Sunday, April 4, 2010

Return of the Wolf

By Frank Loethen

For many years the wolf has been feared by ranchers for attacking their livestock. Because it attacks sheep and cattle for food, many have been killed almost to the point of extinction.

The timber or gray wolf dates back to almost 300,000 years and shares a lineage with the domestic dog. It can lived in forests, tundra, deserts, mountains, grasslands and cities. It can be up to 37 inches tall, 170 pounds in weight and 6.6 feet in length. It can reach speeds up to 40 mph. Because of the anatomy of its paws, it can travel over most surfaces especially snow without freezing. The bulky two layered coat of the animal protects it from dirt and water.

They travel in packs usually made up of 8 wolves. The packs are territorial and continually search for food. The pack has a leader and an unknown wolf will be killed if it tries to join the pack. It eats any meat that it can kill. Prey are bitten repeatedly until weakened and then pulled to the ground. The prey will be eaten according to the ranking in the pack.

It plays a significant part in the food chain. Since it is near the top of its chain, it feeds on weaker game. It also keeps the elk population in check avoiding overgrazing that has occurred in the past. It provides food for smaller game from the scraps it leaves behind after feeding.

In 1974, the U.S. government classified the animal an endangered species despite heavy opposition from the livestock industry. In 1995, 29 wolves were brought from Canada to Yellowstone Park. After a time caged in the park, they were released to the wild. The next year, 37 wolves were released into the Idaho wild. Since then, they have experienced a 30% growth rate.

Unfortunately, the attacks on livestock has increased with the growth rate but the elk population has been depleted by 50%. The U.S. government is allowing it to be killed only if it is attacking livestock. If a wolf pack becomes too aggressive, the pack is being relocated.

The U.S. government removed the animal from the endangered species in March, 2008. Some western states still allowed the wolf to be hunted. Conservationists filed lawsuits and in July, 2008, a federal judge placed the wolf back on the endangered species. The debate goes on if the benefits of the wolf outweighs the shortcomings.

Frank Loethen lives with his wife and three cats, Sunny, Sinclair and Midnite, in Georgia. If you enjoyed this article, please visit my cat products website,, your one stop site for all your cat and kitten needs. Cat food, cat toys, litter accessories and cat treats are among the many items on the site. You can also see my three cats on the site.

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