The timber wolf is one of the largest members of the dog family. It looks like a German shepherd dog, but with longer legs, a wider head, and a long, bushy tail. Most wolves have gray fur, so that’s why the timber wolf is also called the gray wolf. The fur may also be mixed with black, brown, and even white fur.
Adult males vary from 75 to 120 pounds in weight and grow to be 5 to 6 ½ feet long, including the tail. They are about 2½ feet tall at the shoulder. Timber wolves have sharp senses of hearing, smelling and sight. Therefore, they are great hunters. For example, they can smell and see a deer from more than a mile away.
Timber wolves have 42 teeth and 4 fangs. They can eat 20 pounds of food at once. Wolves eat anything they can get, especially moose, deer, caribou, rabbit, fish, and beaver.
Wolves travel in packs of 5 to 10 wolves. The pack has one lead male and one lead female. A wolf pack travels about 30 miles a day.
Wolves usually communicate by howling. A single wolf howls for about 5 seconds, but when an entire pack joins in, the howls sound much longer. Some of the reasons why wolves howl are to warn other packs to get off their land, to keep pack members together, and to find out if other wolves are nearby.
Timber wolves give birth to 4-10 pups at a time. The pups weigh about 1 pound each and are born blind. In the wild, timber wolves can live from
Timber wolves are a very adaptable species, and therefore they can live in a range of habitats such as mountains,
tundra, temperate forests, and grasslands.
Today wolves are found in wilderness areas in Canada and Alaska and the eastern part of Europe (all the way to Siberia). They are also found in the northern United States, along the Arctic shores, and in parts of Asia and China. In smaller numbers, they may be found in the remote areas of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, India, and the Middle East. A few may also be found in Scandinavia.
In the United States, the population of timber wolves is increasing thanks to the fact that they became protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
In many regions of the world, including the Continental United States, the timber wolf is classified as endangered or threatened. However, worldwide they are considered to be of least concern to actually become extinct.
First of all, do you wonder how the timber wolf became an endangered species? Here's what happened. It is true that wolves are fierce and tricky. However, this led to the belief or myth that wolves attack people. Fairy tales, such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and the “Three Little Pigs” kept this myth going by calling the wolf “the big bad wolf.” The truth is that wolves hardly ever attack people and try to stay away from them as much as they can.
Another reason people dislike wolves is because wolves sometimes kill farmers’ livestock and animals on ranches. In addition, hunters don’t like wolves because they kill game animals such as elk and deer. Again, the truth is that wolves rarely attack farms and ranches. They would rather be out in the wilderness.
Native Americans actually admired gray wolves and wanted to be great hunters just like the wolves. European settlers who came to the United States brought a strong fear of the wolf with them, which made the dislike for wolves even stronger. People started killing wolves, and they got to be the most commonly hunted animal in the U.S. They were almost extinct by the beginning of the 1900’s. The killing of gray wolves was also happening in almost all of the other countries where they lived. Wolves were destroyed wherever people settled. Bounty hunters became common. These were people who were paid for bringing in dead wolves. People also killed wolves with poison.
Other reasons wolves are endangered include the fact that they are sometimes eaten by other animals, and also that some humans kill them because they want their fur and meat. Another reason they are endangered is because there is less space for their natural habitat due to the fact that cities and towns are growing. As you can see, the wolves’ greatest enemies are humans.
Today we understand much more about wolves and the fact that they are not so dangerous to humans after all. In recent years, wolves have been brought back to the state of Idaho and to Yellowstone National Park. There are laws against killing wolves in the United States and in some other countries such as those in Western Europe. In other countries, such as Russia and Eastern Europe, bounty hunters still hunt wolves. It is legal to kill them in Canada and Alaska.
In the United States, there is still much debate over wolves. Some people think that wolves should never be killed, and others want them to be killed no matter what. Sometimes a compromise is reached and the federal government kills problem wolves that are a danger to livestock. People who support wolves feel that this compromise is better than making the killing of wolves totally legal.
This debate over wolves continues and changes on a daily basis. For example, there was an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper on 30 January 2007 which said that due to increasing numbers of wolves in Wisconsin, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is taking the timber wolf off of the threatened and endangered lists for the western great lakes region, which includes Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. This will make it legal for landowners to kill wolves that are attacking their pets or livestock. There is still more debate and discussion taking place over this recent ruling, and a lawsuit may be filed in order to stop it.
However, for those who want to protect timber wolves, the fact that the timber wolf has been delisted from the federal list of endangered and threatened species is terrific news. There is also a proposal to remove the timber wolf from the endangered and threatened list for the Northern Rocky Mountains Area. This is all due to the success of wolf recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
In conclusion, even though humans are wolves’ biggest enemies, these same humans are capable of protecting these animals.
There are several things kids can do to help protect timber wolves. Here are some ideas:
- Participate in Timber Wolf Awareness Week in October. In 2007 it will be held on October 14-20. This week-long celebration teaches people about timber wolves and the need to protect them.
- Find out if there is an organization in your community that lets you adopt a wolf pack. For example, in Wisconsin, USA there is a college that has a group called the Timber Wolf Alliance, and this group allows you to adopt a wolf pack.
- Organize a fund raiser to earn money to donate to a charity that supports wolves. There are many different kinds of funds raisers you can do such as: service projects, contests, bake sales, etc.
- Teach people about the need for protecting the wilderness, which is the wolves’ natural habitat. By protecting the wilderness, we are making sure that timber wolves have a place to live.
If you live in the US, contact your local office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) to find out other ways you might be able to help. In order to find a FWS office near you, go to: http://offices.fws.gov/
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Permission to use all of the photographs on this page is granted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License or images are in the public domain from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page> (March, 2007).
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