Endangered Species Profile: The Mexican Gray Wolf.
What are Mexican Gray Wolves?
The Mexican Gray Wolf, (Canis lupus baileyi) also fondly known as 'El lobo', are the smallest subspecies of the Gray wolf, and are found in Arizona and Mexico. Mexican Gray Wolves are reported to weigh anywhere between 50 to 90 pounds, and they are roughly the size of a German Shepherd. Despite their name, Mexican Gray Wolves fur coloring consists of a mixture of gray, rust, black, cream, and buff. In terms of habitat, the Mexican Gray Wolves favor scrublands, grasslands,oak woodlands, and mountain forests.Their former territory covered southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, western Texas, and northern Mexico. Today, wild Mexican Gray Wolves can only be found in Arizona and Mexico. Mexican Gray Wolves are sociable and intelligent animals, and live in packs, which can range from 7 to 30 wolves. The pack structure is essential to the wolves survival- both in terms of protection, and hunting- as Mexican Gray Wolves prey are mainly large hoofed mammals, namely elk, and different types of deer. Mexican Gray Wolves are known for developing strong relationships with their pups- which usually mature at 10 months old- the pups are born both blind and defenseless, making them dependent on their mother and other pack members.
The Mexican Gray Wolf as an Endangered Species.
The Mexican Gray Wolf holds the precarious title of being the worlds most endangered wolf, and is one of the most critically endangered land mammals in the United States. Before they were eradicated in the wild during the late 1800's to the mid 1900s, Mexican Gray Wolves roamed between Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico in their thousands. However, the arrival of European settlers caused a decline in the Mexican Gray Wolves natural food sources (elk, deer) and this caused the Wolves to prey on the settlers livestock. As a result, farmers petitioned the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to eradicate Mexican Gray Wolves. This was accomplished through poison, traps, and guns. In 1976, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service officially declared the Mexican Gray Wolf an endangered species, and efforts were made to recover the last surviving Mexican Gray Wolves and breed them so they could reintroduce Mexican Gray Wolves into the wild. After extensive breeding in captivity,11 Mexican Gray Wolves were released into the Apache National Forest in Arizona, part of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, the primary area for released Mexican Gray Wolves. Authorities now believe that approximately 85 Mexican Gray Wolves now live in the wild of Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico, and there are approximately 300 Mexican Gray Wolves living in captivity.
What threatens the survival of Mexican Gray Wolves?
Although Mexican Gray Wolves have been successfully reintroduced into the wild, many external factors still threaten the survival of this subspecies. Most of the problems that Mexican Gray Wolves face are related to humans, these include misconceptions, and misunderstanding surrounding the Mexican Gray Wolf. The main threat posed to Mexican Gray Wolves is the danger of being killed or captured by ignorant farmers and members of the public. These individuals often act on the belief that Mexican Gray Wolves pose a major threat to the community, and their livestock. In reality, Mexican Gray Wolves display fear and avoidance towards humans, and have reportedly never attacked a human. Add to this that Mexican Gray Wolves are estimated to be responsible for less than one percent of livestock deaths per year, and the potential for Mexican Gray Wolves and humans to coexist in peace is there. Another problem that threatens the survival of wild Mexican Gray Wolves in years to come, is there limited genetics. Since all current wild Mexican Gray Wolves carry the same genes of the small handful of originally captured Wolves (5-10 wolves) this means that the Mexican Gray Wolves gene pool is limited, as a result. Therefore, this limits their ability to adapt to their surrounding environment and conditions.
How YOU can help protect the Mexican Gray Wolf:
There are many opportunities for normal citizens- just like yourself- to help protect the Mexican Gray Wolf before its too late. An easy way to do so is to visit websites such as defenders.org and mexicanwolves.org, which offer simple and manageable ways to help protect and bring attention to the plight of the Mexican Gray Wolf. For example, defenders.org offer an chance to symbolically 'adopt' a Mexican Gray Wolf; with the money going towards saving real Mexican Gray Wolves. Bring political attention to the plight of the Mexican Gray Wolf by signing petitions at the websites listed above, or petition sites such as Care2. If you're a more vocal and active type of humanitarian, consider writing informative articles and sending them to your local newspaper, or writing your own petition to send to your states elected officials. Lastly, try compiling interesting fact sheets to raise your communities awareness of the Mexican Gray Wolves' plight, so that we can remove some of the stigmas surrounding these beautiful creatures.