Wolf

Grey Wolf! Who’s Afraid of the Big Grey Wolf?

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We’ve got another iconic Animal of the Week, and this time it’s the great Grey Wolf! The Grey/Gray Wolf, also known as the Timber Wolf, is the largest living wolf species on the planet. These amazing animals can have fur ranging from red and brown, to nearly pure white or black. The diet of a grey wolf consists of mainly of larger ungulates like deer and cattle, however they can eat a variety of things including carrion and even human garbage. Grey Wolves are highly social animals that travel together as a pack. They help to maintain a balanced ecosystem by keeping deer populations in check. The Grey Wolf is also highly territorial and use techniques like scent-marking and howling to defend their territory from other packs.

Are Grey Wolves Protected?

Wolves in North America have had a troubled history with protection from hunting. It’s estimated there were over 1 million wolves roaming across North America. However hunting and interactions with humans has drastically decreased this number. Grey Wolves were first protected in the 1960s, and since then it’s been a back and forth battle. Laws have been created and repealed numerous times to protect grey wolves in various states across the country, and there are many organizations working to keep the protections in place so the population can stay healthy.

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What They Have Any Predators?

Generally the grey wolf is an apex predator, the champion of their habitat at the top of the food chain. However, there are just a couple animals that will challenge a wolf in their natural habitat. Bears and mountain lions can attack wolf pups and battle adults over territory and food. The biggest threat to the grey wolf is one we know pretty well – humans! Hunting and interaction with human societies are the main predators that a wolf might have to deal with.

Why Do Humans Hunt Them?

Sadly, the majority of wolf hunting is for sport or their skins. As we’ve developed new technology like electrical heating and synthetic fur, we no longer need animal fur for warmth and shelter. Many of us see wolves as majestic creatures, but for some ranchers they can cause a loss in livestock. As human society has grown there is virtually no need to hunt wolves to protect humans. The main arguments that hunters pose are that wolves contribute to loss in livestock for ranchers and they can spread diseases like rabies. There are many organizations arguing against these claims, and just like the protection status for wolves, this is a topic that is fought back and forth in the law books.

Why Were Wolves Removed from Yellowstone?

In the 1800’s there were tons and tons of grey wolves roaming the area we now call Yellowstone National Park. When this national park was established in 1827, their numbers were smaller, but grey wolves were still considered nuisance predators. Wolves were hunted as part of a government program to protect livestock, and by 1926 there were none left in Yellowstone. However it only took a few years before humans noticed how this changed the park’s ecosystem. The Elk population had grown tremendously without grey wolves around, and ate most of the vegetation leaving the area dry. Humans tried to control the elk population on our own, but nothing seemed to help until we re-introduced grey wolves to the park in 1995.

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Do Wolves Hunt At Night?

Grey Wolves generally are nocturnal animals, so hunting at night is second nature. Because they are highly social, wolves will often travel in small packs to find prey. Packs will work together to protect each other and their territory from other animals or other wolf packs. The pack will try and pick off the weakest or smallest animal in a herd and circle it to get their meal.

 

If you want to learn even more about the Grey Wolf, make sure to check out our fact sheet in the Kids’ Zone and then quiz yourself on your canine knowledge! Keep howlin’ till next time, Defenders!

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