The Mexican Gray Wolf
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of gray wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 114 individuals - a slight increase from the 113 counted at the end of 2016.
In 2003 the WCC was accepted into the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf and has played a critical role in preserving and protecting these imperiled species through carefully managed breeding and reintroduction. The goal of the Recovery Plan is to restore Mexican gray wolves to a portion of their ancestral range in the southwest United States and Mexico. To date, the WCC remains one of the three largest holding facilities for these rare species and three lobos from the WCC have been given the extraordinary opportunity to resume their rightful place on the wild landscape. The 26 Mexican gray wolves at the WCC occupy four enclosures in the WCC Endangered Species Facility. These enclosures are private and secluded, and the wolves are not on exhibit for the public. Wolves in the wild are naturally afraid of people so the WCC staff follows a protocol to have minimal human contact with the Mexican wolves. This will ensure they have a greater probability of being successful if they are released into the wild as part of the recovery plan.