THE WORLD’S TOP DOG

The grey wolf is the world’s largest canid. Once the most widely distributed terrestrial mammal, these highly intelligent and social animals are still found across much of the northern hemisphere and are categorised as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. However, wolves are under severe threat in many parts of their range – especially in Europe.

Wolves have faced centuries of persecution by humans throughout their range, due to deep-rooted superstition and to their fearsome reputation – largely undeserved – as voracious killers of livestock and a danger to people. As a result, grey wolves are today restricted to just two thirds of their original territory and are mainly confined to wilderness or remote areas.

Recent decades have witnessed the beginnings of a turnaround in the fortunes of the grey wolf, with some protective measures being put into place in its last remaining European strongholds. Conservation efforts are focusing on strengthening this protection and promoting peaceful coexistence between local people and wolf packs.

GREY WOLF FACTS

  • Grey wolves are monogamous – mating for life and living in tight-knit family groups.
  • The grey wolf is the world’s largest wild dog species.
  • As apex predators, grey wolves have few natural enemies other than humans.
  • Subject to the availability of prey, grey wolves can thrive in a wide range of habitats from dense forest to desert and Arctic tundra.
  • Wolves can bring down animals as large as a moose, but feed opportunistically on a variety of smaller prey, and will scavenge on carrion.
  • In areas of dense human presence and prey scarcity, especially in Eurasia, hunger may drive wolves to feed on livestock or garbage.
At a glance
Canis lupus
Least concern

Family:

Canidae

Order:

Carnivora

Estimated in the wild:

Unknown

Grey wolves have been known to carry out ‘alloparental care’, adopting and raising orphaned cubs.

16

A wolf’s hearing is 16 times more acute than that of humans.

6

The typical number of cubs in a litter.

CONSERVATION STORY

The grey wolf was historically the most widely distributed terrestrial mammal, but deliberate killing of wolves and complete extermination of some populations have reduced the overall range of the species by one third.

This persecution was largely motivated by fear of wolf attacks on humans, but these incidences are extremely rare, and mostly confined to rabid animals. Wolves will typically avoid close encounters, having developed a fear of humans due to their historical conflict with shepherds and hunters.

For centuries, wolves were on the receiving end of numerous orchestrated campaigns to wipe them from the map. In the UK, that feat was achieved in 1680. They suffered a similar fate throughout most of Western Europe, Japan, Mexico and large parts of the USA. The first protection measures were not put in place until the 1930s, in Germany.The world has since become more tolerant of wolves and the species is experiencing a resurgence, with some populations naturally recolonising parts of their original range. However, many populations are still under threat. In some countries, such as Romania, human encroachment on traditional wolf territory as a result of agricultural expansion, for example, is re-igniting conflict between people and wolves, and making their fragmented European populations even more vulnerable.

HOW FFI IS HELPING TO SAVE THE GREY WOLF

The conservation of the grey wolf is dependent on humanity’s ability to coexist with this species. FFI is working to reduce human-wildlife conflict in some of the last remaining European strongholds of the grey wolf.

In Romania, with the support of our partners, we are using strategic land purchase to protect vital wolf habitat from agricultural intensification and deforestation, in order to ensure that the remaining wolf populations are left in peace.

FFI is also working directly with farmers to reduce conflict. By providing electric fences and Carpathian sheepdog puppies, we are helping them to keep wolves at bay and reduce the number of incidences of livestock predation.