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Gray Wolf Canis lupus


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Gray Wolf
credit: Wolf_KolmÂrden/CCSA

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Family: Canidae, Dogs view all from this family

Description Largest wild canid. Fur usually grizzled gray but ranges from pure white to black to reddish brown. Commonly called the Gray Wolf. Bushy tail often tipped in black. Distinguished from Coyote and domestic dogs by larger body size, large nose pad (>25mm), relatively shorter ears, and tail usually held horizontally (not down) when running.

Dimensions 1.0-1.3m, 35-52cm, 30-80kg; / 0.9-1.2m, 35-52cm, 23-55kg

Endangered Status The Gray Wolf is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming; and is classified as threatened in Minnesota. The Mexican Wolf subspecies is considered extinct in the United States. The Gray Wolf once ranged from Mexico to Canada and Alaska, from sea to sea. In the 20th century it was systematically eradicated from the lower 48 states with the approval and participation of the U.S. government. Westward expansion across the U.S. in the 1800s led to the near elimination of many of the large mammals that wolves traditionally preyed upon, including bison, deer, elk, and moose. With their hunting stocks depleted, wolves turned to domestic livestock for sustenance, and that was their fatal error. Bounty hunters tracked down and killed wolves until the 1960s. Wolves were poisoned, shot, tracked down with dogs, trapped, and dug out of their dens. Poisoned carcasses were left out for them, often to the detriment of other wild animals, including Bald Eagles, foxes, and bears. By the time Gray Wolves came under the protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, there were only a few hundred left in northern Minnesota. Recovery programs have been underway ever since. These have involved educating the public about wolves, restoring habitat and prey species, introducing wolves into various areas (including most recently the Mexican Wolf subspecies in the southern mountains of Arizona and New Mexico), and in some places compensating ranchers for livestock killed by wolves. Federal, state, and private organizations continue the quest to make the contiguous U.S. wolf-friendly.

Habitat Alpine & subalpine habitats, Forests & woodlands

Range Plains, Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, Alaska

Discussion Packs usually consist of 5-10 family members. Their pack hunting is adapted to kill large prey, including moose, bison, and deer. Wolves can also survive on medium-sized mammals such as Beaver and muskrat, and will also hunt mice. When hunting large prey, pack members take turns pursuing the target, chasing it until its too tired to defend itself. Howling can be heard for great distances. Common where not persecuted; lives in all habitats within its range except deserts and high mountain tops. Canids between the Wolf and Coyote in size (typically 14-39kg) remain a taxonomic problem. Some taxonomists argue that all intermediates are recent hybrids between Wolves and Coyotes and therefore do not merit species’ status. Others argue they are not hybrids, or that they are ancient hybrids, and that they deserve full status as one or two distinct mid-size Canis species: the Eastern Wolf (C. lycaon) from the north and/or the Red Wolf (C. rufus) from the southeast. Red Wolves now only occur in and around active re_introduction programs in coastal North Carolina.