- Federal Status: Endangered - Lower 48 States, except MN, MT, ID, portions of eastern OR, eastern WA, north-central UT, and where EXPN (Experimental Population, Non-Essential). Mexico. The gray wolf is not currently found in Florida.
- FL Status: Federally-designated Endangered
- FNAI Ranks: Not ranked
- IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
The gray wolf is the largest wild member of the Family Canidae (University of Kansas, n.d.). This species can reach a length of up to 6.9 feet (2.1 meters), a height up to 38 inches (96.5 centimeters), and a weight of 130 pounds (52.2 kilograms). The coat color ranges from white to black. Gray wolves have a long bushy tail with a black tip, broad nose pad, and long legs (National Audubon Society 1996).
As carnivores (meat eaters), the diet of the gray wolf primarily consists of bison, moose, elk, and deer. Adult gray wolves can eat up to 20 pounds of meat in one meal (National Wildlife Federation, n.d.).
Gray wolves breed between the months of January and March, and usually mate for life (National Federation Wildlife, n.d.). Females dig dens that slope down and then up to a level high enough to prevent flooding (Dewey and Smith 2002). The gestation period for the gray wolf is 63 days (National Wildlife Federation, n.d.). Females give birth to up to five pups a year, with the entire pack in charge of caring for the young. Young gray wolves are born blind and deaf. Young are dependent on breast milk for the first month, and then are fed from other pack members with regurgitated meat. At seven to eight months of age, young gray wolves will begin traveling with their parents, and at one to two years of age they are able to leave the pack. They also are able to form their own pack and begin breeding between the ages of one and two years old (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 2011). Most gray wolves travel in packs but some males, especially juvenile males, will often live solitary lives.
Gray wolves are found in most habitats in the Northern Hemisphere except tropical forests. The distribution of the gray wolf in the United States includes northern Michigan and Wisconsin, northeast Oregon, northern Idaho, Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, and Alaska (Smithsonian National Zoological Park, n.d., National Wildlife Federation, n.d.). The gray wolf does not currently inhabit Florida.
Gray wolves have suffered population declines due to overexploitation by humans, habitat loss and fragmentation. Predator control programs to prevent wolves from taking livestock were compounded by human fear of the species leading to overharvesting and population declines. Habitat fragmentation separates individuals causing small dispersed populations that are not viable (Mech and Boitani 2008).
Conservation and Management
The gray wolf is protected as an Endangered species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a Federally-designated Endangered species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.
Dewey, T. and J. Smith. 2002. "Canis lupus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed August 01, 2011 http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Canis_lupus.html.
Mech, L.D. & Boitani, L. 2008. Canis lupus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 01 August 2011.
National Wildlife Federation. (n.d.). Gray Wolf. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from Wildlife Library: http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Mammals/Gray-Wolf.aspx
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (2011, Oct. 17). Gray Wold (Canis lupus). Retrieved Oct. 23, 2011, from Wolf-Western Great Lakes: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/aboutwolves/biologue.htm