Types of Wolves
Biology & Behavior
Wolves & Humans
Updated August 2005
The Great Plains wolf (Canis lupus nubilus) is the most common subspecies of the gray wolf in the continental United States. It currently inhabits the western Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. A typical Great Plains wolf is between 4 1/2 and 6 1/2 feet long, from snout to tail, weighs from 60 to 110 pounds, and may have a coat of gray, black or buff with red-ish coloring. Like all wolves, the Great Plains wolf is a very social animal that communicates using body language, scent marking and vocalization with an average pack size of five to six wolves. The territory size for the Great Plains wolf depends on the type and density of prey. Typical prey for the Great Plains wolf consists of white-tailed deer, moose, beaver, snowshoe hare, and smaller birds and mammals.
The historic range of the Great Plains wolf was throughout the United States and the southern regions of Canada. By the 1930s, Great Plains wolves were extirpated almost eliminated completely, in much of the western United States.
In Wisconsin and Michigan, the Great Plains wolf was eradicated by the mid- 1960s. Only a small group of wolves survived in northeastern Minnesota along the Ontario border. In 1974, the Great Plains wolf in the Great Lakes region became fully protected as an endangered species. By 1978, Minnesota's wolf population had increased enough that the wolf was reclassified as threatened in Minnesota. The Great Plains wolf is found in the Eastern distinct population segment (DPS) categorized under the Endangered Species Act which is now awaiting new legislation to completely remove it from the endangered species list.
The estimated population for Great Plains wolves for 2004 in the United States was over 3,700 wolves. The population was distributed as follows:
North and South Dakota officials have noted lone wolves, but evidence indicates that the wolves were dispersers from populations outside the Dakotas, and that a breeding population probably does not exist there.
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