Eastern Timber Wolf

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I walked from Cleveland some 18 miles on the state road westward. The place of destination was not reached until late in the evening, when conversation became difficult from the incessant howling of wolves.

Norton S. Townshend, 1830



Scientific Name: Canis lupus lycaon
Habitat: Forested, rugged, remote areas
Adult Weight: 40 - 175 lbs.
Adult Body Length: 40 - 58 inches
Birth Period: March - May
Litters Per Year: 1
Litter Size: 5 - 6
Life Expectancy: 5 years, average
Foods: Deer, bison, elk and other large game; mice and rodents; and fish.


Wolves have been feared by humans for centuries. This fear, particularly in early Europe, was the reason for such children's stories as "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Three Little Pigs." There has never been a documented report of a wolf attack on a human in America.

Wolves are social animals that live in groups called packs. They are led by a dominant (alpha) male and female. The pack works together to take care of their young and to hunt for food which everyone shares. Their hunting technique preys on the weak (old, sick, young) of a herd. This predator-prey relationship helps to promote and control a healthy prey population. They are well known for their individual and group howling, which is an effective way of communicating. Modern domestic dogs are direct descendants of wolves.



The Dire Wolf, larger and heavier than the Gray Wolf, lived in Ohio during the Ice Age. Around 750,000 years ago the Gray Wolf came to North America, and coexisted with the Dire Wolf for about 400,000 years. As the climate warmed, the prey of the Dire Wolf became extinct, resulting in the extinction of the Dire Wolf itself.


Skeletal remains of wolves have been found at prehistoric Indian sites. Archaeologists believe that the bones and hide of wolves were used in ceremonies. In many American Indian cultures, the wolf was admired for its hunting skills and loyalty to its family.


Timber Wolves were very common throughout the entire Ohio territory. As farming became more important, attitudes about the wolf changed for the worse. Because of wolf attacks on sheep, bounties of up to $15 were paid for wolf skins in Ohio.

Nineteenth Century

Mass hunting, poisoning and trapping occurred resulting in the death of thousands of wolves. The last killing of a wolf in Ohio occurred in 1842.

Twentieth Century

By the time the wolf was protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1973, they had been almost completely exterminated from the lower 48 states, with the exception of Minnesota.

In the last thirty years, efforts to reestablish wolf populations in national parks and wilderness areas have been met with mixed emotions. Many farmers and ranchers in the western United States are worried about their livestock. A successful reintroduction program has occurred in and around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. By February 1999, there were 111 wolves (9 packs) living in the area. Wolves are also reintroducing themselves in areas such as Glacier National Park in Alaska and parts of Minnesota and northern Michigan. The 1996 winter wolf survey confirmed there were 116 wolves in at least 16 packs across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Because Ohio lacks large blocks of wilderness, it is unlikely that wolves will ever return to Ohio.

With the successful recovery of the Gray Wolf, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998, reported that it would review the status of the Gray Wolf with the possibility of removing it from the Endangered Species list or reclassifying it. As of Spring, 1999, no decision had been made.

See Also