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Wolves World in the Wild

If you ever have the opportunity to look into the eyes of a wolf, you'll realize your not looking into the eyes of just any animal, this one is thinking, with an intelligence you are NOT used to seeing in any animal.

There was a time when close to 700,000 wolves claimed North America as their home. Now the vast majority of surviving wild wolves live in the Canadian wilderness. Canada has more wild wolves than any other country in the world, numbering around 50,000. It was Canadian gray wolves that were transported to Yellowstone National Park, to begin the reintroduction process there. Yellowstone is now a great success story for the wolf, even the park itself has prospered financially due to the hundreds of people flocking to see wolves in their natural habitat.

Unfortunately for the Mexican Gray Wolf, we are not seeing these positive results in other areas of the United States. Many of the wolves that have been reintroduced to the wild have been shot to death. In hopes of keeping better tabs on their whereabouts and health, most wolves now being released are fitted with radio collars.

On July 16, 2004, the Secretary of Interior, Gale Norton, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to take the eastern gray wolf (the Dakota's, Nebraska, Kansas to the East Coast), off the endangered and threatened species list, because of their prolific come back. This will return control of the wolf to the states and Indian tribes. The Minnesota wolf received a looser protection status of "threatened" instead of endangered because their population now nears 2,450.

This will not affect the status of the western states (Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana) and southwestern wolf, especially the Mexican wolf, (Arizona & New Mexico, 35 to 40 adults), and the Red Wolf who are still struggling to recover. The National Wildlife Federation is criticizing the plan, calling it shortsighted because the federal government will not be involved in any effort to reintroduce the wolf in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and NY. Norton says that reintroduction in those areas will be left up to the individual states. If the change does take place it will probably be later this year.

The Gray Wolf

Different types of wolves

  • Timber Wolf (Gray Wolf) - The male stands 3 foot at the shoulder with the average weight being 100 lbs., but can be as much as 175 lbs. Their powerful jaws are built to crush the bones of its prey. They have the biting capacity of 1500 pounds per square inch. There are 5 subspecies of gray wolf and 7 to 12 in Eurasia, the arctic wolf is among these. Subspecies are often difficult to distinguish from one another because they have been known to interbreed in areas where their geographic ranges overlap. Earlier in the century these animals were labeled as troublesome livestock killers and were wiped out in Yellowstone Park. In 1995 Canadian grays were reintroduced to repopulate the park and today the reintroduction stands as a huge success.
  • Red wolf - This wolf is a much smaller wolf, standing 16 inches high at the shoulder and weighing 40 to 80 lbs. Their faces are much narrower, with larger ears and shorter coats. Their colors range from reddish to black. In 1980 the red wolf was declared extinct in the wild, there were none in Canada or Mexico that could be transferred to the U.S., but there were a few in captivity that were bred and introduced onto public land with the help of the Fish and Wildlife Service, with success. Since that time the wolves have spread onto private land, and have once again come under attack by wolf protesters.
  • Mexican Gray Wolf - Smaller than the timber wolf, weighing 60 to 90 lbs. Until recently, the Mexican Wolf no longer resided in the wild in the United States. Hunted to near extinction here, they only survived in programs managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), until March 1997 when eleven Mexican wolves were released into the wild in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. On August 7, 1998 Wolf #174 was found mortally wounded by a mountain lion. Wolf #174 was the first Mexican wolf to give birth in the wild in 50 years. The male wolf and pup are being monitored, in the wild, to be certain the pup is being cared for.
  • Coyote (prairie wolf) - This wolf is smaller and more delicately built, standing 16 to 20 inches from the shoulder. The males weigh 27 to 33 lbs. with colors ranging from gray to tan with rust. The coyote is not an endangered species, but are considered dangerous to livestock and killed by the thousands each year.

Wolves are one of my favorite interests, they are one of the most beautiful and misunderstood creatures of this world. To this day there is no documented case of a healthy wolf maiming or killing a human in the wild. They are normally shy when exposed to humans, and will avoid you in the wild if possible.

The strength of the wolf is the pack. A packs size can range from 6 to 8, or as many as 30 in Alaska or Canada. They can travel long distances by trotting around 5 mph or can run up to 25 to 35 mph for short distances. The wolf lives within a complex social structure, with the alpha male and female being at the top of the hierarchy. They lead the pack in their travels, decide when and where to hunt, settle disputes between other pack members, patrol their borders, and are usually the only breeding pair within the pack. There is usually l litter each year, with a gestation period of about 63 days. All the adults help feed the female and pups until they are old enough to be weaned, around 5 to 6 weeks.

Each wolf has usually fought for its rank within the pack, sometimes resulting with an outcast, who lives on the outskirts of the pack, surviving off of left over scraps. Occasionally, there will be a lone wolf, one who doesn't roam with a pack. There is usually a reason for this, sometimes an older wolf will leave its pack when it can no longer carry its weight for the pack, sometimes one will sicken or slowly go blind, sometimes a young adult male has left his pack to start one of his own.

A wolf's life expectancy in the wild is usually around 8 years, in captivity it can increase to 15 years or more. The Gray wolves diet consists of larger mammals, such as deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, and mountain goat. Red wolves pray on small game, such as deer, raccoons, rabbits, and rodents. Wolves play a very valuable role in our ecology. By preying on weaker, sick and injured animals the wolf helps balance the population growth of other animals as well. Just ask any farmer who has been overrun by rabbits or other rodents, his crops close to destroyed, you'll probably find that all the wolves and coyotes in the area have been killed off or close to it. If mother nature is left alone, it can take care of itself!!!!!

Great Links

National Fish and Wildlife Service - The NFWS are working to conserve, protect, and enhance wildlife and their habitats for future generations.

International Wolf Center - For some of the most up to date info you can find on the net.

National Wildlife Federation - find our what this organization does, and how you can help

Defenders of Wildlife - Some of the best information on wolves you'll find on the net.

Timber Wolf Information Network - TWIN - On this site you can adopt a wolf, join wolf recovery progress discussion groups, take field trips, or join one of four Wolf Ecology Workshops a year.

Kids Planet- The Defenders of Wildlife have created marvelous pages especially for kids.

Uncle Jim's CB Radio Page - Great CB stuff, with links that can lead virtually anywhere!

Announcing Red's Web Piece - If you have a soft spot for ferrets this page is full of need to know news, with a mixture of humor.

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