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Mexican Gray Wolf

Canis lupus baileyi

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About the Mexican Gray Wolf

conservation status: endangered

Geographic Range:

range map

Class: Mammalia  
Order: Carnivora  
Family: Canidae  
Genus: Canis  
Species: lupus baileyi

The smallest subspecies of wolf, Mexican gray wolves, or “Lobos” as they’re called in Spanish, have fur that is tan, silver and black. Mexican gray wolves are highly social, living in packs of three to eight with a complex social hierarchy. They're very vocal animals, using barks, howls, growls, whines and whimpers to communicate. Wolves have individual, distinctive howls that can be used to assemble pack members and advertise territory. 

Wolf Facts


Mexican grey wolves are most closely related to Canis lupus, the standard North American gray wolf. Mexican gray wolves are smaller than North American gray wolves, with a distinctly narrow face and distinguishing facial patterns. Their coat coloring varies, but is a distinctive combination of buff, grey, rust and black. Unlike North American gray wolves, Mexican wolves don't have solid coats of black or white.


Adult wolves weigh approximately 50 - 80 pounds, measure roughly 5 ½ feet from nose to tail tip, and stand roughly 28-32 high at the shoulder. Males are typically taller and heavier than females. 

Wolf packs hunt cooperatively to bring down large ungulates such as mule deer, elk and white-tailed deer. They'll also hunt rabbits, squirrels, javelin and other small mammals, and occasionally kill young livestock. Mexican wolves will also scavenge on carcasses. 


The social structure of Mexican wolves is complex, with an intricate communication system that includes numerous vocalizations (howling, barking, whining, growling), as well as body postures and scent marking. Mexican wolves live in packs that consist of an alpha pair and their offspring from several generations. Packs can vary in size, but four to eight animals is typical.  


Female wolves reach sexual maturity at two years of age; they have one reproductive cycle per year. The alpha pair is monogamous and are typically the only breeding animals in the pack. Breeding generally occurs in February, and litters are born in April - May after a 63-day gestation. Litters often consist of four to six pups.


Before 1900, these wolves ranged from Mexico up to Utah and Colorado. They're now only found in Arizona and New Mexico. These wolves are found in a variety of southwestern habitats, but prefer mountain woodlands. They don't live in low deserts, as was once believed.

Median Life Expectancy:

Up to 11 years in the wild


Mexican wolves were completely extirpated (locally extinct) in the wild. Threats include sport hunting, hostility from local farmers towards wolves, habitat fragmentation by roads, cities and major construction projects in the southern United States/northern Mexico.


The Mexican wolf is the most endangered wolf in the world, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. This wolf's population was all but eliminated in the wild in the 1970’s, and after many years of planning and organizing, the first 11 captive-reared wolves were released into the wild in March 1998. These wolves are a prime example of how effective Species Survival Plans, like we have here at Zoo New England, can be at reinstating populations of endangered mammals.

Conservation efforts supported by Zoo New England:

Zoo New England joined the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) in 1998. The SSP was initiated in 1977, and between 1977 and 1980, the last remaining wolves were captured from the wild in Mexico. The purpose of this breeding program between the U.S. and Mexico is to raise wolves for reintroduction in both countries and to re-establish Mexican wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education and research.

The 55 facilities currently participating in the SSP (including Stone Zoo) house approximately 350 wolves. The SSP’s goal is to maintain at least 240 animals in captivity at all times to ensure the security of the species, while still being able to breed animals for reintroduction.

Updates from the field:

In 2020, the wild population of Mexican wolves in the United States saw its fifth consecutive year of growth. According to the recent count, the U.S. population of Mexican wolves in the wild has increased to at least 186 animals. This population has nearly doubled in size over the last five years. The 2020 survey represents not only an all-time record number of wolves in the wild, but also the most ever breeding pairs, wild packs, pups born in the wild, and pups surviving to the end of the year. 

Over half of the wild Mexican wolf population is now monitored through radio collars using satellite technology to record their location. Wildlife biologists use this information to gain timely information about wolf behavior in the wild and assist with management of the wild population. In 2020, 20 captive-born pups were placed into seven wild dens (a process called “cross fostering”) to boost the genetic diversity in the wild population.

How can guests help?

Guests can zoodopt a Mexican grey wolf to financially support the species. Other initiatives include spreading a positive opinion on wolves, as many decisions made are based in fear for children or livestock, and supporting education and initiatives for livestock rotation techniques, which protect farm animals and limits damage done to wolf habitat.