Gray Wolf - Canis lupus

Brief Natural History

Known by a plethora of other names such as the western wolf, Arctic wolf and Mexican wolf, the gray wolf is a species that is well-equipped for many different types of habitats. Although it formerly had the title for the world’s most distributed mammal, it now is extinct in many regions where it once could be found roaming. Its range has been diminished by one third due to persecution as a consequence of acting as a perceived threat to the livelihood of farmers; wolves have been known to occasionally consume livestock. Many people in the past also believed wolves were a danger to humans and feared being attacked by one. Folklore labeled wolves as “evil”, which acted as a catalyst in the extermination of wolf populations. Wolves eat a variety of large prey such as moose, caribou, deer, elk, and wild boar, as well as small prey. They have also been known to scavenge and often eat dead animals that they come across. They are pack animals, averaging 7-8 to a group. Wolves play an important role in keeping ecosystems in check, which benefits plants, other animals, and even us!

Where do Gray Wolves that need rescue come from?

Private owners, closing roadside zoos, orphaned or injured individuals unable to be rehabilitated, fur farms, and nuisance animals are all possible sources of wolves in need. Although there are laws prohibiting the ownership of exotics in many states, every state’s laws are different, and even laws do not prevent some people from attempting to keep these animals.

Conservation Efforts

The gray wolves’ conservation status varies throughout their population range. In certain regions, gray wolves are not listed as endangered, while they are considered so in other regions.

Exhibition/Captive Law

Wolves are protected animals in Minnesota. Unless otherwise stated by fish and game laws, it is illegal to take, buy, sell, transport, or possess a protected wild animal.

With certain exceptions, it is a violation of federal law for a person to take, harass, sell, possess, or transport wolves.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only federal law that regulates the treatment of animals used commercially and for research. The law states that it is illegal to transport, purchase, sell, house, care for, or handle warm-blooded wild native and exotic species (excepting birds and certain rats and mice) without the proper permit/license from the USDA. Laws applicable to the private ownership of animals vary by state.

Fun Facts

Every wolf has a unique howl that allows other pack members and scientists to distinguish individuals, much like the distinct voices that humans have.

The pack is led by a female and a male wolf; they are called alphas and will typically mate for life. The packs consist of their offspring and older yearlings. It is the alphas’ responsibility to claim territory and initiate hunting to provide food.


  • Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 2002. Web. 7 July 2016.
  • "Basic Facts About Gray Wolves." Defenders of Wildlife. N.p., 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 6 July 2016.
  • Mech, L.D. & Boitani, L. (IUCN SSC Wolf Specialist Group). 2010. Canis lupus. The IUCN Red
  • List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T3746A10049204.
  • "Support the." Canis Lupus (Arctic Wolf, Common Wolf, Gray Wolf, Grey Wolf, Mexican Wolf, Plains Wolf, Timber Wolf, Tundra Wolf, Wolf). N.p., n.d. Web. 6 July 2016.
  • "2015 Minnesota Statutes." 97A.015 -. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 July 2016.
  • "2015 Minnesota Statutes." 97A.501 -. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 July 2016.
  • "2015 Minnesota Statutes." 97B.645 -. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 July 2016.