Threatened and Endangered Species Gray Wolf Fact Sheet
Threatened and Endangered Species: Gray Wolf Canis lupus Fact Sheet
OFFICIAL STATUS: Endangered and Non-Essential Experimental Population. Endangered species are species that are in danger
of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range. It is
unlawful to kill, harm, or harass endangered species.
LISTED: 43 Federal Register 9612; March 9, 1978 (48 conterminous states except
HISTORICAL STATUS: The gray wolf had the greatest distribution of any mammal
other than man and was historically found throughout North America with the
exception of parts of the southwest and southeast United States. In the
southeast U.S. the gray wolf was replaced by the smaller red wolf. The gray wolf
was present throughout Montana.
PRESENT STATUS: Wolf populations have recovered in Minnesota and are recovering
in other areas of the lower 48 states following reintroduction in the 1990's.
HABITAT: Historically, the gray wolf occupied almost all habitats in North
American including the Great Plains.
LIFE HISTORY: Gray wolves breed in late winter usually when they are 3 years of
age. After a gestation period of 63 days an average liter of 6 pups is born in a
den in the ground, rock pile, hollow log, or other shelter. When the pups reach
8 weeks of age, the adults may move them to another den. By October the pups
will weight about 60 pounds and travel with the adults. Young gray wolves
usually stay with the adults for 2 years, forming a pack. At 2 years of age,
they may disperse hundreds of miles from their original home. Gray wolves
usually hunt large animals such as moose and deer although beaver and other
smaller animals supplement their diet. Gray wolves are often more successful
taking old, weak, or injured prey. Gray wolves are territorial and will keep
other gray wolves and coyotes out of their 50-100 square mile home range.
Howling is a way for pack members to communicate.
AID TO IDENTIFICATION: Gray wolves can range in color from white to black
although gray is the predominant color. Mature gray wolves generally weigh from
70-115 pounds and stand about 30 inches high at the shoulder. Coyotes are
considerably smaller than gray wolves, usually weighing less than 35 pounds. A
good field guide is that gray wolves will be larger than a typical German
shepherd while coyotes will be smaller. The track of a gray wolf will be about 5
inches long compared to 3 inches for a coyote track. Some dogs such as Great Danes can have tracks as large as a gray wolf.
REASONS FOR DECLINE: Gray wolves have been exterminated by shooting, trapping,
and poisoning throughout most of the lower 48 states.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Reports or sign of gray wolves should be reported to the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.
COMMENTS: There are no known gray wolf attacks on humans in modern times in
North America. Gray wolves do take livestock although the occurrences are rare.
For individual producers, however, losses can be significant. Some states have
programs that reimburse livestock owners for wolf damage.
REFERENCES: Wolf, A Modern Look by Wolves in American Culture Committee, 1986.
If you encounter any problems with the files provided on
this page, please contact
Webmaster at 406-587-6945.
The above information is also available in a
printer-friendly version. This
and Endangered Species: Gray Wolf (PDF; 115KB)