Gray wolves range in color from grizzled gray or black to all-white.

Though humans nearly hunted wolves to extinction in the lower 48 states, northern gray wolves have returned to the Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest.

Wolves play a key role in keeping ecosystems healthy. They help keep deer and elk populations in check, which can benefit many other plant and animal species. The carcasses of their prey also help to redistribute nutrients and provide food for other wildlife species, like grizzly bears and scavengers. Scientists are just beginning to fully understand the positive ripple effects that wolves have on ecosystems.

Defenders' Impact

Defenders has pioneered practical solutions to minimize conflicts between wolves and livestock. We’re working with ranchers across the West to develop and implement nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices and other innovative tools that minimize conflict and build social acceptance for wolves. Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of ranchers purchase turbo-fladry and livestock guard dogs, hire range riders and deploy scare devices to keep wolves away from livestock. By minimizing conflicts with livestock and the lethal backlash against wolves that often follows, these proactive methods help protect both livestock and wolves.

We also monitor state and federal legislatures and wildlife agencies closely to track potential threats to wolf populations and recovery. When a dangerous bill or policy change is proposed, we act quickly to inform and mobilize our supporters in the region, encouraging them to contact their state officials and speak out against the proposal.

Our experts and policy analysts also engage with officials to discuss the problem and, where possible, offer scientifically-based and responsible solutions. If these measures fail, and laws are being violated by extreme wolf policies, our last resort is to turn to the courts for protection.


Wolves are threatened by conflict with humans and intolerance, and the loss of both habitat and protections under state and federal endangered species laws.

Protection Status
Endangered Species Act
IUCN Red List
 Least Concern
 Appendix II

The gray wolf is?endangered?in many parts of its?historic range, but delisted (by Congress) in much of the Northern Rockies.

What You Can Do

Help us spread positive and accurate information about wolves. Speak up for wolves and the continued support of endangered species protections, like the Endangered Species Act. If you live in wolf habitat, ?practice proven coexistence techniques.

Latin Name
Canis lupus
26-32 inches at the shoulder and 55-130 pounds, with males larger than females
7-8 years?

The gray wolf’s range has been reduced to Canada, Alaska, the Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest. Wolves require large areas of contiguous habitat that can include forests and mountainous terrain with access to prey, protection from excessive persecution and areas for denning and taking shelter.


There are an estimated 7,000 to 11,200 gray wolves in Alaska, 3,700 in the Great Lakes region, 1,675 in the Northern Rockies and 275 in the Pacific Northwest.


Wolves live, travel and hunt in packs of seven to eight animals on average. Packs include the mother and father wolves (called the alphas), their pups and older offspring. The alpha female and male are typically the pack leaders that track and hunt prey, choose den sites and establish the pack's territory.


Breeding season occurs once a year late January through March. Pups are born blind and defenseless. The pack cares for the pups until they fully mature at about 10 months of age when they can hunt on their own. Once grown, young wolves may disperse. Dispersing wolves have been known to travel 500 miles or more in search of a mate and new territory.
Mating Season: January or February.
Gestation: 63 days
Litter size: 4-7 pups


Wolves eat ungulates, or large hoofed mammals, like elk, deer, moose and caribou, as well as beaver, rabbits and other small prey. Wolves are also scavengers and often eat animals that have died due to other causes.?

Adopt a gray wolf

Your adoption supports our work to fight anti–wolf extremism on the ground and ensure a lasting future for wolves in their native habitat.

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Prancing in the Moonlight: Photos Capture Colorado Wolves Playing at Night

Two gray wolves were captured on film as they played last month in Northwest Colorado, the first documentation in several months of Colorado’s first wolf pack in more than 75 years. These rare images were captured by a trail camera set up by Defenders of Wildlife in Moffat County.