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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

Wolves

and

Wolf Management*

2001


In North America there are two main types or species of wolves, the gray wolf (canis lupus) and the red wolf (canis rufus). Most wolves are mottled gray, with tawny legs and flanks. Some wolves are pure black. In the far north, wolves are white. Gray wolves have several common names, depending on the area where they live, such as: timber wolf, Arctic wolf, tundra wolf, or the Mexican wolf.

There are about 2,445 wolves in Minnesota. Minnesota was the only state in the lower 48 whose wolf population was not completely and deliberately exterminated by government control programs.

There are approximately 7,000 to 19,000 wolves in Alaska and 50,000 to 60,000 in Canada. Wisconsin hosts 266 and Michigan has 216 wolves, with 29 of those living on Isle Royale in winter 1999-2000. There are about 63 wolves in northwestern Montana, 141 in Idaho, and 118 in the greater Yellowstone area. In New Mexico, there are about 9 Mexican gray wolves and 12 in Arizona. North Carolina has about 99 red wolves. Wolves also live in Scandinavia, Italy, Poland, India, Israel, Egypt, and many other countries in Europe and Asia.

The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. According to the Act, endangered means in danger of going extinct; threatened means in the foreseeable future, they could become endangered. The wolf in Minnesota is on the federal list of endangered species, but is considered threatened. Elsewhere in the lower 48 states the wolf is considered endangered.

However, on July 13, 2000, the federal government released a proposal to reclassify ódelistó the gray wolf throughout the continental U.S. This proposal does not affect the Mexican gray wolves in the southwest. The wolves in Alaska and Canada are not endangered.

There is no record of a non-rabid wolf killing a human in North America and rabies has never been found in Minnesota wolves. A healthy wild wolf generally tries to avoid contact with humans.

A wolf pack is a family group usually composed of a pair of adults and their offspring of perhaps the last two or three years. Unrelated wolves sometimes become part of a pack too. Average litter size is five to six pups. Pack size averages four to six in Minnesota although packs greater than 17 are known to exist in the state. In Canada and Alaska, pack size can be over 30.

Dominance order is a very important part of the wolf's social system and is based partly on age. The leaders of the wolf pack are the alpha female and the alpha male. Next in dominance are the beta wolves. The lowest ranking member of the pack is the omega wolf.

Minnesota wolf packs require territories of 25-150 square miles in which to obtain their food supply. Lone wolves are usually maturing individuals attempting to find a mate and an area devoid of wolves in which to form its own pack. The longest distance a wolf has been known to disperse from Minnesota was 550 miles south of International Falls to eastern Saskatchewan. Wolves move between Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and periodically enter North Dakota. The average density of wolves in Minnesota is about one wolf per 10-15 square miles.

Wolves howl to maintain contact with other pack members and to advertise their presence in their territory. Contrary to legend, wolves do not howl at the moon. Wolves also communicate through other vocalizations, tail position, facial expression and scent marking.

Adult female wolves in northeastern Minnesota weigh between 50 and 85 pounds, and adult males between 70 and 110 pounds.

Wolves can survive on a minimum of two and a half pounds of food per day, but to reproduce successfully they require about five pounds. If enough food is available, wolves can eat over 10 pounds per day. Wolves occasionally kill more than they eat, but such cases are usually at the end of severe winters when prey are weakened. A wolf's stomach can hold about 22 pounds of meat.

Wolves prey primarily on large, hoofed mammals. The usual prey of wolves in Minnesota is white-tailed deer, supplemented by beaver and moose; in some areas wolves feed almost exclusively on moose. Other animals are eaten, but form and insignificant part of the wolf's diet. If wolves ate only deer, each wolf would consume 15-20 adult-sized deer per year. Given the 1997-98 estimate of 2,450 wolves in Minnesota, that would equal about 36,750 to 49,000 deer killed by wolves. In comparison, from 1995-1999 hunter's killed between 32,300 to 78,200 deer each year in Minnesota's wolf range. In addition, several thousand deer are killed during collisions with vehicles each year: In Minnesota wolf range, there are approximately 200 deer for every wolf. Elsewhere, wolves prey on caribou, musk oxen, bison, Dall sheep, mountain goats, etc.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture legally kills approximately 100-200 problem wolves in Minnesota each year for depredation on livestock. This involves approximately five farms per 1000 in wolf range, one cow per 10,000 available, and one sheep per 1,000 available. The State Department of Agriculture pays compensation up to $750 per animal for verified complaints. Recent legislation mandates compensation of fair market value.

In captivity wolves live for about 16 years, but in the wild it is difficult to estimate. Some live up to 13 years or longer, but the estimated average is 6 to 8 years. The natural causes of wolf death are primarily starvation, which takes mostly pups, and death from other wolves in territorial disputes. Diseases such as parovirus and mange are not a problem in most populations, but has impacted some isolated areas. Injuries from prey cause some deaths, but not a high percentage.

The government reintroduced gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park and Idaho, and red wolves into North Carolina. Mexican wolves have recently been reintroduced into New Mexico and Arizona.
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For more detailed information see the wolf studies on the MFS website.
Source: International Wolf Center, Ely, MN. 55731-8129
For more information visit the International Wolf Center website at < www.wolf.org >.

 

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