Wolves are wild relatives of dogs and are represented by two species, the gray and red wolf, with variations within each species for a total of thirtytwo described subspecies. At one time, wolves lived throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. The gray wolf, also called the timber wolf, is the most common wolf species living in North America and can be found mostly in Canada and Alaska. Considered extinct in western Europe, with a few exceptions, gray wolves live in Russia, southeastern Europe, and Asia. Wolves’ ranges have decreased due to urbanization. Most wolves live in sparsely populated forest, tundra, wilderness, and mountain regions and tend to avoid people, approaching settled areas only when they are starving or when natural crises, such as floods, fires, and blizzards, cause their migration to populated places to seek emergency food sources. Gray wolves can attain a body length (from nose to base of the tail) of 1.2 meters (4 feet) and height of 90 centimeters (3 feet) at the shoulder. They average forty-five kilograms (one hundred pounds) in weight, with some wolves weighing twice that amount, and have sharp teeth, thick coats, tall legs, and bushy tails. Gray wolves have primarily gray coats with some black, yellow, and brown fur, although some gray wolves are solid black or white, particularly in the Arctic. An endangered species, red wolves live in the forests and brush of the south central United States and can be colored a hue ranging from reddish gray to black. Hunting of gray wolves escalated as farmers and ranchers penetrated wolf territory, their livestock offering easy targets for the wolves. Humans’ retribution threatened decimation of the gray wolf population. Efforts to replenish the number of wolves include the reintroduction of gray wolves toYellowstone National Park in 1995.
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