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Unique Wolves

Student Model Print

Sixth-grader Bryan wrote this report after visiting a wolf park in Battle Ground, Indiana.

Unique Wolves

If you visit northern Wisconsin, don't be surprised to hear the eerie and beautiful howl of wolves at night. They have returned after about 40 years of absence. By the 1950's, wolves had been driven out of their ancient homeland by ranchers and the federal government. Wolves killed livestock for food, so they were considered nuisances. But starting in the 1990's, the state reintroduced wolves to help manage the deer population. The number of wolves has now rebounded to nearly a thousand.

Wolves are relatives to coyotes, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and our pet dogs. Some people mistake wolves and coyotes, but wolves are much larger and stockier. A wolf is like a German shepherd except with longer legs, bigger feet, a wider head, and a long, bushy tail. Like a dog, a wolf has very good vision, smell, and hearing, which allow it to track and kill caribou, deer, elk, and moose. Wolves sometimes eat 20 pounds of meat at one time with their 42 teeth. Wolves hunt mainly at night and early in the morning.

At birth, a wolf pup weighs one pound. At three weeks, pups start to eat meat. Each spring, wolves have six to fourteen pups, which are born in dens. A den can be a cave, the hollow trunk of a tree, a hole that the mother dug, or a thicket.

Wolf packs have eight to twenty members. The leader, called the alpha male, always gets food first, and if anyone butts in, they get growled and snarled at. Wolves communicate by howling, tail actions, and mouth actions. When wolves can’t find food, they eat leftovers from other kills that they have buried, but they can go several weeks without food. Packs need 100 to 250 square miles to live in. Wolves can run up to 24 miles per hour. Most animals they hunt can run faster, but wolves can run tirelessly for hours and can leap as high as one-story buildings.

Wolves used to live all over North America, Europe, and Asia, but after the 1950’s wolf populations survived only in northern Minnesota and Alaska in the United States, in Canada, northern Europe, and northern Asia. Now they are making a comeback in other areas because scientists recognize their important role as apex predators. Wolves can live in any type of climate except for the desert and the highest mountains. Their color varies from pure white to jet black, depending on where they live.

Wolves are fun to watch and listen to. Now that wolves are starting to move back into some of the lower 48 states, you might hear them howl again.

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