Mexican Gray Wolf

ZOO LOCATION: Rocky Mountain Wild


Lifespan: 12-17 years

Wild Diet: Elk, deer, javelina, jack rabbit and smaller animals

Zoo Diet: Dry dog chow

Predators: Pups may be preyed upon by bears, mountain lions or large birds of prey

SSP: yes

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated


Habitat/Range: Mountain forests, grasslands and shrub lands of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico

Characteristics: Mexican gray wolves are the smallest, rarest and most genetically distinct of all wolf subspecies. They weigh 50 - 90 lbs. are about 5 1/2 ft. long from nose to tail (about the size of an adult German shepherd), and stand 28 to 32 in. at their shoulders. Their coats are buff, gray, rust and black, often with distinguishing facial patterns; solid black or white variations do not exist as with other North American gray wolves.

Behavior: Like other wolves, Mexican gray wolves have a complex social structure. They live in packs consisting of 4-8 individuals including an adult mated pair and several generations of offspring. Their home range is typically up to several hundred square miles. They communicate through scent marking, body postures and numerous vocalizations such as howling, barking, whining and growling.

Reproduction: The alpha male and female are thought to be monogamous and usually the only breeding animals in the pack. Generally, breeding occurs in February with birth in April or early May, after a gestation of 63-days. Four to six pups are in a typical litter.

Conservation: Mexican gray wolves once roamed the American Southwest and northern Mexico. In the 1900s as people spread across the southwest, wolves came into conflict with humans and livestock. Extermination campaigns were waged and by 1976 Mexican wolves were an endangered species. They were rescued from extinction when the last few individuals were captured for captive breeding. On March 29,1998, 11 captive-reared Mexican wolves were released to the wild for the first time in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area encompassing parts of New Mexico and Arizona.

Wolves usually hunt elk and deer, but occasionally they kill sheep and cows. The few ranchers who lose livestock suffer serious economic harm. While ranchers receive payment for confirmed wolf kills, many go unconfirmed and uncompensated. The wolves also suffer. Those that prey on livestock three times in a year must be removed from the wild or killed. Subtracting wolves from this already small population undermines their full recovery. Conservation groups and ranchers are working together to ensure that both parties' interests are represented as wolf populations are carefully managed and ranchers' rights and livestock are protected through reimbursement programs and wolf removals where needed. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has been an active member of the Mexican wolf recovery program. We have had several litters of wolves born here. One of the females released to the wild has been very successful as a pack alpha and add pups to her endangered pack every year. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staff also actively participate in the Southwest Wolf Information Network, bringing both sides of the debate together for open discussion and movement towards a solution where both people and wolves can co-exist.


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