Monday, December 2, 2013

Mexican Wolf

Canis lupus baileyi
The Mexican Wolf is a subspecies of Grey Wolf-- and the most rare subspecies at that. They are listed as Critically Endangered. On top of being close to extinction, they are the smallest (about the size of a German Shepherd), most genetically distinct, and the most southern-living of the North American grey wolves.

Mexican Wolves used to have a range that spread across northern Mexico and the southwest United States. Over time, the large prey mammals that the wolves hunted became more rare, and so the wolves turned to livestock, resulting in widespread wolf hunting. By the 1970s they were extinct in the wild.

Today there are about 75 Mexican Wolves in Arizona, placed there as part of a reintroduction project that began in 1998. The population has been growing, but very slowly. In addition to those wolves, there are about 300 individuals in captivity, with 47 breeding facilities.

Unfortunately those reintroduced Wolves are being hunted, with two shot illegally in 2011. Another troubling issue facing the subspecies is hybridization. Coyotes are common in the area, and research has shown that Coyotes and Mexican Wolves have bred in the past, as genetic markers have been found across the wild populations. Keeping the two species genetically separate is vital to the full recovery of the Wolf populations.

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : Mexico, southwest United States
Size : Height up to 2.5ft (.8m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family: Canidae -- Genus : Canis -- Species : C. lupus -- Subspecies : C. l. baileyi
Image : Ltshears

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