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Gray Wolf

Canis lupus

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The stuff of legends, the Gray Wolf has been simultaneously admired, feared and marveled at by human beings. The domesticated dog (Canis familiars) was bred from the wolf by early humans and ultimately helped people become the preeminent species on Earth. But the wolf has also been a chief competitor to people, first seeking the same prey, later raiding flocks of domesticated sheep and cattle. Over time, the American public’s attitude toward wolves has changed. Some recent national polls show that over 80% of Americans support the protection of the animal, seeing the species more as a valuable natural resource than the indiscriminate killer of myth and legend.

Wolves greatly resemble many modern dog breeds such as shepherds and huskies with deep chests and sloping backs. They have pointed, upright ears and slender muzzles. Their fur coloration ranges from white to a variety of grays, browns and black.

Range and Habitat

The Gray Wolf’s adaptability and position as an apex predator made it a highly successful species and historically they lived throughout North America as far south as central Mexico. When Lewis and Clark first entered Oregon, Gray Wolves were plentiful and found all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Wolves move freely from ecosystem to ecosystem, although they generally prefer forested areas where prey animals are plentiful. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as “timber wolves.”

Today, due largely to over-hunting and habitat destruction, Oregon’s few wolf sightings are confined to the northeastern part of the state.

Conservation Status

Endangered. Statistics on the Gray Wolf in Oregon are constantly changing as new populations migrate from Idaho and Washington. Over the last few years, there have been multiple sightings of wolves in the state, including as far south as Grants Pass. Gray Wolves are protected under Oregon State and federal laws.

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