|Gray wolf photo from National Geographic.|
This week’s camp creature is inspired by Minnesota’s NBA team the Timberwolves. Prior to European settlement in North America, the gray (or timber) wolf inhabited most of North America – even down through most of Mexico. Due to habitat deterioration and human persecution, wolves were almost completely eliminated from the western United States, Wisconsin, and Michigan by the mid-1960s. Minnesota was the only state (aside from Alaska) that retained any wild wolves before they were placed on the endangered species list (in every state except Minnesota where it was labeled as “threatened”) in the 1970s. Under this protection, it was illegal to kill a wolf, except in the defense of human life. Later the protection was broadened to the defense of human life and livestock.
|Gray wolf… black fur!|
Gray wolves can thrive in many habitats, which makes sense considering historically they have been found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico, in many different types of environments such as forests, prairies, swamps, mountains, deserts, or tundra. In Minnesota, most wolves inhabit the northern, forested areas but have been spotted in the south as well. Gray wolves are the largest member of the Canidae family (that includes dog-like animals such as domesticated dogs, coyotes, foxes, etc.). Males can weigh as much as 110 pounds and measure six and a half feet long. They can be gray, black or buff with reddish coloring, or they can be all black. Wolves have rounded, relatively short ears and a large muzzle. Minnesota wolf packs generally contain about four to eight wolves, but packs in less populated areas like Canada or Alaska can reach up to 20 or 30 wolves.
|Current gray wolf population.|
In January 2012, wolves in the western Great Lakes, including Minnesota, were completely removed from the federal Endangered Species List. Due to this removal, Minnesota took over the management of the gray wolf, and in 2012, a limited wolf hunting season was opened. The DNR offered a few thousand hunting licenses and limited the hunt to 400 wolves across the state. After the 2012/2013 season ended, 413 wolves had been hunted. There has been some controversy surrounding the wolf hunt in Minnesota, and there is a hearing scheduled at the Minnesota State Capitol to possibly postpone another wolf hunting season for five years. Many Minnesotans feel there needs to be more research done to determine how many gray wolves are currently living in the Minnesota wild and if a hunt is necessary.
The Minnesota DNR has a lot of great information about the gray wolf management in Minnesota. It isn’t too likely that you’ll come across a wolf in the wild, but the same website explains exactly what to do if you do meet a gray wolf. Do you support the wolf hunt, or do you think Minnesota should postpone another one for five years? Let us know your thoughts!