common around 100 years ago, but then several things happened that contributed to their
disappearance. The biggest reason was that many wolves were killed because the they sometimes competed with humans
for the same resources. When the railroads were completed, in the late 1800's, settlers started moving to the
Southwest in large numbers. At that time, there was no protection for wildlife, and far too many deer and elk were
killed for food or for sale of their meat and hides. Many of the wolves' prey animals were killed, and wolves and
other predators were trapped, poisoned, and shot because they sometimes ate the people's livestock.
Another reason that many wolves were killed was because of the stories and fables (like "Little Red Riding Hood")
that portrayed the wolf as a ferocious killer, or a cunning trickster. It is important to understand that these
stories have an important messages for PEOPLE, but they don't have much to do with the behavior of real wolves.
Although we should always treat all wild animals with caution and respect because they ARE wild, healthy wild
wolves are afraid of people and are almost never aggressive towards them.
By the 1950s, there were very few wolves left in the wild in the United States. Mexican wolves are on the
Endangered Species List, which means that they are in danger of extinction, or vanishing from our world
Today there is a reintroduced population of approximately 50 Mexican wolves living in the wild. About 300 live
in 48 different facilities in the United States and Mexico. The governments of both countries are breeding Mexican
wolves in the hopes that they can someday be returned to the wild. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has
begun a program to restore about 100 Mexican wolves to parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Beginning in 1998,
captive-reared pairs of wolves to be released on National Forest lands (called the Blue Range area) in eastern
Arizona and western New Mexico.