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Grey Wolf | Endangered Species Series

Grey Wolf (wm).jpg

Grey Wolf (Canus Lupus) - ENDANGERED

Once almost completely disappeared from the lower 48 states, the grey wolf is making a comeback in the Great Lakes, northern Rockies, and the Southwestern United States. There are an estimated 7,000 - 11,200 in Alaska, 3,700 in the Great Lakes region, and 1,675 in the Southwest.

The ancestor of our domestic dog, the grey wolf ranges in color from grizzled grey or black to white. Wolves play a key role in sustaining healthy ecosystems. They are essential to keeping deer and elk populations in check, which in turn benefits other plants and animals. The caracasses of their hunts also provide food for other species and helps redistribute nutrients.

Behavior | Habitat | Range

Wolves are very social animals, living in packs of 7 or 8, led by an alpha male and female. The alphas track and hunt prey, choose denning locations, and establish the pack's territory. Packs develop a complex communication system consisting of barks, howls, whines, and growls. They don't actually howl at the moon, but are more active at night, especially during brighter nights - which happens most often when the moon is full.

Though the wolf was once common throughout all of North America, they were exterminated in most areas by the 1930s. Today their range has been reduced to Canada, Alaska, the Great Lakes, northern Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. Wolves require contiguous habitat of forest or mountainous terrain - wolves in the Southwest can live in desert and brush.

Height: 26-32 in at the shoulder Length: 4.5-6.5 ft from nose to tail-tip Weight: 55-130 lbs; Males are typically heavier and taller than the females Lifespan: 7-8 years in the wild. 12 years or more in remote or protected areas


The number one threat to wolf populations is conflicts with humans.

- Extermination due to livestock loss: though wolf predation on livestock is fairly uncommon, suspect wolves, sometimes even their entire pack, are killed.

- Hunting + trapping: where not protected by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), wolves are often killed for sport.

- Intolerance (prejudice + fear + misunderstanding): many myths misrepresent wolves as villainous and dangerous creatures which are perpetuated by anti-wolf extremists, many hunters see wolves as a threat to their hunting opportunities, when in reality wolves hunt the weak and sick members of herds

- Habitat loss: human encroachment which fragments their territory and forces them to cross land with less protection - highways, developed areas, etc

- Diminishing protections: Congress stripped protection from wolves in the norther Rockies in 2011, which lead to thousands being killed and states began to develop aggressive management plans - the wolf became the only animal in the history of the ESA to go from protected to hunted in a single day. Now, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing all protection from wolves in the remaining areas of the US - potentially derailing reintroduction efforts that have just begun.

Wolves have a target on their heads. There is a battle being waged as we speak to keep protections for wolves in place and keep states from obliterating their local populations. Please be informed and help protect these iconic animals.

For more information about truths pertaining to wolves, please visit the Defenders of Wildlife Fact Vs Fiction page.

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