Wolves are wild carnivore members of the dog family (Canidae). They are believed to be ancestors of the domestic dog, which evolved separately more than 20,000 years ago. Only two species of wolves remain today — the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) — also called the Timber Wolf — and the Red Wolf (Canis rufus).
The Gray Wolf is the best-known species and still inhabits some areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Some taxonomists contend there are as many as 30 subspecies of the Gray Wolf. One of these, the Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) is the only wolf indigenous to the Southwestern Deserts. Because of human persecution and habitat destruction it has been eliminated from much of its original range.
In North America, the Gray Wolf is now found primarily in Canada and Alaska, with much smaller numbers in Minnesota. In 1995 wolves were reintroduced in wilderness areas of the northern Rocky Mountains. A small population of the sub-species Mexican Wolf once existed in higher elevations of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of Mexico but is now extinct in its native habitat.
The Mexican Wolf is the rarest, southernmost and most genetically distinct sub-species of the Gray Wolf in North America. It is also one of the smallest sub-species, reaching an overall length no greater than 4.5 feet and a height maximum of about 32 inches.
Until recent times, the Mexican Wolf ranged the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts from central Mexico to western Texas, southern New Mexico and central Arizona. By the the turn of the century, reduction of natural prey like deer and elk caused many wolves to begin attacking domestic livestock, which led to intensive efforts by government agencies and individuals to eradicate the Mexican Wolf.
These efforts were very successful, and by the 1950s, the Mexican Wolf had been eliminated from the wild. In 1976, the Mexican Gray Wolf was declared an endangered species and has remained so ever since. Less than 200 Mexican Wolves now survive in zoos and museums due to successful captive breeding programs.
In March 1997, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin reintroducing Mexican Wolves into the Blue Range area of Arizona. The overall objective of this program is to reestablish 100 Mexican Wolves in the Apache and Gila National Forests of of Arizona and New Mexico by 2005.
After reading this article, I had the strongest desire to draw the Mexican Gray Wolf, and educate the public that the Wolf can co-exist right along with us.
Want to see my drawing in person? It will be on display for show or sale at the Phippen Art Show in Prescott, AZ on Memorial Day Weekend this coming weekend!