Gray Wolf (Timber Wolf)

Canis lupus
Canidae (dogs) in the order Carnivora

Similar to the coyote, but larger and more robust (coyotes seldom exceed 30 pounds in our state), and with a broader nose pad, a larger heel pad on the front foot, somewhat coarser pelage (fur), longer and more slender legs and larger ears in proportion to the head. The coloration varies. The species is an occasional visitor to our state. Because of the great variety in the bodies of dogs, coyotes and wolves, to ensure correct identification, seek expert advice. In the last decade or so, Missouri hunters have occasionally shot wolves that have wandered here from other states, having mistaken them for enormous coyotes.

Total length: about 50–60 inches; tail length: about 13–16 inches; weight: 60-120 pounds. Males are larger and heavier.
Habitat and conservation: 
Fear of attacks on humans and livestock, and its feeding on game animals, led to unremitting efforts to exterminate the gray wolf. Also, the loss of our continent’s great bison herds eliminated a primary food source of midwestern wolves. Wolves were disappearing by 1900 and essentially gone from the US by 1960. Today, the gray wolf is understood as an interesting and valuable part of our native wildlife populations. It is protected as an endangered species in much of the US, including Missouri.
Wolves can hunt in groups and can take live prey ranging from bison, elk and deer to rabbits and mice. When prey is scarce, they can eat frogs, lizards, large insects, carrion and garbage. As with many other canids, they supplement their diet with a variety of fruit and vegetable matter.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Considered extirpated from Missouri. Individuals occasionally wander here from other states, particularly from Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan.
A federal Endangered Species in much of the US south of Interstate 80, including Missouri. Apparently secure globally. Extirpated from Missouri. Our last documented resident wolf, a small, nursing female wolf, was killed in Taney County in 1950. Now, when a seeming wolf appears in our state, biologists use DNA tests to determine if it’s truly a wolf, where it came from, and how it got here. Until wolves breed again in Missouri on their own, they’re considered extirpated.
Life cycle: 
A diverse and wide-ranging species. The biology of gray wolves is complex and interesting. They are generally monogamous and live in packs led by a single pair of “alpha” wolves. The packs can travel quickly and far. The wolves that have appeared in Missouri in recent years apparently are young animals seeking new territories, away from areas populated by other wolves.
Human connections: 
Wolves have been hated and feared—and admired and respected—by humans for millennia. They symbolize wilderness, freedom and loyalty. Their reintroduction in the West remains contentious among many. Our domestic dogs are a subspecies called Canis lupus familiaris and were bred from wolves.
Ecosystem connections: 
Wolves are top predators, eating a variety of mammals, particularly large ones that smaller predators can’t take. The absence of top predators leads to an overabundance of animals such as deer. Wolves’ habit of hunting ill or injured animals strengthens the herds of the species they feed upon.
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