The gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf or, simply, wolf, is a mammal of the order Carnivora. The gray wolf is the largest member of the family Canidae and also the most well-known of wolves. Its shoulder height ranges from 0.6 to 0.9 meters (26–36 inches) and its weight typically varies between 32 and 62 kilograms (70–135 pounds). As evidenced by studies of DNA sequencing and genetic drift the gray wolf shares a common ancestry with the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).
Though once abundant over much of North America and Eurasia, the gray wolf inhabits a very small portion of its former range because of widespread destruction of its habitat; in some regions, it is endangered or threatened. Considered as a whole, however, the gray wolf is regarded as of least concern for extinction according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Wolves are still hunted in many areas for sport or as perceived threats to livestock. Kazakhstan is currently thought to have the largest wolf population of any nation; it has as many as 90,000, versus some 60,000 for Canada.
Gray wolves play an important role as apex predators in the ecosystems they typically occupy. Gray wolves have been known to thrive in temperate forests, deserts, mountains, tundra, taiga, and grasslands; this diversity reflects the wolf’s adaptability as a species.
Wolves feature in folklore and mythology of cultures ancient to modern across the northern hemisphere; from the Norse legend of the giant Fenrir to more sympathetic depictions in Central Asia and the suckling of Romulus and Remus in the foundation of Rome. More familiar still are the fairy tales where the wolf appears as a villain such as Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. Wolf legends have also given rise to the popular horror figure of the werewolf.
Article from: wikipedia.org
Gray Wolf – Canis Lupus
The wolf is the largest member of the canine family. Gray wolves’ range in color from grizzled gray or black to all-white. As the ancestor of the domestic dog, the gray wolf resembles German shepherds or malamutes. Wolves are making a comeback in the Great Lakes, Northern Rockies, and the Southwestern United States.
Height: 26-32 inches at the shoulder
Length: 4.5-6.5 feet from nose to the tip of the tail
Weight: 55-130 lbs (Males are typically heavier and taller than the female)
Staples Ungulates (large hoofed mammals) like elk, deer, moose, and caribou. Also known to eat beaver, rabbits and other small prey. Wolves are also scavengers and often eat animals that have died due to other causes like starvation and disease.
There are an estimated 7,000 to 11,200 wolves in Alaska and more than 5,000 in the lower 48 states. Around the world, there are an estimated 200,000 in 57 countries, compared to up to 2 million in earlier times.
Wolves were once common throughout all of North America but were killed in most areas of the United States by the mid-1930s. Today their range has been reduced to Canada and the following portions of the United States: Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Mexican wolves are found in New Mexico and Arizona. Thanks to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, Yellowstone National Park is one of the most favored places to see and hear wolves in the native habitat.
Wolves live, travel and hunt in packs of 4-7 animals on average. Packs include the mother and father wolves, called the alphas, their pups and several other subordinates or young animals. The alpha female and male are the pack leaders that track and hunt prey, choose den sites and establish the pack’s territory. Wolves develop close relationships and strong social bonds. They often demonstrate deep affection for their family and may even sacrifice themselves to protect the family unit. Wolves have a complex communication system ranging from barks and whines to growls and howls. While they don’t howl at the moon, they do howl more when it’s lighter at night, which occurs more often when the moon is full.
Mating Season: January or February
Gestation: 63 days
Litter size: 4 – 7 pups
Pups are born blind and defenseless.
The pack cares for the pups until they mature at about 10 months of age.
The most common cause of death for wolves is a conflict with people over livestock losses. While wolf predation on livestock is fairly uncommon, wolves that do prey on them are often killed to protect the livestock. Some livestock owners are developing non-lethal methods to reduce the chances of a wolf attacking their livestock. These methods include fencing livestock, lighting, alarm systems and removing dead or dying livestock that may attract carnivores like wolves. Another serious threat is human encroachment into wolf territory, which leads to habitat loss for wolves and their prey species. Overall, the greatest threat to wolves is people’s fear and misunderstanding about the species. Many fairy tales and myths tend to misrepresent wolves as villainous, dangerous creatures.
Under the *Endangered Species Act (ESA), gray wolves are listed as endangered in the lower-48 states, except for Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and portions of the surrounding Western Great Lakes states where federal protections were recently removed. Wolves in Alaska are not listed under the ESA.
Endangered means a species is considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range and threatened means a species may become endangered in the foreseeable future.
Portions of Yellowstone, central Idaho, and the Southwest are designated as non-essential experimental populations, which isolate geographically-described groups from other existing populations and offer special regulations.
* The Endangered Species Act requires the US federal government to identify species threatened with extinction, identify habitat they need to survive, and help protect both. In doing so, the Act works to ensure the basic health of our natural ecosystems and protect the legacy of conservation we leave to our children and grandchildren.
Article from: Defenders of Wildlife