Wild wolves have had an impact on the human imagination. They have also been very much misunderstood. At one time with the exception of humans and lions, no other mammal had a larger distribution. Wild wolves could be found all over North America from Alaska to Arctic Canada and throughout Europe and Asia. They lived in every type of habitat except tropical forests and the most arid deserts. Wolves were domesticated several thousand years ago by Native American Indians and selective breeding produced dogs.
Travel is the ideal way of life for wild wolves. This is because their long legs, large feet, and deep but narrow chest suit it well for life on the move. They have keen senses and this combined with their large canine teeth, powerful jaws make it possible for them to pursue prey at 37 miles per hour. Many wild wolves were tamed by Native American Indians and used to help carry their good though wild wolves are well equipped for a predatory way of life. The largest wolves are found in west central Canada, Alaska and across northern Asia; the smallest in the Middle East, Arabia and India.
Native American Indians that hunted for survival admired wild wolves and tried to imitate their behavior. More recently, wild wolves have been viewed as evil creatures, a danger to humans and a threat to livestock. The destruction of livestock was the primary justification given from eradicating the wolf from virtually all of the United States, Mexico and most of Europe. In the United States wolves were killed by every method imaginable in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and by 1950 they remained only in the northeast corner of Minnesota. In the late 20th century, a greater tolerance, legal protection, and other factors allowed their range to expand to portions of North America and Europe.
Wolves breed between February and April. A litter of usually five or six pups is born in the spring after a gestation period of about two months. The pups are usually born in a den consisting of a natural hole or burrow, often in a hillside. After a few weeks they are moved from the den to the “rendezvous site” above ground where they play and sleep while the adults hunt. Most pups are adult size by October or November. After two or more years in the pack, many leave to search for a mate, establish a new territory, or even start their own pack.
Wolves are probably more poplar now than any other time in recorded history. In 1995 wolves from Canada were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho, and captive-reared Mexican wolves were released to their former range in eastern Arizona beginning in 1998. At the beginning of the 21st century, an estimated 65,000-78,000 wolves inhabited North America with Canada having the largest population, followed by Alaska and Minnesota.
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