Animals & the Environment: Saving the Mexican Gray Wolf

by Kacey Barton

When you think of the wolves that roam North America, the first ones that may come to mind are the Gray Wolves in Yellowstone National Park.  Living in packs within the forests, running through the snow in winter, their howls echoing for miles in a haunting conversation; these animals are now an iconic part of Yellowstone. However, did you know that there were once thousands of Gray Wolves living in certain parts of Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas?

Mexican Gray Wolves, also known as Lobos, are actually a subspecies of Gray Wolf. They are one of the most endangered mammals in North America. About the size of a German Shepherd, Mexican Gray Wolves are smaller than the Gray Wolves in Yellowstone. They are built for running and have coats that have mixtures of grays, browns, reds, and black, often with distinct facial patterns.

The Mexican Gray Wolf was wiped out completely from the wild in the 1970’s due to hunting as well as a decline in their prey due to human activity. The only Mexican Gray Wolves left in the world were located in a few zoos. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service took note of the issue and, in 1998, released 11 Mexican Gray Wolves into the Mexican Wolf Recovery Area. This is a protected area of land encompassing parts of Arizona and New Mexico.

As of early 2017, there are 113 Mexican Gray Wolves living in the wild, though the number fluctuates. Due to a myriad of court cases, petitions, political debates, poaching, and the strong opposition of some livestock owners, the recovery of the Mexican Gray Wolf’s population has been slow. Another issue affecting the slow rising populations of these wolves is a lack of genetic diversity, leading to fewer viable pups per litter.

It has been a battle of survival for these wolves, one that may face a fatal blow if they are delisted as an Endangered Species. This decision may be made later this year should the Draft Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, proposed on June 29th 2017 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, be accepted. This Plan is open to public comments until August 29th 2017.

You may be wondering how you can help in the fight to save Mexican Gray Wolves. There are many organizations that have been advocating for the protection of these wolves. Places such as Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Earth Justice, and Lobos of the Southwest, all have varying programs you can be part of to help save these wolves. Some of the many opportunities provided by these organizations include “adopting” a Lobo by paying for a symbolic certificate, donating your time and money to various efforts to protect these wolves, and information regarding sending letters to Congress and your local area State Official.

Original art by Kacey Barton

Original art by Kacey Barton