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Wolves: Top 10 Questions

April 2007

1: How much does a grown wolf weigh? How long do they live and are they nocturnal?

The average weight for a wolf in Idaho is somewhere in the 70 to 80-something-pound range. As the wolf gets older, the alpha animals, the leaders of the pack, can get up to 110 to 120 pounds, but that's a pretty big wolf. Most are probably in the 70 to 80-pound range.

Some wolves, if they're lucky will live upwards of 12 to 13 years. Actually, we just recently got the body back of one of the original re-introduced wolves to Idaho. It was the first batch of wolves brought into the state. We estimate he was close to 14 years old. That's kind of at the high end of the range. Generally, they might live to 8 or 9 on average.

Wolves are primarily active at dawn and dusk, more at night than during the day, but they can be active at anytime of the day. (From Curly in Boise, Paige in Mrs. Woodall's class at Hayden Meadows Elementary in Hayden, and Justin from Mrs. Hunt's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary in Boise)

2: Can wolves really survive 40-below temperatures?

Winter is actually kind of the gravy time for wolves. A lot of people think wild animals have it better off in the summer, and that's true for deer and elk. But when all that snow gets on the ground, a lot of elk and deer have a hard time getting through it and have a hard time finding something to eat. In winter, when the wolves don't have pups and are chasing the deer and elk around, it's a lot easier for them to catch their dinner. They also have heavy fur coats and special paws to help them survive the cold. (Maykayla from Nancy Amos' class at Potlatch Elementary)

3: Do wolves hunt people?

It's a very rare thing for wolves to attack humans. There was one case up in Canada a couple years ago where it looks like wolves probably killed a person. It was a case where wolves were eating human garbage, and the wolf lost its fear of people. That's something we work hard to avoid in Idaho. There are about 16 or 18 cases in North America where wolves in the last 30 or 40 years have actually bitten people. It's a pretty rare thing. For the most part, wolves attacking people isn't something we're very concerned about in Idaho. We haven't had anybody bit in Idaho or attacked. (From Aaron and Justin in Mrs. Bowe's class at McDonald Elementary in Moscow)

4: Is it true that wolves howl for their mates?

Actually that's one of the primary ways wolves communicate. Wolves break off from their pack. They'll run off in twos and threes and go and hunt and look for food. When they get split up and want to find each other, they'll howl. They can hear each other from a long ways away. Also sometimes they just like to howl in a pack. They call it a chorus howl. The pack gets together and they all kind of wag their tails and howl and just seem to really enjoy howling. (From Matthew in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary in Boise)

5: Are the wolves really hurting the elk and deer population?

It's a very complicated question. Overall, the answer is no. They're not hurting the deer and elk populations. Based on hunter success and our big game surveys, it seems that elk populations are doing very well. That said, in some places, elk seem to be hurting. There are a few places in the state where elk populations are declining, and any time you have predation, that certainly impacts the prey when they're in a downward spiral. That's not to say that the wolves are the primary cause of the decline, but they're certainly not helping the situation. So I'd say, overall, they haven't had a significant impact, but there are certain instances they can have impacts. (From Lakota in Mrs. Nordby's class at Summerwind Elementary in Boise)

6: Why do wolves hunt in packs?

Wolves hunt in packs because it's a little easier for two or three wolves to bring down an elk than for just one wolf to take down a big animal. (From Justin at McDonald Elementary in Moscow)

7: Why did they want to reintroduce wolves in Idaho and where do they live?

Idaho was a great place to reintroduce wolves because it has such a vast, rugged wilderness area in the middle of the state. That's one of the reasons Idaho and Montana and Wyoming were chosen as one of the wolf recovery areas. Most of the wolves we have in Idaho are in the central Idaho wilderness areas. That's really where your core population is. The Frank Church Wilderness and the Selway Wilderness are some of the best wolf habitat we've got in the state. (From Benjamin in Middleton and Jay from Mrs. Whitesell's class in Gooding)

8: How many different kinds of wolves are there?

There are three recognized species in the world. The most common species is the gray wolf, which is found throughout North America, Europe and Asia. That's the wolf that's found here in Idaho. Another species of the wolf is the red wolf that is found in the southeastern United States. Another kind of wolf is the Ethiopian wolf found in Ethiopia. A lot of people get confused and refer to wolves as the gray wolf and then also what's called the timber wolf, and actually those two are the same species. The timber wolf is the gray wolf. It's just considered a sub-species. Another good point is a lot of people think there's a difference between the wolves re-introduced to Idaho and the wolves that were here before. The wolves are basically the same animal as was here originally. (From Michaela at Gooding Elementary)

9: How long have wolves been on the endangered species list?

Wolves were pretty much eliminated from the lower 48 states in the 1930s and 1940s. There were a few wolves that hung on in some of the more remote locations of the mountainous states like Colorado. But basically, wolves were eliminated because of conflicts with humans. People perceived them as a threat to their way of life when people made their living raising livestock and such. So basically, people felt that the wolf needed to go. The last wolf in the lower 48 states was noted back in the 1930s and 1940s. Then, in the mid-1980s, people started talking about trying to re-establish wolf populations here in the lower 48. Congress decided to re-establish the wolf population and so, starting in 1995, wildlife experts brought wolves into Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. (Mark from White Pine Elementary in Boise)

10: How many wolves are in a pack?

On average here in Idaho, a typical pack is anywhere from 8 to 10 wolves, but that can range quite a bit. I think the highest documented pack size was 18. At that point, some wolves go off and start a new pack. Typically, with what's called a breeding pair, you're just going to have the two wolves, and then they'll have pups and initiate that pack. (Kathy from McDonald Elementary in Moscow)

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