The Gray Wolf

The gray wolf, a beautiful animal and creature.
The gray wolf, a beautiful animal and creature. | Source
Orange or red represents native gray wolf country in North America.
Orange or red represents native gray wolf country in North America. | Source

Ever since I have been a child, I have been fascinated by and loved the gray or grey wolf (Canus lupus) in wildlife and have been concerned about preserving this beautiful and intelligent animal. It has nearly become extinct in the lower forty-eight states and is now only growing in number in Yellowstone National Park located in Wyoming as it was reintroduced to the park in 1995.

I suppose my interest stems from the fact that my maiden name is Wolf and our family crest has a wolf head above the armoured head of a knight with shield. W-o-l-f, spelled this way, is a German name and our Wolf family is supposed to have hailed from Dresden, Germany according to my Grandmother Wolf.

Then there are the fairy tales and myths that include a wolf as one of the characters but they are often portrayed to be feared and villainous and dangerous creatures, sneaky and sly, when truthfully this is not the case at all about the gray wolf.

I have read and loved the Jack London stories and novels about the gray wolf he has included as characters in his writings. "To Build A Fire", White Fang, and Call of the Wild are three of my favorite writings by London. I read them as a child and taught them too in my American literature classes. He portrays the gray wolf as loyal, sturdy, intelligent, and a friend of man, not the villain portrayed in the fairy tales.

So throughout my childhood and adult life I have always been interested in the gray wolf and cherished its wolf family because it is one of the few animals in wildlife that mates for life, raises its young for a longer period of time than other wildlife, and surprisingly, does not attack humans unless unduly provoked.

The gray wolf is more of a friend and an ancestral head of the domesticated dog family. The gray wolf is more gregarious in nature than other wildlife and exhibits highly advanced expressive behavior. It's closest relative in the domesticated dog family is the German shepherd.

The portrayal of the gray wolf as a 'lone wolf' is actually very rare and most gray wolves are very social, gregarious, and family oriented.

Gray wolves live and travel in packs.  This is one wolf family.
Gray wolves live and travel in packs. This is one wolf family. | Source
Yellow or  gold indicates the world-wide gray wolf range.
Yellow or gold indicates the world-wide gray wolf range. | Source
Gray wolf
Gray wolf | Source

The Life of the Gray Wolf

The gray wolf is native to the wilderness and remote areas of North America, Asia, and N. Africa. Today the gray wolf has been reduced to living in Canada, Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The gray wolf has been hunted ruthlessly and close to extinction in the U.S. in most of its range today. It is slowly making a comeback to its former habitat because of strong conservation efforts.

The wolf can live in a variety of habitats: the tundra, woodlands, forests, grasslands and deserts. And, the gray wolf has been introduced to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Banff National Park in Canada where they are thriving and flourishing and helping to control the wildlife in those parks.

It is estimated that seven to eleven thousand gray wolves lie in Alaska today and there are approximately five thousand in the lower U.S. states. Approximately two hundred thousand live around the world compared to two million in earlier times. Millions of years ago, the gray wolf lived in N. America during the late Rancholabrian era.

The gray wolf is divided into two categories by wildlife organizations and biologists:

  • Northern wolf which is large-sized large-brained and inhabits N. America, Europe and northern Asia. It is known to howl to assemble before and after a hunt or to pass on an alarm.
  • Southern wolf which is native to the Arabian Peninsula, southern Asia and N. Africa. They are smaller in size with a smaller skull and teeth. It has a short coat of fur without much under wool. The southern wolf rarely howls instead making short sharp barking noises.

The gray wolf has a winter fur that is long and bushy with a mottled gray color. Its fur can also be pure white, red, or brown to black. It travels at a loping gait and will follow a prey up to thirteen miles if necessary. Its gait can be maintained for hours at about eight to nine kilometers per hour.

Gray wolves' sense of smell is not as acute as that of the domesticated dog, but their hearing is sharper than that of a fox and they will exhibit signs of great distress when hearing low minor chords. Wolves also have great night vision.

The N. American gray wolf is a social animal that travels in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair and their offspring. This is also know and called a wolf pack. The average pack consists of a family of five to eleven animals. The gray wolf is an apex predator throughout its range with only humans and tigers posing a serious threat to it.

They are highly territorial animals and the gray wolf is generally monogamous with mated pairs usually mating for life until one of them dies. When a mated wolf dies, the single wolf pairs with another wolf quickly. Unpaired females are rare as males predominate the wolf family.

A male wolf that does not mate is referred to as a "Casanova wolf" and it is extremely rare for a male gray wolf not to mate. Orphaned wolf pups are usually adopted by another wolf pack but a full grown wolf will not be adopted by a pack.

The male gray wolf will mate with a female usually during January through March and produce wolf pups once a year with the pups remaining with the wolf pack for ten to fifty-four months. The average pack consists of a family of five to eleven animals. The pups leave at the onset of sexual maturity and competition with the pack for food. At this point they leave the pack and look for a mate to begin a new wolf pack.

Gray wolves live in dens located away from prey and violent encounters with other packs. Their pups are usually born in the summer months and they bear large pups in small litters. The pups are born blind and deaf and only begin to see and hear nine to twelve days after birth. The mother wolf nurtures the pups while the father wolf provides the food for them.

The gray wolf, both male and female, is intelligent and research has shown that they can remember, associate events and learn. They are trainable but not as responsive as the domesticated dog. They become bored easily with simple repeated commands and respond more to positive conditioning and rewards rather than to coercive commands and techniques using fear, or aversive stimuli and force.

They respond to hand signals more than voice and they are not as good as sled dogs because they fight for personal space and ignore repeated commands and are easily distracted by other wildlife.

The gray wolf howls only for long distance communication and to keep strangers away from the pack. They hunt within territories usually around fifty to one thousand square miles.

The gray wolf hunt and eat ungulates which are large hoofed animals such as deer, elk, moose and caribou. They will also eat small prey such as wild rabbits and beavers. They are also scavengers and will take food away from another animal in wildlife or take the leftover food.

A gray wolf will target the easiest option to attack for food when hunting. It will stalk and conceal itself as it approaches a deer, elk or moose. Then it will quicken its pace, wag its tail and peer intently getting as close to the prey as possible.

The wolf will not attack a standing prey and will try to intimidate it into running. If the prey attempts to flee, the wolf will pursue and attack it. Therefore, if a gray wolf should ever wander into your backyard, remain perfectly still and it will walk away and not attempt to attack. The wolf only attacks when the prey begins to flee.

photo by ODFW
photo by ODFW | Source

Save the Gray Wolf

www.earthjustice.org/save_wolves

www.defenders.org

www.graywolfconservation.com

www.advocateswest.org

www.conservationnw.org

www.wcs.org

wdfw.wa.gov./conservation

The gray wolf has helped to preserve the aspen trees in Yellowstone National Park by thinning out the elk herds and beavers.
The gray wolf has helped to preserve the aspen trees in Yellowstone National Park by thinning out the elk herds and beavers. | Source

Conservation and preservation

Today, the gray wolf is making a comeback and reestablishing itself in the Great Lakes region, the northern Rockies and the southwest U.S. Since 1995 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation organizations have reintroduced the gray wolf into Yellowstone National Park.

It has been a successful venture as the gray wolf has helped to keep the elk herds down to size so that they are no longer taking over the park. It has also helped in keeping the beaver numbers down.

This in turn has also helped the growth of aspen trees and willow trees in the park as elk feed on aspen and willow tree sprouts and beavers use these trees to build their dams. The gray wolf, by hunting elk and beaver, have reduced their numbers and now more aspen and willow trees are growing in Yellowstone. The balance of nature has been revitalized in the park because of the reemergence of the gray wolf.

The gray wolf once ranged across all of N. America but by the 1930s was nearly extinct because of being trapped, poisoned, and hunted by ranchers, farmers and government agents. The 1973 Endangered Species Act helped to make the wolf population rebound, but the act was nullified in 2011. So the gray wolf needs our help in preserving this intelligent, beautiful and gregarious animal.

Over the last several years, conservation efforts have been stepped up to protect the gray wolf so its numbers will increase.

The conservation efforts have been so good that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April 2012 changed the gray wolf's status from endangered to threatened. This is based on Yellowstone National Park and Banff National Parks enlarging the number of gray wolves in their parks and their recovery here as been a success.

Even though protected by law the gray wolves remain vulnerable. It is difficult to find places wild enough to inhabit wolves.

The gray wolf is very adaptable, but it has had a long adversarial history with humans. The gray wolf will almost never attack a human. The only time that a gray wolf has been known to attack a human is when the wolf is suffering from rabies or is attacked by a human. They are also vulnerable to ranchers and farmers who are by far their greatest attackers and exterminators.

There are conservation and preservation organizations that look after the gray wolf and help to protect it. This is an intelligent, beautiful animal and if handled correctly can become the loyal friend to man. Just read Jack London.


Sources:

www.defenders.org/gray-wolf/basic-facts

www.nwf.org/wildlife

www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/wolf

www.statesmanjournal.com/article/opponents-organize-against-proposal-to-strip-federal-gray-wolf-protections

The Gray Wolf in Yellowstone - by John Muir

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Comments 44 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great video. John Muir is one of my favorite writers. It is so sad the way these creatures have been hunted. Thank goodness Yellowstone re-introduced them; at least there is one area in North America where they can live in peace.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Great comprehensive and informative hubs on the grey wolf Suzette. I too admire John Muir's work and the video is great. Love Jack London stories too, in fact Call Of The Wild and White Fang were the first two novels I ever read as a child. Voted up.


Ashok Rao profile image

Ashok Rao 2 years ago from Mumbai, India

I liked the video. The information was very interesting. Enjoyed reading it.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Not many people know that they are monogamous and have a nuclear family. Most mate for life until their mate dies, with the exception of the occasional “cheating” male and female. (They’re a lot like humans in this aspect.) I just love these beautiful creatures. They are often given a “bad rap” by reputation so I was especially delighted to see this wonderful hub that is dedicated to the truth and facts about these fascinating animals. The Muir video is excellent. Beautifully done, Suzette. :-)

Happy Holidays! -)


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I just plain love them. Thank you.


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 2 years ago from Louisiana

Gray wolves are majestic looking animals.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

What beautiful creatures indeed! You have done an excellent job here in bringing awareness and plus with all the interesting facts, as well as about your family.

Awesome, suzette!

Up and more and sharing

Merry Christmas, Faith Reaper


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore

Nice post. There are no wolves in Singapore


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Bill: I loved the video also and when I saw it was by John Muir I had to include it. I am so glad Yellowstone started to reintroduce them and are conserving them also. I would hate to see them become extinct. Our wildlife is so important to preserve on this earth as much as humanity. Thanks for reading and I am glad you enjoyed this. I enjoyed your comments.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Jodah: So glad you enjoyed reading this. I too admire Muir's work on conservation and preservation. Yes. London is also a favorite author of mine and I have enjoyed reading this works. Thanks so much for reading this and for your comments. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you Ashok. Sometimes I do get away from literature and think about other things! LOL I am glad you enjoyed this and the gray wolf is just one animal that I support the conservation of. Thanks for stopping by to read this!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Genna; Their monogamous relationships and family life is what has always drawn me to the gray wolf. They are similar to humans in many ways. They are incredibly intelligent animals and really do like humans. Thanks so much for reading this and for your insightful comments. I enjoyed this so much.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Eric: I do too! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I enjoy your comments so much.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

mylindaelliott: You said it. They are such beautiful animals and really like humans. I admire their lifestyle and family life. So much like humans. Thanks so much for your visit and I am glad you enjoyed reading this.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Faith: I agree with you they are beautiful and they really like humans. I support the conservation of these beautiful animals and hope their numbers continue to increase. Thanks so much for reading Faith and I enjoy your comments. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Faith.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

MG Singh: Thanks so much for your comments. Yes, Singapore would be too far south for the gray wolf to wander into. Northern Asia, probably up in Mongolia where it is cold is where they tend to be in Asia - probably also Siberia. I just love them and think they are such beautiful animals. And, they really like humans. Thanks so much for your comments and for your visit. Most appreciated.


WriterJanis profile image

WriterJanis 2 years ago from California

Stunning images. That's good to find out one won't attack if you just stand still.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

You picked my favorite animal in all the world! lol! and fancy your name being Wolf? they are awesome creatures, and your info was fascinating! Nice one Suzette!


Dahlia Flower profile image

Dahlia Flower 2 years ago from Canada

I really enjoyed reading all of this hub -- and especially this part: 'They fight for personal space and ignore repeated commands.' They are so smart. I was telling my son about your hub. He doesn't agree that wolves will not attack a human. I don't know whether it's yay or nay, but I appreciate very much that you put all of this information together in one place to help educate us on these beautiful creatures. I do belong to an online non-profit organization for wolves, but the site's information is not as comprehensive as your hub. Wonderful video, too.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

WriterJanis: Thank you so much for reading this and I am glad you enjoyed it. I appreciate your comments.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nell: Who knew? I am glad this is your favorite animal - mine too! So glad you enjoyed reading this. They are fascinating animals I think. Thanks for the visit and the share, Nell. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Dahlia: Thank you so much for reading this. All I can say to your son is the research says they leave humans alone unless they are rabbied or provoked. They do not attack stand still animals or humans according to the research. I should put my sources on the article. I am so glad you support the conservation of wolves. Thanks so much for your insightful comments and for reading this. Most appreciated.


Anna Haven profile image

Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

I think wolves are fascinating creatures, almost mystical somehow. Very interesting hub and the information about their conservation is reassuring to read. Your chosen pictures compliment the words perfectly.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Anna, thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Yes, I agree, wolves do have a mystical aura around them. I am an environmentalist and conservationist as I see more and more of our wilderness and open land disappearing. It is so important to conserve our wild animals here in the U.S. as they contribute so to the balance of nature. Thanks so much for your interest in this hub.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

You are such a diverse writer. You glide from genre to genre with easy.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks mckbirdbks. I have a variety of interests and passions and I tend to write about all of them. I guess this is the age of diversity! LOL.


mariewj 2 years ago

A beautiful article on this stunning animal. Your interest in the Gray Wolf shines through.


Alphadogg16 profile image

Alphadogg16 2 years ago from Texas

This is a great hub on a beautiful animal suzettenaples. I've also been told that Wolves are so smart and patient, that it will starve itself to death rather than make a mistake and get hurt. Thumbs up on your hub.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

This was an excellent read, and I enjoyed it very much. I've always had an affinity for wolves; indeed, for any furry animal. But wolves and cats are my favorites.

It hurts my heart and soul when I see photos or articles about people trapping and otherwise harming and killing these magnificent animals. There is no excuse.

Once, when we were camping we heard a distant cry of wolves; it inspired my poem, "Wolfen Song" which I have published here.

The video was interesting, but I do have trouble watching the kill sequences. That's the one thing that bothers me about wildlife; I consider it an egregious design flaw that any animal should need to kill another in order to live. I would prefer to see a world in which the only flesh eaters were the scavengers cleaning up the carrion of those dead of old age, disease or accidents. (And yes, I am an ethical vegetarian, and buy only shoes and clothes of man-made materials.)

Voted up and across; shared and pinned.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Oh Maria, Thank you so much for reading this and I am glad you enjoyed this. The gray wolf is certainly an interesting animal to me. Thanks for your comments. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Alphadogg: Thanks so much for your comments and for reading this. I am glad you enjoyed this piece. What you say about wolves starving themselves to avoid a mistake is not something I found in researching this. I would think their natural instinct would kick in before that would happen. Thanks so much for your visit.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Dzy; Thank you so much for reading this and I shall definitely read your poem. I love the gray wolf and it breaks my heart also when they are needlessly are killed. I understand the farmer's and rancher's frustration with the wolf, but I would think there is something else that could be done to keep them away from hoofed animals. I am so happy they have been reintroduced to national parks, because there they can live naturally and are protected. I am not a vegetarian and I admire you for your stand against harming animals for any reason. I do wear leather shoes, so I guess I am not a purist. But, there is no reason to wipe out the wolf to extinction. Thanks so much for stopping by and I will check out your poem.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 2 years ago from America

I stepped outside last year to look for my cat and a gray wolf came running down our drive-way. He was headed to our meadow where the deer hang out. Enjoyed your hub voted up.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

moonlake: Oh how I would love to see a gray wolf in person. I am glad he kept on moving to the meadow. I am sure he was looking for deer. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your insightful comments. Thanks for the visit.


titi6601 profile image

titi6601 2 years ago

Funny, how I just saw the movie "The Grey" the other day and it showed how wolfs live there life's in the wild. Have you seen this movie?


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

titi: No I have not seen that movie, but I will look for it now and view it. Thanks for the recommendation. I love the beauty of the wolves and I find their lifestyle so interesting. Thanks so much for your insightful comments and I appreciate your visit.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Great article! I like wolves too. I believe dog's get their intelligence and disposition from them.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

rebecca: I am so pleased you enjoyed this hub. I agree, wolves are the ancestors and many dogs the direct descendants of them. Thanks so much for your visit and for your comments.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Wonderful hub! I love wolves and like, most animals, I think we underestimate their intelligence----


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Audrey: I so agree with you, I think we do underestimate animals' intelligence. I am glad you found this interesting and thanks so much for your visit and comments.


chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 2 years ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

Thank you suzette. It's great to see the wolf back in a national park like Yellowstone where it'll be protected to an extent. And I think it's relatively safe in the parts of Canada where it lives. You're very lucky over there in the Americas - you still have space! Here in western Europe wolves are on their last legs. Spain has a few, Italy too, but you have to go a long way east for better numbers and healthier populations. Wolves were in Scotland until the 18th century I recall but pressure is too great on them for a come back. They're kept in zoos.

I read a book some years ago by a young philosopher Mark Rowlands. He bought a wolf puppy when he lived in the US and raised it as a sort of pet!! Great read, deep and moving. The book title? The Philosopher and the Wolf.

I think there's a wolf in most us, howling to get out!!

Votes and a share.


Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

Both my daughters are wolf fanatics, so much so that I painted wolves in my older daughter's room on the wall as a mural. Beautiful pictures and article. :)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

chef: What interesting information you have about wolves. We are fortunate to have the national park systems that we do. And, we have been able to keep our wolves alive and living because of Yellowstone National Park. Not all people are able to keep a wolf as a pet. It takes a special type of person to work with the wolf to domesticate it. A wolf is really never fully domesticated and that is why most people do not have them as pets, although there are many who would like to. Let your inner wolf out! LOL! Thanks so much for your interesting input. I will look into the book.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Paula: What a great idea of painting a wolf mural on your daughter's bedroom walls. I hope you show them this article to read. Thanks so much for your comments and visit.

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