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Gray Wolf


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Information about Gray Wolf

The grey wolf or Gray Wolf (Canis lupus), also known as simply wolf, is the largest wild member of the Canidae family. It is an ice age survivor originating during the Late Pleistocene around 300,000 years ago. DNA sequencing and genetic drift studies reaffirm that the Gray Wolf shares a common ancestry with the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). Although certain aspects of this conclusion have been questioned, including recently, the main body of evidence confirms it. A number of other Gray Wolf subspecies have been identified, though the actual number of subspecies is still open to discussion. Gray wolves are typically apex predators in the ecosystems they occupy. Though not as adaptable as more generalist canid species, wolves have thrived in temperate forests, deserts, mountains, tundra, taiga, grasslands, and even urban areas.

Though once abundant over much of Eurasia and North America, the Gray Wolf inhabits a very small portion of its former range because of widespread destruction of its territory, human encroachment of its habitat, and the resulting human-wolf encounters that sparked broad extirpation. Even so, the Gray Wolf is regarded as being of least concern for extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, when the entire Gray Wolf population is considered as a whole. Today, wolves are protected in some areas, hunted for sport in others, or may be subject to extermination as perceived threats to livestock and pets.

In areas where human cultures and wolves are sympatric, wolves frequently feature in the folklore and mythology of those cultures, both positively and negatively.

Physiology

Gray wolf weight and size can vary greatly worldwide, tending to increase proportionally with latitude as predicted by Bergmann's Rule. In general, height varies from 0.6 to.95 meters and (26–38 inches) at the shoulder. Wolf weight varies geographically; on average, European wolves may weigh 85 lbs, North American wolves 80 lbs, and Indian and Arabian wolves 55 lbs. Though rarely encountered, extreme specimens of more than 77 kg (170 lb.) have been recorded in Alaska, Canada, and the former Soviet Union. The heaviest recorded Gray Wolf in the New World was killed on 70 Mile River in east-central Alaska on Jul. 12, 1939 (75 years ago) and weighed 79 kg (175 lb.), while the heaviest recorded wolf in the Old World was killed after World War II in the Kobelyakski Area of the Poltavskij Region in the Ukrainian SSR, and weighed 86 kg (189 lb.). Grey wolves are sexually dimorphic, with females in any given wolf population typically weighing 20% less than males. Females also have narrower muzzles and foreheads; slightly shorter, smoother furred legs; and less massive shoulders. Gray wolves can measure anywhere from 1.3 to 2 meters (4.5–6.5 feet) from nose to the tip of the tail, which itself accounts for approximately one quarter of overall body length.

Gray Wolf skeleton.Gray wolves are built for stamina, possessing features ideal for long-distance travel. Their narrow chests and powerful backs and legs facilitate efficient locomotion. They are capable of covering several miles trotting at about a pace of 10 km/h (6 mph), and have been known to reach speeds approaching 65 km/h (40 mph) during a chase. One female Gray Wolf was recorded to have made 7 metre bounds when chasing prey.

Gray wolf paws are able to tread easily on a wide variety of terrains, especially snow. There is a slight webbing between each toe, which allows them to move over snow more easily than comparatively hampered prey. Gray wolves are digitigrade, which, with the relative largeness of their feet, helps them to distribute their weight well on snowy surfaces. The front paws are larger than the hind paws, and have a fifth digit, the dewclaw, that is absent on hind paws. Bristled hairs and blunt claws enhance grip on slippery surfaces, and special blood vessels keep paw pads from freezing. Scent glands located between a wolf's toes leave trace chemical markers behind, helping the wolf to effectively navigate over large expanses while concurrently keeping others informed of its whereabouts. Unlike dogs and western coyotes, gray wolves have a lower density of sweat glands on their paws. This trait is also present in Eastern Canadian Coyotes which have been shown to have recent wolf ancestry. Wolves in Israel are unique due to the middle two toes of their paws being fused, a trait originally thought to be unique to the African Wild Dog.

Genetic research has shown that black furred wolves owe their colouration to a mutation that first arose in domestic dogs
Gray wolves molt some of their coats in late spring or early summerWolves have bulky coats consisting of two layers. The first layer is made up of tough guard hairs that repel water and dirt. The second is a dense, water-resistant undercoat that insulates. The undercoat is shed in the form of large tufts of fur in late spring or early summer (with yearly variations). A wolf will often rub against objects such as rocks and branches to encourage the loose fur to fall out. The undercoat is usually gray regardless of the outer coat's appearance. Wolves have distinct winter and summer pelages that alternate in spring and autumn. Females tend to keep their winter coats further into the spring than males.

Fur coloration varies greatly, running from gray to gray-brown, all the way through the canine spectrum of white, red, brown, and black. These colors tend to mix in many populations to form predominantly blended individuals, though it is not uncommon for an individual or an entire population to be entirely one color (usually all black or all white). With the exception of Italy, in which black wolves can constitute 20-25% of the entire population, melanistic wolves rarely occur outside the North American continent. According to genetic examinations, the black coat colour is based on a mutation that first arose among domestic dogs and later migrated into the wolf-population via interbreeding. A multicolor coat characteristically lacks any clear pattern other than it tends to be lighter on the animal's underside. Fur color sometimes corresponds with a given wolf population's environment; for example, all-white wolves are much more common in areas with perennial snow cover. Aging wolves acquire a grayish tint in their coats. It is often thought that the coloration of the wolf's pelage serves as a functional form of camouflage. This may not be entirely correct, as some scientists have concluded that the blended colors have more to do with emphasizing certain gestures during interaction.

At birth, wolf pups tend to have darker fur and blue irises that will change to a yellow-gold or orange color when the pups are between 8 and 16 weeks old.

Adolescent wolf with golden-yellow eyes.Wolves' long, powerful muzzles help distinguish them from other canids, particularly coyotes and Golden Jackals, which have more narrow, pointed muzzles. In wolves, the anterior incisure of the nasal bones does not have a medial protrusion, unlike jackals. The cingulum on the external edge of the first upper molar is only slightly expressed, while it is broad and distinctly marked in jackals.

Wolves differ from domestic dogs in a more varied nature. Anatomically, wolves have smaller orbital angles than dogs (>53 degrees for dogs compared with <45 degrees for wolves) and a comparatively larger brain capacity. Larger paw size, yellow eyes, longer legs, and bigger teeth further distinguish adult wolves from other canids, especially dogs. Also, precaudal glands at the base of the tail are present in wolves but not in dogs.

Wolves and most larger dogs share identical dentition. The maxilla has six incisors, two canines, eight premolars, and four molars. The mandible has six incisors, two canines, eight premolars, and six molars. The fourth upper premolars and first lower molars constitute the carnassial teeth, which are essential tools for shearing flesh. The long canine teeth are also important, in that they hold and subdue the prey. Capable of delivering up to 10,000 kPa (1450 lbf/in²) of pressure, a wolf's teeth are its main weapons as well as its primary tools. This is roughly twice the pressure that a domestic dog of similar size can deliver. The dentition of grey wolves is better suited to bone crushing than those of other modern canids, though it is not as specialised as that found in hyenas.

Wolf saliva has been shown to reduce bacterial infection in wounds and accelerate tissue regeneration.

Behaviour

Social structure

A wolf pack in Yellowstone National ParkOccasionally, single wolves are found in the wild, though packs are more common. Lone wolves are typically old specimens driven from their pack or young adults in search of new territory. Wolf packs in the northern hemisphere tend not to be as compact or unified as those of African Wild Dogs and Spotted Hyenas, though they are not as unstable as those of coyotes. Normally, the pack consists of a male, a female, and their offspring, essentially making the pack a nuclear family. The size of the pack may change over time and is controlled by several factors, including habitat, personalities of individual wolves within a pack, and food supply. Packs can contain between 2 and 20 wolves, though 8 is a more typical size. An unusually large pack consisting of 36 wolves was reported in 1967 (47 years ago) in Alaska. While most breeding pairs are monogamous, there are exceptions. Wolves will usually remain with their parents until the age of two years. Young from the previous season will support their parents in nursing pups of a later year. Wolf cubs are very submissive to their parents, and remain so after reaching sexual maturity. On occasion in captivity, subordinate wolves may rise up and challenge the dominant pair; such revolts may result in daughters killing mothers and sons killing fathers. This behavior has never been documented in the wild, and it is hypothesized that it only happens in captivity because dispersal is impossible. There are no documented cases of subordinate wolves challenging the leadership of their parents. Instead of openly challenging the leadership of the pack leaders, most young wolves between the ages of 1–4 years leave their family in order to search for, or start, a pack of their own. Wolves acting unusually, such as epileptic pups or thrashing adults crippled by a trap or a gunshot, are usually killed by other members of their own pack. Asiatic and Middle Eastern wolves tend to be less inclined to socialising with any other member of their species outside their own nuclear family, passing their lives more frequently either in pairs or as social individuals, much like coyotes and dingoes.

In literature, wolf packs are commonly portrayed as strongly hierarchic communities, with a dominant breeding "Alpha pair", a group of subordinate "Beta" individuals, and the scapegoat "Omega wolf" on the lowest end of the hierarchy. These descriptions are heavily based on research on captive wolf packs composed of unrelated individuals and cannot be extrapolated to wild wolf packs. In captivity, dispersal of mature individuals is impossible, resulting in frequent aggressive hierarchic encounters. According to wolf biologist L. David Mech, "Calling a wolf an alpha is usually no more appropriate than referring to a human parent or a doe deer as an alpha. Any parent is dominant to its young offspring, so alpha adds no information." and that basing observations on captive living arrangements would be like “…trying to draw inferences about human family dynamics by studying humans in refugee camps”. The term may be valid under certain circumstances, such as when a pack adopts an unrelated dispersed wolf, when the breeding pair die, thus leaving the alpha position open, or when siblings disperse from a pack together. In these cases, the standard nuclear family model does not apply, which may cause wild wolves to behave more like they do in captivity.

Territorial behaviors

Wolves are territorial animals. Studies have shown that the average size of a wolf pack's territory is close to 200 km2 (77 sq mi). Wolf packs travel constantly in search of prey, covering roughly 9% of their territory per day (average 25 km/d). The core of their territory is on average 35 km2 (14 sq mi), in which they spend 50% of their time. Prey density tends to be much higher in the territory's surrounding areas. Despite this higher abundance of prey, wolves tend to avoid hunting in the fringes of their territory unless desperate, due to the possibility of fatal encounters with neighboring packs. Established wolf packs rarely accept strangers into their territories, with one study on wolf mortality in Minnesota and the Denali National Park and Preserve concluding that 14–65% of wolf deaths were due to predation by other wolves. In fact, 91% of wolf fatalities occur within 3.2 km (2.0 mi) of the borders between neighboring territories. The majority of killed wolves are dominant animals, due to their greater assertiveness in confronting other packs. In rare cases in which a stranger is accepted into the pack, the animal itself is almost invariably a young specimen of 1–3 years of age, while the majority of killed wolves are adults.

Communication between these boundaries is achieved in part through scent marking and howling. Howling is the principal means of spacing in wolf populations. It communicates the location of a core territory as well as enforcing a territory-independent buffer zone around the roaming wolf pack. This territory-independent buffer zone is a means of avoiding encounters with neighboring packs near territory borders. Lone wolves, in contrast, rarely respond to howls, instead taking an "under the radar" approach. Howling communicates a core territory over time, as a wolf packs spends much of their time there.

Dispersion

Offspring of the breeding pair tend to stay with the pack for some portion of their adulthood. These "subordinate" wolves play a number of important roles in the pack, including participating in hunts, enforcing discipline and raising pups. This behavior is achieved, in part, by an active suppression of reproduction in subordinate wolves by the breeding pair. Thus, while they remain members of the pack, they are unable to reproduce, even if there are other subordinate unrelated wolves in the pack. In many wolves, the drive to reproduce leads them to leave the pack. Dispersals occur at all times during the year, and typically involve wolves that have reached sexual maturity prior to the previous breeding season. Dispersed wolves search for new territory and companionship, a hazardous process that could lead to death. Successful dispersions end when the wolf has found another single wolf of the opposite sex and bonds with it. Thus it takes two such dispersals from two separate packs for a new breeding pair to be formed, for dispersing wolves from the same maternal pack tend not to mate. Once two dispersing wolves meet and begin traveling together, they immediately begin the process of seeking out territory, preferably in time for the next mating season.

Scent marking

Wolves, like other canines, use scent marking to lay claim to anything—from territory to fresh kills. Breeding wolves scent mark the most often, with males doing so more than females. The most widely used scent marker is urine. Male and female breeding wolves urine-mark objects with a raised-leg stance (all other pack members squat) to enforce rank and territory. They also use marks to identify food caches and to claim kills on behalf of the pack. Defecation markers are used for the same purpose as urine marks, and serve as a more visual warning, as well. Defecation markers are particularly useful for navigation, keeping the pack from traversing the same terrain too often and also allowing each wolf to be aware of the whereabouts of its pack members. Above all, though, scent marking is used to inform other wolves and packs that a certain territory is occupied, and that they should therefore tread cautiously.

Wolves have scent glands all over their bodies, including at the base of the tail, between toes, and in the eyes, genitalia, and skin. Pheromones secreted by these glands identify each individual wolf. A dominant wolf will "rub" its body against subordinate wolves to mark such wolves as being members of a particular pack. Wolves may also "paw" dirt to release pheromones instead of urine marking.

Dietary habits

Wolves feed primarily on medium to large sized ungulates, though they are opportunistic feeders, and will generally eat any meat that is available, including non-ungulate species, carrion and garbage. Cannibalism is not uncommon in wolves, and has been recorded to occur in times of food scarcity, when a pack member dies, and during territorial disputes. Some wolf packs in Alaska and Western Canada have been observed to feed on salmon. Humans are rarely, but occasionally preyed upon (see Attacks on humans). Wolves will typically avoid a potential prey item which does not conform to what they experienced during their lives. Generally, the greater the discrepancy to what wolves are accustomed to, the greater their resistance to exploring it. This is only increased should the new prey act bold, assertive, and fearless. Nevertheless, even if there is no food shortage, wolves will explore alternative prey if they continually come into close contact with it and habituate themselves.

An American Bison standing its ground, thereby increasing its chance for survival.
A bull elk running, thereby decreasing its chance for survival.Unlike lion prides, wolf packs numbering above 2 individuals show little strategic cooperation in hunting large prey. Wolves typically attempt to conceal themselves as they approach their prey. Often, they will wait for the prey to graze, when it is distracted. If the prey animal stands its ground or confronts the pack, the wolves will approach and threaten it. The wolves will eventually leave if their prey does not run, though the length of time can range from hours to days. If their prey attempts to flee, the wolves will give chase. Wolves generally do not engage in long chases, and will usually stop a pursuit after a chase of 10-180 metres, though there has been one documented case of a wolf chasing a moose for 36 km. Female wolves tend to be better at chasing prey than males, while the latter are more adept at wrestling large prey to the ground once it is caught. Packs composed largely of female wolves thrive on fleet footed prey such as elk, while packs specialising in bison tend to have a greater number of males. Though commonly portrayed as targeting solely sick or infirm animals, there is little evidence that they actively limit themselves to such targets. Rather, the evidence shows that wolves will simply target the easiest options available, which as well as sick and infirm animals, can also include young animals and pregnant females. Though wolves commonly hunt large prey in packs, there are cases in which single wolves have successfully killed large animals unaided. One wolf was recorded to have killed moose 11 times singlehandedly.

Wolves will typically attempt to disable large prey by tearing at the haunches and perineum, causing massive bleeding and loss of coordination. A single bite can cause a wound up to 10-15 cm in length. A large deer in optimum health generally succumbs to three bites at the perineum area after a chase of 150 metres. Once their prey is sufficiently weakened, the wolves will grab it by the flanks and pull it down. Sometimes, with medium sized prey such as dall sheep, wolves will bite the throat, severing the windpipe or jugular. When attacking canid prey, such as dogs, coyotes or other wolves, wolves will kill by biting the back, neck or head. With prey of equal or lesser weight to the wolf, such as lambs or small children, wolves will grab their quarry by the neck, chest, head or thigh and carry them off to a secluded spot. Once the prey collapses, the wolves will tear open the abdominal cavity and commence feeding on the animal, sometimes before it has died. On some occasions, wolves will not press an attack, and will wait for their prey to die from their wounds before feeding begins. Wolves will occasionally attack pregnant ungulates to feed on the fetus(es), leaving the mother uneaten. Usually, it is the dominant pair that works the hardest in killing the pack's target. Wolves have on occasion been observed to engage in acts of surplus killing. This phenomenon is common when wolves target livestock. In the wild, this usually occurs in late winter or spring when deep snow impedes their prey's escape.

Pack status is reinforced during feeding. The breeding pair usually eats first, starting with the heart, liver, and lungs. Wolves of intermediate rank will prevent lower ranking pack members from feeding until the dominant pair finishes eating. The stomach of prey is eaten, though the contents are left untouched if the killed animal is a herbivore. The leg muscles are eaten next, with the hide and bones being the last to be consumed. If they are disturbed while feeding, they will instead focus their attention on their prey's fat deposits rather than internal organs. A single wolf can eat up to 3.2–3.5 kg of food at a time, though they can eat as much as 13–15 kg when sufficiently hungry. A wolf's yearly requirement is 1.5 tons of meat. Wolves can go without sustenance for long periods, with a Russian record showing how one specimen survived for 17 days without food. Research has shown that 2 weeks without food will not weaken a wolf's muscle activity. After eating, wolves will drink large quantities of water to prevent uremic poisoning. A wolf's stomach can hold up to 7.5 litres of water. Wolves supplement their diet with vegetation. Scat analysis found 75% of samples found Yellowstone National Park wolves’ summer diet contained plants mostly grass (Graminae). In some areas of the former Soviet Union wolves have been reported to cause serious damage to watermelon plantations.

Studies on how wolves affect prey populations tend to vary considerably, with some results indicating that wolves dramatically reduce, sometimes locally extirpate some prey species, while others indicate that wolf predation simply takes over from other mortality factors present in wolf-free zones. Wolves are not a keystone species, as they are not essential for the presence or survival of other species.

Relationship with humans

In folklore and mythology

Romulus and Remus nursed by the She-wolf by Peter Paul Rubens (Rome, Capitoline Museums)Humans historically have had a complex and varied viewpoint of wolves. In many parts of the world, wolves were respected and revered, while in others they were feared and held in distaste. The latter viewpoint was notably accentuated in European folklore beginning in the Christian era, though wolves did feature as heraldic animals on the arms and crests of numerous noble families. Many languages have given names (almost universally masculine) meaning "wolf", examples including the Scandinavian Ulf, Albanian "Ujk", German and Yiddish Wolf/Volf, Hebrew Ze'ev, Hungarian Farkas, Serbian Vuk, Ukrainian Vovk, Romanian Lupu, Lupescu/Lupulescu, and Bulgarian Vǎlko. Wolves also figure prominently in proverbs. Many Chinese proverbs use wolves as a description towards any ill-willed person with a hidden agenda like Wolf hearted (狼子野心) which could also connote to the impossibility of taming bad people, while Wolf heart; dog lungs (狼心狗肺) refers to an ungrateful person who later betrays someone who previously helped them. The Kazakh language has up to 20 proverbs referring to wolves, while the Russian language has 253.

Attacks on humans

One of four photographs taken by Chris van Gelder of Todd Svarchopf fending off an aggressive wolf on Nov. 4, 2005 (9 years ago), four days before the Kenton Joel Carnegie wolf attackWild wolves are typically timid around humans, though how they react to people generally depends on prior experiences with humans rather than inherent behaviour. When they have sufficient habitat and food and are rarely hunted, wolves will usually try to avoid contact with people, to the point of even abandoning their kills when an approaching human is detected. However, there are several circumstances in which wolves have been recorded to act aggressively toward humans, including provocation, habituation, rabies, mistaken identity, teaching cubs how to hunt, hybridization with dogs and seasonal prey scarcity. Unprovoked attacks by non-rabid wolves are rare. Historically, the majority of predatory attacks occurred in the June–July period, with victims being predominantly women and children. Predatory attacks by wolves against humans tend to be clustered in space and time, indicating that human-killing is not a normal wolf behavior, but a specialized behavior that single wolves or packs develop and maintain until killed. However, compared to other carnivorous mammals known to attack humans, the frequency with which wolves have been recorded to kill people is rather low, indicating that though potentially dangerous, wolves are among the least threatening of their size and predatory potential. Wolf attacks were an occasional but widespread feature of life in pre-20th century Europe. In France alone, historical records indicate that in the period 1580–1830, 3,069 people were killed by wolves, of which 1,857 were killed by non-rabid wolves. The case of the Beast of Gevaudan is well documented, though whether the culprit was a wolf or a wolf-like animal is still debated. There are numerous documented accounts of wolf attacks in the Asian continent, with three Indian states reporting a large number of non-rabid attacks in recent decades. These attacks were well documented by trained biologists. In Hazaribagh, Bihar for example, 100 children were injured and 122 killed from 1980 (34 years ago) to 1986 (28 years ago). Russia also records numerous attacks, particularly in pre-revolutionary times and after WWII. Between 1840 (174 years ago) and 1861 (153 years ago), 273 non-rabid attacks resulting in the deaths of 169 children and 7 adults occurred throughout Russia, while between 1944 (70 years ago) and 1950 (64 years ago), 22 children between the ages of 3 and 17 were killed by wolves in the Kirov Oblast (see Kirov wolf attacks). North America has fewer cases of verified wolf attacks than Europe and Asia. In many sections of the United States, there was a propaganda campaign to garner support for state-sponsored bounties for killed wolves, resulting in an economic incentive to overstate the effects of wolf depredation; this likely led to false or exaggerated claims of wolf attacks. Many of these accounts have been shown to be factually incorrect. However, more aggressive encounters were recorded as humans increasingly encroached on North American wolf habitat. Retired wolf biologist Mark McNay compiled 80 events in Alaska and Canada where wolves closely approached or attacked people, finding 39 cases of aggression by apparently healthy wolves, and 29 cases of fearless behavior by nonaggressive wolves.

Livestock and pet predation

Wolf depredations on livestock tend to increase in sep. and Oct. when females teach their cubs how to hunt. Wolves usually attack livestock when they are grazing, though it is not uncommon for some wolves to break into fenced enclosures. Sheep are the most frequently recorded victims in Europe, in India it is goats, in Mongolia it is horses, and in North America, wolves have a greater tendency to attack cattle and turkeys. Wolves usually disregard size or age on medium sized prey such as sheep and goats. According to Theodore Roosevelt, the small wolves of the Southern Plains rarely attack full grown cattle or steers, preferring instead young or sick animals, while the large wolves of the northern Rockies can kill fully grown steers unaided. Injuries may include a crushed skull, severed spine, disembowelment and massive tissue damage. Wolves will also kill sheep by attacking the throat, similar to the manner in which coyotes kill sheep. Wolf kills can be distinguished from coyote kills by the far greater damage to the underlying tissue. Surplus killing often occurs when within the confines of human made livestock shelters. One specimen known as the "Aquila Wolf" in Arizona was known to have killed 65 sheep in one night and 40 at another time. Sometimes, the animals survive, but are left with severe mutilations, sometimes warranting euthanasia. Livestock with prior experience of a wolf attack may develop behavioural problems, with some animals having been reported to run through barbed wire fences upon hearing wolves, or refusing to go out into pastures, causing severe weight loss. They may also become more aggressive toward both human handlers and herding dogs. It is often difficult to confirm kills, seeing as wolves often eat all of the animal they have killed if it is below the size of a calf. In some cases, wolves do not need to physically attack livestock in order to negatively affect them; the stress livestock experiences in being vigilant for wolves may result in miscarriages, decreased weight gain, and a decrease in meat quality. Some non- or less-lethal methods of protecting livestock from wolves have been under development for the past decade. Such methods include rubber ammunition and use of guard animals. Recorded wolf howls have also been shown to be effective in at least one incident.

The extent of livestock losses to wolves vary regionally; from being statistically insignificant, to having critical effects on local economies. In North America, loss of livestock by wolves makes up only a small percentage of total losses. In the United States, wolf predation is low compared to other human or animal sources of livestock loss. Although wolf predation on livestock is a relatively minor issue to North American livestock industries overall, it can be a serious problem for some individual livestock producers who graze their stock in wolf inhabited areas. Since the state of Montana began recording livestock losses due to wolves back in 1987 (27 years ago), only 1,200 sheep and cattle have been killed. 1,200 killings in twenty years is not very significant when in the greater Yellowstone region 8,300 cattle and 13,000 sheep die from natural causes. According to the International Wolf Center, a Minnesota-based organization:

To put depredation in perspective, in 1986 (28 years ago) the wolf population was at about 1,300–1,400, there were an estimated 232,000 cattle and 16,000 sheep in Minnesota's wolf range. During that year 26 cattle, about 0.01% of the cattle available, and 13 sheep, around 0.08% of the sheep available, were verified as being killed by wolves. Similarly, in 1996 (18 years ago) an estimated 68,000 households owned dogs in wolf range and only 10, approximately 0.00015% of the households, experienced wolf depredation.

– Wolf Depredation, International Wolf Center, Teaching the World about Wolves

Furthermore, Jim Dutcher, a movie maker who raised a captive wolf pack observed that wolves are very reluctant to try meat that they have not eaten or seen another wolf eat before possibly explaining why livestock depredation is unlikely except in cases of desperation.

The results however differ in Eurasia. Greece for example reports that between Apr. 1989 (25 years ago) and Jun. 1991 (23 years ago), 21000 sheep and goats plus 2729 cattle were killed. In 1998 (16 years ago) it was 5894 sheep and goats, 880 cattle and very few horses. A study on livestock predation taken in Tibet showed that the wolf was the most prominent predator, accounting for 60% of the total livestock losses, followed by the snow leopard (38%) and lynx (2%). Goats were the most frequent victims (32%), followed by sheep (30%), yak (15%), and horses (13%). Wolves killed horses significantly more and goats less than would be expected from their relative abundance. In 1987 (27 years ago), Kazakhstan reported over 150,000 domestic livestock losses to wolves, with 200,000 being reported a year later.

In some areas, dogs are a major food source for wolves. Reports from Croatia indicate that dogs are killed more frequently than sheep. Wolves in Russia apparently limit feral dog populations. In Wisconsin, more compensation has been paid for dog losses than livestock. Some wolf pairs have been reported to predate on dogs by having one wolf lure the dog out into heavy brush where the second animal waits in ambush. In some instances, wolves have displayed an uncharacteristic fearlessness of humans and buildings when attacking dogs, to an extent where they have to be beaten off or killed. Specially bred Livestock guardian dogs have been used to repel wolves from pastures, though their primary function has more to do with intimidating the wolves rather than fighting them.

Wolf hunting

Wolves are usually hunted for sport, for their skins, to protect livestock, and in some rare cases to protect humans. Historically, the hunting of wolves was a huge, capital and manpower intensive operation, requiring miles of netting, specialized net-carts and big drying sheds for storing and drying nets. The threat wolves posed to both livestock and people was significant enough to warrant the conscription of whole villages under threat of punishment, despite the disruption of economic activities and reduced taxes. Some cultures, such as the Apache, would hunt wolves as a rite of passage. Wolves are usually hunted in heavy brush and are considered especially challenging to hunt, due to their elusive nature and sharp senses. Wolves are notoriously shy and difficult to kill, having been stated to be almost as hard to still hunt as cougars, and being far more problematic to dispatch with poison, traps or hounds. Wolves though generally do not defend themselves as effectively as cougars or bears. Some wolves will evade capture for very long periods of time and display great cunning. One specimen nicknamed "Three Toes of Harding County" in South Dakota eluded its pursuers for 13 years before finally being caught. Another wolf nicknamed "Rags the digger" near Meeker, Colorado would deliberately ruin trap lines by digging up traps without tripping them. In Sport hunting, wolves are usually taken in late Autumn and early Winter, when their pelts are of the highest quality and because the heavy snow makes it easier for the wolves to be tracked. Wolves have occasionally been hunted for food, the meat having been variously described as being tough and tasting like chicken.

The hunting of grey wolves, while originally actively endorsed in many countries, has become a controversial issue in some nations. Opponents see it as cruel, unnecessary and based on misconceptions, while proponents argue that it is vital for the conservation of game herds and as pest control.

Reintroduction

Gray wolf endangered species sheetWolf reintroduction involves the artificial reestablishment of a population of wolves into areas where they had been previously extirpated. Wolf reintroduction is only considered where large tracts of suitable wilderness still exist and where certain prey species are abundant enough to support a predetermined wolf population. In North America, debate about wolf reintroduction is ongoing and often heated, both where reintroduction is being considered and where it has already occurred. Where wolves have been successfully reintroduced, as in the greater Yellowstone area and Idaho, reintroduction opponents continue to cite livestock predation, surplus killing, and economic hardships caused by wolves. Opponents in prospective areas echo these same concerns. These reintroductions were the culmination of over two decades of research and debate. Ultimately, the economic concerns of the local ranching industry were dealt with when Defenders of Wildlife decided to establish a fund that would compensate ranchers for livestock lost to wolves, shifting the economic burden from industry to the wolf proponents themselves. In Mar. 1998 (16 years ago), another reintroduction campaign began with the releasing of three packs into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Today, there may be up to 50 wild Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The final goal for Mexican wolf recovery is a wild, self-sustaining population of at least 100 individuals.

Wolves as pets and working animals

Wolves have on occasion been kept as pets and as working animals, though not without difficulty, as they require much more early socialisation than dogs do, and lack any alteration of their genetically encoded predatory behavior. Though wolves are trainable, unless properly motivated, they lack the same degree of tractability seen in dogs.

Wolves in urban areas

Wolves will occasionally dwell in human dominated lands, examples of such having been recorded in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and increasingly in some North American cities.

Black & grey female wolf in road near Lamar River bridgeIn Romania, wolves inhabit the streets of Braşov, as well as its municipal garbage dump and a shopping mall. Italian wolves have denned 25 miles from Rome. In Russia, wolves often strolled the streets of Kirov until the end of WWII, namely, Khlinovskaya, Vodoprovodnaya, and Gorbacheva streets. They are often sighted in large numbers on the outskirts of Moscow.

In North America, wolves are reportedly visiting the outskirts large cities in Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin.

Source: en.wikipedia.org


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