By MDC | March 1, 2023
From Missouri Conservationist: March 2023

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Q: Does Missouri have wolves?

Individual wolves do occasionally wander into Missouri from other states, particularly the upper Midwest. Since 2001, there have been six confirmed sightings of gray wolves in Missouri. Gray wolves once ranged across several continents, including North America. While it is possible, seeing a gray wolf in Missouri is not likely. The gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf, is listed as extirpated, or eliminated, from Missouri and seven surrounding states.

Wolves are protected as an endangered species in much of the United States, including Missouri.

Red wolves (Canis rufus) are one of the world’s most-endangered canids. Native to the southeastern United States, red wolves were nearly driven to extinction by the mid-1900s. In 1950, a small female taken in Taney County became the last red wolf on record in Missouri. The red wolf was declared extinct in the wild in 1980, but a captive breeding program has resulted in this mammal being reintroduced into a small area in North Carolina.

In Missouri, seeing a coyote is more likely. During the winter, coyotes have thick coats that make them look larger than they are. Wolves have longer legs, which are quite noticeable in photos. Additionally, a few species of domesticated dogs resemble wolves in size, expression, and coloration. Seen at a distance, on a game camera, in dim light, or only momentarily, it can be relatively easy to confuse a Siberian husky, Saarloos wolfdog, Alaskan malamute, or wolf hybrid with a wild canine.

Q: Does Missouri have any old-growth forests?

Yes and no. Missouri has a number of old-growth stands with trees more than 150 years old. Many of them are on dry sites often associated with glades or rocks where the trees, while not large, can be ancient. These dry forests are often described as woodlands by ecologists. However, no remaining forest or woodland in Missouri is pristine in the sense of never having been affected by humans.

Fires by Native Americans and later open-range livestock grazing and fires by European settlers have touched virtually every wooded acre in the state. However, a few forests and woodlands were able to escape the wave of harvesting and land clearing that swept through Missouri in the early 1900s. Some tracts were hard to reach or had poor-quality timber, while others had owners who conserved the land. At the time of European settlement, Missouri’s forests and woodlands — upland and bottomland — covered about 25 million acres.

Today, nearly two-thirds of upland forest and woodland acreage remains, although in an altered state. Fewer than 8,000 acres would be considered good examples of relatively undisturbed old-growth forest and only 800 acres would be considered excellent. A good way to experience old-growth forests is to visit Missouri’s natural areas. For example, Caney Mountain is home to gnarled and wizened post and chinkapin oaks more than 200 years old. To find more old-growth forest locations, visit


This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation - Laura Scheuler