Systematic diet studies of Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) were not conducted before wolves were extirpated by the late 1960s from the southwestern United States. We collected carnivore scats (n = 1,682) from the Apache and Gila national forests in Arizona and New Mexico, USA, from April 1998 through October 2001 and identified scats to species using traditional field methods, of which 251 were identified as Mexican wolf scats. We found the diet consisted of large-sized food items (92.8% percent frequency of occurrence [PFO]), primarily elk (Cervus elaphus) adults (36.6% PFO) and calves (36.2% PFO). Biomass calculations indicated that Mexican wolves consumed 414 kg of prey as represented by the scats, with elk representing 76.7% of the biomass. When comparing PFO with percent biomass, PFO calculations may have underrepresented larger food items and percent biomass may have overrepresented smaller food items. We compared the diet composition of Mexican wolf scats (n = 251) to the diets reported in previous North American gray wolf (C. lupus) studies (n = 7). The high proportion of elk in Mexican wolf diets in our study area may reflect the low-density, early colonizing stage of the wolf population and elk probably being the most numerous ungulate in our study area. Our results suggested that free-ranging Mexican wolves consumed a higher proportion of large-sized prey than other North American gray wolves. Our results provide baseline diet information for a newly reestablished wolf population.
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