At one time the wolf ranged over most of the North American Continent but on account of its predatory habits it has been hunted and trapped by man until it is now a rare animal in most parts of the United States. East of the Mississippi River it is found only in northern Michigan and Wisconsin. At the present time there are more wolves in Northern Minnesota, the site of this group, than in any other district of this country.
The wolves of North America are divided into two groups: the gray wolf, Canis lupus, of the north and west, and the red wolf, Canis niger, of the south central states. The red wolf has but recently been exterminated in the southeast. The eastern timber wolf, Canus lupus lycoon, the form represented in this group, is the same subspecies that formally reigned east throughout the Atlantic states as far south as Georgia.
Wolves apparently mate for life, with the father assisting in rearing the family. The size of the litter may vary from five to fourteen, seven being the average. The home den is either a rocky cave, borough, or hollow log. Here the young remain until they are about three months old. From that time on they hunt with their parents. These family packs generally stay together through the winter.
Over much of the wolf's range, deer form an important item in their diet. In the Rocky Mountains of the northwest, mountain sheep are included while in the northern bearing grounds the caribou is hunted. In the olden days the big gray wolves of the plains used to follow the bison herds, but with the disappearance of the bison and the introduction of domestic stock, the wolf turned to livestock for its food supply. For this, it became extremely unpopular and destroyed on every occasion.
There is a unique sequence in which the feet of a galloping wolf come in contact with the ground. Contrary to the general belief, the two rear tracks of each group of four footprints are made by the forefeet and the two tracks in front are made by the hind feet. Between the making of each group there is a moment in which the animal has no contact with the ground.
This group was collected with full cooperation of the Department of Conservation of the state of Minnesota.
Audio: Listen to a Gray Wolf
Gunflint Lake, Minnesota
This typical December winter scene is placed at the margin of Gunflint Lake. Across the lake lies Ontario. Gunflint Lake forms part of the old fur-trading route extending westward from Lake Superior to Rainy Lake, which was originally selected to give the minimum number of portages.
The time is midnight. The temperature has fallen well below zero. The "curtain" type of northern lights blazes upwards from the horizon. The constellations Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor (The Little Dipper) can be recognized above.
In the left foreground stand the shrubby Osier dogwood Cornusstolonifera, and right, the alder Alnus serrulata. The conifer is a black spruce Picea mariana. The birch-like white trees painted right and left in the background are quaking aspens Populos trenuloides, in one of which the great grey owl, Scotiaptex nebulosa, sits watching the hunt. The background conifers include black spruce and pine Pinus spp.
The tracks of deer and wolves in the snow betray the story of the chase. In the right background the scuffled snow shows how a walking deer (now ahead of the wolves), suddenly alarmed, sprang into full flight.