The Mexican gray wolf is a large dog-like carnivore, weighing between sixty and eighty pounds. The wolf has a fur coat of reddish brown, buff, black, and gray, with a white chin and throat.
Canis lupus baileyi once inhabited oak and pine/juniper savannahs and mixed conifer woodlands above 4,000 feet. The wolf avoided desert areas and may have used wooded riparian areas as travel corridors.
Historically, the wolf ranged in southeastern Arizona, southwest New Mexico, much of Mexico, and southwestern Texas. Currently, the Mexican wolf is considered extirpated from its historic range in the southwestern United States. Research has not confirmed the existence of the wolf in Mexico since 1980.1
Wolves have one litter per year. Mating takes place in February. The female digs a den under a rock ledge, roots of a large tree, or under a bush. The den is lined with leaves and fur. In April, five to six pups are born. They are nursed for five to six weeks and then begin to feed on solid food.
The Mexican wolf feeds on deer, elk, javelina, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, rabbits and small rodents. The wolf may also take livestock when other prey sources are scarce.
The Mexican gray wolf was listed as endangered in 1976. In 1982, a recovery plan was approved with the goal of establishing a self-reliant population of 100 wolves within a 5,000 square mile area.2 As of January 1997, the captive population included 148 animals.1 Beginning in March of 1998, a nonessential experimental population of wolves was reintroduced to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area consisting of the Apache and Gila National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico.1
Status in Pima County:
As far back as 1909, the Arizona Daily Star predicted the elimination of the wolf by 1910. "It is believed that another year will see the complete elimination of the wolf in Pima County.... The wolves that have been seen during the past year were matured animals, showing that the wolf is not breeding in this locality."3 The wolf was believed to be extirpated from Arizona by the 1950s. The northeastern edge of Pima County falls under the boundary line for the wolves experimental range.4 If the wolves' recovery program is successful, and the wolves spread out according to experts' predictions, the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains may become home to 'el lobo.'
1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. January 12, 1998. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Populations of the Mexican Gray Wolf in Arizona and New Mexico." Federal Register. Volume 63, Number 7.
2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1982. Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
3. Arizona Daily Star. April 9, 1909. From the Ted Knipe Collection. Arizona Historical Library.
4. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Spring 1998. Endangered and Threatened Species of Arizona. Arizona Ecological Service Field Office, Phoenix, AZ. pp. 115-116. Federal Register. Volume 63, Number 7.