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  • Wolves are the largest members of the Canidae family, which includes companion dogs, coyotes, dingoes, many types of foxes, and several kinds of jackals.

  • Wolves howl to contact separated members of their group, to rally the group before hunting, or to warn rival wolf packs to keep away.

  • A wolf can run about 20 miles per hour, and up to 40 miles per hour when necessary, but only for a minute or two. They can “dog trot” around 5 miles per hour and can travel all day at this speed.

  • A male and female that mate usually stay together for life. They are devoted parents and maintain sophisticated family ties.

  • Unlike other animals, wolves have a variety of distinctive facial expressions they use to communicate and maintain pack unity.

  • The main threat to wolf populations is loss of habitat. Packs need hunting territories of up to 600 square miles.

Wolves have been maligned in many fairy tales and myths, portrayed as evil, vicious, ravenous beasts. And because of this misinformation, the wolf has been persecuted, hunted and killed to the point of near extinction all over the world.

The gray wolf was one of the first species protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1974. Although the species has been protected for more than 30 years, Congress passed a budget rider in April 2012 requiring that wolves in Montana and Idaho be removed from the Endangered Species List (“delisted”).  More recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming, after hunting organizations and some ranchers pressed the agency to give control of the gray wolves to the states.  As a result, gray wolves are no longer federally protected in any portion of the Northern Rocky Mountains or Western Great Lakes regions.

The largest wild members of the dog family, gray wolves generally have grizzled coats, with gray, black, and light brown fur covering their head and upper body, and yellowish white fur on the legs and belly. Some subspecies have pure white or black coats. Thick winter undercoats give them the appearance of added bulk; when they shed in the spring, they look thin. They have bushy tails, legs longer than coyotes' and dogs' legs, and oversized paws. Gray wolves grow in length to 40 to 58 inches plus a tail 13 to 20 inches long, and weigh on average between 60 to 100 pounds.

In 2010, the current gray wolf population in the continental United States at about 5,000.  Historically this number was roughly 400,000. Alaska’s population is estimated between 7,700 and 11,200. In the United States, the gray wolf was once found in Alaska and most of the continental United States. Currently, there are self-sustaining populations in only seven states: Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. There is a small population on the border of Arizona and New Mexico, but it contains fewer than 30 individuals, and its numbers are regularly supplemented by captive bred animals.

The reduction in wolf habitat has long been one of the greatest threats to North American gray wolves. As wolf habitat decreases due to human encroachment, their numbers are forced to dwindle. Wolves need a large area away from humans to establish their home range.  The wolves need an area for their den, commonly found near a water source.  

Generally, wolves do not attack humans. There have only been a handful of recorded wild wolf attacks on humans in North America, and only one lethal attack has ever been confirmed. (In the rare instance that a wolf approaches in a threatening manner, stand your ground. Never run or turn your back, as such behavior is typical of prey. Make noise and throw objects at the wolf.) The most important thing to remember about wolves -- and other wild animals -- is that they should NEVER be fed. If wild animals associate humans with food, they will lose their natural fear and become much more likely to act aggressively towards humans.

 

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