Timber Wolf: Canis Lupus
Wolves are intelligent, sensitive, highly social creatures. These largest members of the dog clan measure 5 to 6 1/2 feet from nose to tip of tail and may weigh more than 100 pounds. They were once found from Greenland to Vancouver, from the Arctic to Mexico, occurring in each of the 48 contiguous states. Long the victim of an undeserved reputation as a vicious killer, the now endangered wolf has been reduced to a small fraction of its former range.
Wolves have one of the most elaborate social organizations of all animals. They live in packs, cohesive units led by a dominant male and female who remain mated for life. These packs may contain up to 30 members, though they usually number fewer than 8. The pups are born in the spring and are treated warmly by their elders, from whom they learn survival and social skills.
The wolves food consists of a variety of animals ranging from small rodents and rabbits to deer, caribou and moose. The cooperative wolf pack is a refined, methodical and opportunistic hunting unit which tests potential prey animals to assess their vulnerability. Generally the wolves have little chance of catching large prey in healthy condition; usually they capture unhealthy, less-fit individuals, thereby improving the overall health and stability of the prey population. Wolves have coexisted in balance with their prey for thousands of years.
Wolves are not the savage killers of legend; they kill what they need and little more. Unfortunately much anti-wolf sentiment exists which is based on deep-seated emotions. As North America was settled, much of the wolves wild prey was replaced by domesticated stock. In the absence of their natural prey wolves turned to occasional sheep and cattle. The misunderstood wolves have been the target of massive poisoning, trapping and hunting campaigns, sanctioned until recently by government bounties. It is ironic that primitive hunters who competed with the wolves every day regarded their presence with respect.