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Gray Wolf

"My, what big teeth you have, Grandma."
"The better to eat you with!"

Considering this was the introduction to wolves for most of us, it's no wonder we seem to have an innate fear of them. Myths and stories perpetuate intense interest in this animal, and Montana is one of the few places where wolves still naturally exist.

Gray Wolf
Canis lupus

Montana's wolves are gray wolves, also known as timber wolves. Wolves come in many colors ranging from white to black. They're quite easy to recognize; they are much taller and longer than coyotes, with broader faces and shorter ears. Wolves weigh around 100 pounds, but the big boys can weigh as much as 130. They're highly social animals whose packs are actually extended family groups. Hunting in packs gives wolves an advantage over other predators; without the pack, a single wolf would have difficulty taking down its large prey. They feed mainly on large mammals, especially deer and elk. A wolf pack will usually have a hunting range of more than 250 square miles.

Each pack has a hierarchy; that means not every wolf in the pack will breed and have pups, but at least one litter is born per pack per year. The entire pack helps parent the pups throughout the summer; generally, the young will get to join the pack on hunts that fall. The pups may stay on with the family pack for two years before moving on to join another pack or start a new pack.

Montana has several confirmed wolf packs. One established pack ranges along Rocky Mountain Front; another pack ranges across the Canadian border in Western Montana; several other packs are the result of a federal reintroduction program in Yellowstone National Park. Although the wolf population is on the rise in Montana, it's very uncommon to see wolves.

Little Red Riding Hood stories notwithstanding, wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare. In fact, there has never been reported an instance of a healthy wolf attacking a human.

Gray Wolf Map