The Gray Wolf

Northeast Outdoors Experience Staff

One of the great success stories in the various species recovery programs such as with the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and California condor is an animal steeped in controversy, the gray wolf. This predator was been on the endangered species list for many years and has only recently been removed from that list because of its recovery and some significant statistics which is at the root of the controversy.

The gray wolf will average around 2.5 feet tall at the shoulder, nose to tail total around 6’ long and will weigh 80-100 pounds although can get larger the further north in their range they occur. They can be any color from black to white with grey, silver and brown variations being more common than the melanistic or albino phases. They are known for their pack behavior and as being the originator from which all species of dogs have been developed.

The Northern Rocky Mountains now recognizes a minimum of 1774 adult gray wolves comprising 109 breeding pairs as of this year. Wyoming alone claims 27 breeding pairs and 48 different packs for a total of 328 wolves with around 100 of those animals residing in or around Yellowstone National Park having at least 8 breeding pairs from around 12 packs.

As food sources dwindle, livestock becomes a prime target for wolf packs. Wyoming law allows for the unrestricted killing of any wolf harassing or killing any domestic animal. This could put the gray wolf back into an endangered classification should populations be decimated. No license, no closed season and no bag limits are the rules in specific areas of Wyoming where the wolf is designated as “predatory”. All that is required is notification to a game warden of the kill.

The target population of wildlife officials to be maintained for a minimum of 5 years in order to qualify for a complete recovery of the gray wolf is at least 15 breeding pairs and 150 individuals in Wyoming. The gray wolf population is monitored in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho by federal officials.

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