ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Photo Ark: Gray Wolf

Photo Ark: Gray Wolf

Howling at Risk: The Fight to Save America's Gray Wolves

Grades

4 - 9

Subjects

Biology, Conservation, Geography

















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Gray wolves (canis lupus) share a common ancestor with our pet dogs. They are the largest wild member of the canine family, with males weighing up to 79.3 kilograms (175 pounds). Despite their name, gray wolves can be white, brown, black, or any combination of those colors. They live in a variety of habitats, from cold Alaskan forests to hot Mexican deserts. Gray wolves are social animals and live and hunt in packs. As predators, they help control deer, elk (Cervus canadensis), and bison (Bison bison) populations. This in turn protects native plants and keeps the ecosystem healthy.

Gray wolves once lived throughout North America, but by the 1950s, overhunting had reduced their numbers in the United States. In the 1970s, gray wolves were added to the endangered species list. They made such a great comeback that by 2021, most U.S. populations were delisted. Conflicts between wolves and livestock led some states to resume hunting and capturing wolves; these practices are again threatening populations in those states. Policies that put limits on wolf hunting would likely help gray wolf populations and the ecosystems they help balance.

Media Credits

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Editor
Corinne Rucker, National Geographic Society
Writers
Sara Nachtigal, Ph.D., Educurious
Hanna Jaramillo, M.S. Ed., Educurious
Reviewer
Latia White, Ed.D., Inclusive Innovation Researcher, Global Inclusive Learning Design Reviewer
Rights Clearance
Jean Cantu, National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Patrick Cavanagh, National Geographic Society
Producer
Clint Parks
Last Updated

March 5, 2024

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