Once numbering in the thousands, Mexican gray wolves, or lobos, widely roamed the wilds of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico. But by the mid-1970s, after a century of persecution, lobos were wiped out in the United States. Fortunately, a few survived in Mexico.
These remaining survivors were captured and provided the opportunity for zoos to establish a captive breeding program that was necessary for any chance of recovery. In 1998, 11 Mexican wolves were released back into the wild in Arizona. But their numbers have grown slowly, and they still remain the most endangered sub-species of wolf in the entire world.
Misconceptions and myths are the biggest problems for lobos. Despite the facts that Mexican gray wolves are 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. While a majority of people in those states support wolf recovery, illegal killings continue to be the leading cause of death for lobos. The small population is also threatened by inbreeding, catastrophic events like diseases and fires, and by the lack of a scientifically sound plan for their expansion and recovery.
Learn more about what Defenders of Wildlife is doing to help in our Species at Risk: Mexican Gray Wolf  section.