Mexican Wolf

"Mexican Wolf" by Joe Weatherly (watercolor)

 
Wolves are amazing animals to paint. The Mexican wolf is a small subspecies of the gray wolf and once roamed freely over parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Thanks to captive breeding in Mexico and release back into their former historical range, recolonization is being established. I wanted to capture this majestic canine with minimal brushwork to showcase its essence.
— Joe Weatherly

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Habitat

Mexican gray wolves prefer mountain forests, grasslands and scrublands. They once ranged widely from central Mexico throughout the southwestern U.S., however, they were reintroduced to the Apache National Forest in southeastern Arizona and the adjacent Gila National Forest in western New Mexico.  

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Family life

Mexican gray wolves are very social with habits including tail wagging, howling, yipping, and growling, playing, and marking territory with urine. They live in packs, which are complex social structures that include the breeding adult pair and their offspring. A hierarchy of dominant and subordinate animals within the pack work together as a unit. The Mexican Wolves have long legs and a sleek body which enables them to run very fast. The Mexican Wolf has a superior sense of smell. 

Mating season is between Mid-February and Mid-March, lasting 63 days, with a typical litter size of 4-7 pups. Pups are born blind and defenseless into a den of a natural hole or burrow. The pack will care for the pups until they mature at about 10 months of age. 

Lifespan

The life span of the Mexican Wolf is up to 16 years in captivity, up to 6 years in the wild. 

Hunting Habits/Diet

Mexican wolves mostly eat large hoofed mammals like elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer. They are also known to eat smaller mammals such as rabbits, ground squirrels and mice. Their appearance serves as an excellent camouflage in the forested areas. By traveling in packs, the Mexican Wolf ensures its safety and a higher chance of catching prey. Pack hunting revolves around the chase, as wolves are able to run for long periods before relenting. It takes careful cooperation for a pack to take down large prey, and the rate of success is low. As a result, Mexican wolves usually feed only a couple times a week, eating up to 20 pounds of meat at a time.

Population

There are only about 300 Mexican wolves total in captivity, and approximately 80 wolves in the wild.

Fun Fact

Mexican gray wolves are not really gray. Their fur is a mix of gray, rust, black and buff, a color pretty close to vanilla ice cream.

Why are They Endangered?

Humans pose the greatest threat to Mexican gray wolves. There are many misconceptions and myths about these wolves. Despite the facts that they have been responsible for less than one percent of livestock deaths each year and have never attacked a person, they are often resented and feared in communities near the recovery area in southern Arizona and New Mexico. As a result, extensive efforts by government agencies and individuals have led to them being eradicated. 

Status

Least Concern
 

Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)