The Gray Wolf, which is also sometimes referred to as the tundra or timber wolf, belongs to the canidae species-also known as the dog family. Among its kind it is the largest member and can weigh up to 100 pounds. The gray wolf typically originates from areas in North America, Europe and North Africa. Although these wolves are called gray wolves, they are not necessarily gray in colour. They can range from being black to white or anywhere in between. Colour depends on the age of the wolf and also the area from where the wolf belongs. These wolves have an average life span of 12 to 20 years.
Gray wolves live in the open forests and before they occupied European areas they were commonly found in areas of North America. These wolves travel in packs and the number of individuals in the packs may go up to 12. Pack members are usually related and they are organized according to gender and based on the degree of dominance. One can identify dominant behaviour by an open mouth and teeth which are bared along with ears which are pointed towards the front. The Omega wolf is known amongst the gray wolf species to have the lowest social rank and is therefore tortured by other members of the pack. (Bangs, 2012)
To hunt for food gray wolves also travel in packs and their basic strategy is to outrun their prey in order to take it down. They locate their prey through a scent trail or by encounter. The prey they hunt for is usually larger than themselves so as to feed number wolves at one time. (Bangs, 2012)
Communication amongst wolves is very strong and is done through a variety of ways. They may growl, whine, howl or yelp in order to get their thoughts and emotions conveyed to one another. Facial expressions and tail position are also used widely to communicate amongst themselves. (Lopez, 2004)
Gray wolves mate during/between the months of January and April and after almost 2 months their pups are born. These pups are born in underground caves or dens and for the first 2 to 3 months they rely entirely on their mothers. After this period the pups are taken away from the mother and by the age of two they are mature enough to live alone and establish their own territory. (Bangs, 2012)
There was a time when gray wolves had occupied areas throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic to Mexico, the African north and southern Asia. Environmental changes, destruction of habitat, human persecution and hindrances in letting their population grow, the wolf population began to decline rapidly and today they can only be found in concentrated areas of the United State, Alaska, Canada and Mexico. (V, 2009)
During the first part of the 20th century gray wolves were almost entirely exterminated from the United States and in 1973 they were listed as being endangered. Wolves do not have many natural enemies. It was because of their conflict with human beings that they were seen to be quickly wiping out from their settlements. Humans thought that these wolves posed potential threat to not only themselves and their families because they roamed very close to human settlements but also to their livestock. It is rare that wolves enter private property, but due to scarcity of food, sometimes they attack farmers' herds. Because of this reason, the government ordered that all wolves be killed in a mass extermination campaign. (Ewing, 2012)
Of course, the government led extermination campaign was not the only reason which led the endangerment of the gray wolves. There were several other reasons as well. The wolves were forced to leave their own habitat due to the colonization of the areas they previously occupied and this led to the deaths of several of them because their habitat was destroyed. Apart from this wolves were hunted massively. Not only for the sole pleasure of hunting and killing animals but there were economical reasons behind this as well. The fur of wolves is used to make coats and is sold for heavy prices. There was a time in the 20th century that wolves were brutally tortured. People would pay hunters just so that they could kill wolves. This method of paying hunters to kill the animals was called bounty and it lasted up to about 1967, a few years before the gray wolves were declared to be endangered. They wolves would be shot by the hunters and sometimes they would be poisoned. Many a times these hunters would also trap the wolves and infect them with a deadly disease which the wolves would pass on to the rest of their pack and then would die a painful and slow death before the eyes of the hunters. In Minnesota a wolf bounty in 1849 cost three dollars and went up by thirty two dollars in 1965. The reason these wolves faced so much brutality at the hands of humans could have been largely because they were mistaken as man eating animals. (Ewing, 2012)
Gray wolves play a vital role in the functioning of the ecosystem and it is therefore of utmost importance that measures be taken to restore their numbers and save them from endangerment. The most significant role and the key reason why it is important that gray wolves be saved is that they help in controlling the spread of animal diseases. Gray wolves are top predators in the food chain and they select animals which are young, old, impaired physically or diseased to kill. By helping spread these animals across the landscape and removing those which are sick, gray wolves reduce the risk of transmission of wildlife diseases such as brucellosis. Wolves help keep the population of large herd animals in balance. Since they feed on such animals they do not excessively grow in numbers causing adverse affects to the environment. For example, rabbits. Wolves feed on rabbits from the time when rabbits are too young to even move around too much on themselves. This way the population of rabbits stays under control and does not cause damage by grazing on land that was not meant for them to graze on. (V, 2009)
The remains of the prey that the wolves feed on are also beneficial for the ecosystem in general. They help in redistributing nutrients into the soil and any remains that are left are a source of food for other animals especially scavengers. Scavengers like ravens and bears are provided with a special nutrient i.e. protein from wolf kill especially during the times of winter. (Mech, 2007)
As the number of wolves begins to take a dip there starts a rise in the population of elks in several areas and this causes an adverse affect on the growth of willows and aspens resulting in a lesser plant biomass which in turn leads to declined lodges for beavers, affecting songbird diversity. Also as the number of gray wolves starts to decline other species like fish, small mammals, amphibians are all adversely affected. When wolves began to decline in number the functions that they serve to the eco system were fulfilled by coyotes however, these animals were not big enough to regulate the population of other animals and thus it was very important that the wolf population was maintained. (Lopez, 2004)
The Yellowstone National Park was established by the U.S. congress and is known to be the first national park around the world. It is typically located in the state of Wyoming; however, it extends to Idaho and Montana as well. This park is greatly known for its wildlife and several geothermal features that it holds.
When the Yellowstone Park was established in 1872, gray wolves were native to the area. Though this was a time when the population of wolves was already declining and measures taken by the government were not helping in saving the wolf population and the park did little to conserve them as well. There was a period when predator control began to be practised there and till 1926 almost 140 wolves were killed in the park alone. By the 1940's it was very rare that a pack of wolves was seen in the back and when the 70's kicked in there was no trace of gray wolves in the Yellowstone park at all. Very rarely would a wolf be spotted in the park. (Lopez, 2004) (Bangs, 2012)
When the wolf population in the park reached the all time low the conditions of the park did not get any better. The elk population started to drastically rise and biologists became worried of the eroding land and dying plants. Since the elks were growing in number, plants like aspens were suffering from overgrazing and so this time the Park authorities had to get rid of the elks. If not by relocating the elks, they would kill them. This did not typically help in improving the condition of the Park. The…