Gray Wolf - Canis lupus - Endangered
The gray wolf will weigh anywhere from 70-115 pounds. It is more than twice the size of a coyote and it's track can be 5 inches long. An average of six pups are born in early spring. The pups are reared in a den in the ground, rockpile, hollow log, or some other shelter. By October , the pups will weigh up 60 pounds and begin to travel with the pack. After 1 to 2 years of age, a young wolf will leave and try to form its own pack.
Gray wolves will hunt large animals such as moose and deer. They are more successful at taking the old, weak, or injured animals. In addition, gray wolves will also eat beaver and other smaller animals. The hunting territory of a gray wolf may be 50 square miles or even as large as 1,000 square miles depending on food availability. They sometimes travel 30 miles in one day.
Historically, the gray wolf occupied almost all habitats in North America including the Great Plains. Within the continental U.S. gray wolves formerly ranged from coast to coast and from Canada to Mexico. Today, the gray wolf is restricted to areas where there are few roads and people. In North Dakota, the gray wolf is likely to inhabit the forested areas of north central and northeastern North Dakota. However, because of the wolves ability to adapt, they may appear anywhere.
Reasons for Population Decline
Shooting, trapping, and poisoning has exterminated the gray wolf from its original range.
- Groups of wolves called packs, usually consist of a set of parents, their offspring, and other non-breeding adults. Wolves sometimes establish life-long mates
- Many animals, such as eagles, bears, foxes, and vultures feed on the remains from a wolf kill.
- In the past, the gray wolf was present throughout North Dakota where it was known as the Plains wolf, the buffalo wolf, or the lobo wolf.
- Gray wolves howl to communicate with each other.
- There have been documented sightings of gray wolves in North Dakota in 1981, 1985, 1990, and 1991. There have also been confirmed reports of gray wolves in the Turtle Mountains, 40 miles northeast of J. Clark Salyer NWR.
Road to Recovery
Today, Alaska's wolf population ranges from 5,900 to 7,200 and 2,000 wolves exist in Minnesota. However, in other regions of the United States, wolf populations are struggling. Yellowstone National Park originally supported a gray wolf population but the wolves were extirpated in 1930. Today, an effort to reintroduce the wolf in the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem is underway.