The Decline and Recovery of the Wolf

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It still makes me question how they consider wolves recovered in any way shape or form in comparison to populations prior to European occupation of the US.

The Decline and Recovery of the Wolf

By Alfred J. Smuskiewicz
January 2008

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) was once the most widespread carnivorous mammal in the world. Able to live in almost any kind of climate, wolves roamed the forests, grasslands, mountains, and tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere. North America, Europe, and Asia were all home to large numbers of wild, free-ranging wolf packs.

Wolves and humans have always had a close but complex relationship. Wolf packs had similar habits to—and lived in similar habitats as—tribes of prehistoric people. The frequent encounters between wolves and humans led to the domestication of wolves approximately 14,000 years ago. All of the dogs living as pets with people today—from the tiny chihuahua to the mighty mastiff—are descendents of the wolf.

The relationship between wolves and humans turned ugly as wandering hunter-gatherer tribes developed into the first permanent agriculture-based settlements. Wherever large numbers of people settled, they killed wolves—sometimes to protect livestock, other times simply out of fear. As a result, wolf populations declined dramatically over the centuries. Today, in most of the wolf’s formerly enormous range, only sparse wild populations remain.

North American Wolf Populations
Before European settlers spread across North America in the 1700’s and 1800’s, wolves were common throughout the continent, from Canada to Mexico and from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean to that of the Pacific Ocean. In the United States, wolves were brought to the brink of extinction through government poisoning programs, bounties offered for the deaths of wolves, and private predator-extermination efforts.

By the mid-1900’s, there were few wolves left in the conterminous United States (the lower 48 states). These remnant animals consisted of several hundred gray wolves in northern Minnesota, an isolated population of grays on Michigan’s Isle Royale, and a small number of grays in the Southwest. In addition, a few red wolves, which are smaller than the typical gray wolf, lived along the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana. Most biologists consider the red wolf, Canis rufus, to be a separate species from the gray wolf. Large numbers of North American gray wolves remained only in Alaska and Canada.

Resource Library – Other Animal Information – Striped Skunk.

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