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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Big, Wonderful Wolf!

One of my favorite creatures is a wolf.  Two kinds of wolves live in North America.  Gray wolves mostly live in the northern areas.  Red wolves live in a few southern states.  Wolves are the largest wild member of the canine or dog family.  Gray wolves can weigh over 150 pounds.  Red wolves weigh can weigh up to 80 pounds.  Sadly, wolves are endangered animals.

Wolves live in packs or groups.  Most packs have 5 to 15 members.  The packs are led by an alpha or lead male and female.  

Wolf packs live together and hunt together.  When wolves hunt together, it is easier for them to bring down big game such as deer and elk.  Each pack has a large territory and defends their territory from other wolf packs.

Wolves howl when they talk with other wolves.  When I watch movies about them on the television, I howl too!

When we were in Denali National Park, we watched wolves playing together.  Two pups were playing with two adult wolves.  They might have been their parents.  They also could have been other members of the wolf pack.  Sometimes younger members of the wolf pack babysit the pups so the older, more experienced hunters can find food.  

It was so exciting to watch the wolves playing together!  The wolves were very far away, but it was so fun to watch them!

Many times, adult male wolves leave their pack when they want to start a new pack of their own.  While they are by themselves, they are called lone wolves.  When we were camping on the Dempster Highway in Canada's Yukon Territory, we saw a lone wolf walk behind our camp site.  He was beautiful!  Mom took this photo of him through the screen of our camper.  It is my favorite wolf picture!

Some people do not like wolves.  In fact, wolves were so hated by some people that they began killing wolves by the thousands.  Wolves almost became extinct.  They are now considered an endangered animal.

Why do some people hate wolves?  Wolves are carnivorous and only eat meat.  Wolves are also predators.  A predator is an animal that kills other animals to survive.  In nature, animals want to survive.  They especially want their babies to survive.  They are not being cruel when they kill another animal.  For a very good explanation of a predator, please click here:  http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdpubs/young_naturalist/animals/predator_prey_relationship/

Wolves are considered apex predators.  Apex means the highest.  An apex predator is an animal that is at the top of the food chain.  Humans, mountain lions, bears, alligators, and wolves are a few apex predators in North America.  

Apex predators are important to any ecosystem.  They keep other animal populations in check.   For example, if too many deer live in an area, there will not be enough food for them.  The deer may become sick or starve.  Apex predators help to keep the deer population in check.  Sometimes, however, wolves have attacked domestic animals like cattle and sheep.  This has led some people to dislike wolves.

Today, more and more people are beginning to understand how important wolves are to the environment.  Scientists learned that apex predators are important to a healthy ecosystem.  As a result, gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park.   Red wolves were reintroduced in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.  Now wolves are beginning to make a comeback across America.  They are making the ecosystems healthier.  But some people still do not like wolves.  

What do I think about wolves?  I think they are wonderful!!!  Of course, I'm a canine... just like wolves!

To learn more about wolves, check out one or more of these sites:

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