Wolves are the largest members of the dog-like family known as canidae. There is some debate over how many species of wolves exist. There are two universally recognised species, the grey wolf and the red wolf.
Grey wolves are the most populous and wide ranging wolf, found across much of the northern hemisphere. There are numerous subspecies of grey wolf, such as the Arctic wolf and Italian wolf. Although the overall grey wolf population is classed as of least concern, there are certain subspecies that are under serious threat. The Mexican wolf is the most at risk of these, with only around 160 remaining in the wild.
The red wolf is found only in North America. It is classed as critically endangered, with fewer than 30 individuals remaining in the wild, found in North Carolina.
Ethiopian wolves are a close relative of the wolf, found only in the highlands of Ethiopia. The species is classed as endangered, with fewer than 500 remaining in the wild.
Due to demonisation over the years, wolves have often been victims of hunting and this is the main reason for their decline. Wolves are actually very shy animals and direct attacks on humans are extremely rare.
As top predators, wolves carry out a very important role in maintaining a healthy environment. Therefore, if any subspecies were to go extinct, then those ecosystems would suffer as a result.
Wolf-livestock conflict (wolves hunted or poisoned as they can pose a threat to livestock).
Habitat loss (farming, urban development and timber harvesting).
Roads and railway lines.
Illegal wildlife trade (skin and fur products).
War and civil unrest.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Below, we've come up with individual actions we can take to create a better future for wolves:
The first and most obvious is to donate to conservation efforts. This is the best thing you can do to help secure a future for wolves. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find the organisations that we recommend supporting.
The biggest threat which wolves face is conflict with humans, usually due to loss of livestock or the fear of it. International Wolf Center have put together a brilliant page of information, 'Living with Wolves', full of great tips of how to avoid conflict with wolves, be it for living close to them, camping in their environment or raising livestock in their environment.
The Endangered Wolf Center also has a great page 'Coexisting with Large Carnivores', aimed at farming communities that share space with wolves, offering suggestions on how to prevent wolf-livestock conflict.
TOP TIP: Helping to reverse the demonisation of wolves is a great way to protect their future. Wolves are often hunted due to misconceptions. Books, films and fairy tales have definitely played their part in creating negative images of wolves. Spreading the awareness of the importance of these creatures in our environment is a great way to help. By keeping prey species on the move, such as deer, wolves can actually transform grasslands into forests over time, increasing biodiversity. Forests also play a huge role in the fight against climate change.
Logging poses a threat to wolf populations as it can take away their natural habitat. Opting for sustainably sourced, or better yet second-hand, products made from wood are both brilliant ways to help combat this problem. You could also take a look at our Paper Problems page for tips on how to cut down on paper usage.
The wildlife trade can pose a threat to wolves, with their fur and pelts being used for products. Refusing to buy products made from wild animals is a great way to help protect wolves and other wildlife.
Climate change potentially has a knock on effect in causing a loss of suitable habitat for the endangered Ethiopian wolf. The highlands where these wolves are found have a higher annual rainfall than the lowlands, an attraction for farming communities, especially in times of increased drought periods. A practical way to help is to take action to prevent climate change. Have a look at our page here if you wish to find out individual ways of how to do so.
There is an increase in roads which cross over wolf habitat. As the number of vehicles on the road increase, so do the chances of wolves being killed by vehicles. If you live in wolf habitat, a great way to help is to walk, cycle, opt for public transport or carpool when possible, helping to reduce the amount of vehicles on the roads.
Signing petitions is another great way to bring about positive change. Scroll down to the next section to find online petitions, which we recommend signing to help protect wolves.
USA only: The Lobos of the Southwest website has a great page of activism material to help wild wolves in the US, such as prewritten letters to send to members of congress.
The most adventurous way to help may be travelling to see wolves in the wild. Going on wildlife watching trips is a great way of letting the government of that country know that protecting its wildlife is important. There are plenty of wolf tracking holidays out there which are a great way to learn more about wolf conservation.
If travelling doesn't appeal, or isn't a realistic option for you, then many places around the world keep wolves in captivity. It's important to know that although it's exciting to see wild animals up close, their well-being in a cage is certainly questionable. If you really want to see a wolf in captivity then our guidance would be that with that desire to see one, you also have the desire to learn more about how we can protect them in the wild. Using advice from this page, or that you learn elsewhere, we encourage you to take some action to protect wild wolves. If you want to visit a wolf in captivity, we recommend that you do your research beforehand and choose somewhere that is supporting wolf conservation with its profits.
Another way to help is to shop for products which support wolf conservation:
Our founder, Chad Killoran, has a website selling prints of his artwork. If you're interested you could buy a print of his endangered Mexican wolf portrait, shown below, and a percentage of the profit goes towards the Endangered Wolf Center.
Endangered Wolf Center's online shop sells clothing, jewellery, stuffed toys and books, with profits going to the organisation's work for endangered wolves.
California Wolf Center's online shop sells clothing merchandise, shoppers, mugs, water bottles, games cuddly toys and much more.
Wolf Conservation Center's online shop sells clothing, toys, jewellery, books and lots more.
If you shop with Amazon then you could use AmazonSmile. It's the same as Amazon only when you shop they donate a percentage of the profit to a charity you choose, at no extra cost to you! If you're based in the United Kingdom, you could go to the UK site and select The Wolves and Humans Foundation as your chosen charity. If you're based in the US, you could go to the US site and choose American Wolf Foundation, Endangered Wolf Center, California Wolf Center, Wolf Conservation Center or Red Wolf Coalition Inc as your chosen charity.
One of the best ways to help is to spread the word about this page and what you've learnt about the challenges facing wolves. Awareness is the first step towards solving any problem!
Signing the following petitions is a great way to bring about positive change for wild wolves:
Defenders of Wildlife's petition is appealing to the U.S. forestry service to take responsibility for its role in preventing conflicts between livestock and wolves.
Care 2's petition is calling upon the U.S. Department of Interior to change its plans to revoke the endangered species status of the grey wolf in the U.S.
Defenders of Wildlife's petition is urging the U.S. forestry service to take immediate action to protect wolves on Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest.
USA only: P2A's petition is urging the Biden administration to protect endangered Mexican wolves.
Peter Vegem's petition is appealing to the Norwegian government to put a stop to state-sanctioned wolf hunts in Norway.
Center for Biological Diversity's petition is calling upon the U.S. government to reinstate protection for wolves in the U.S.
Lynne Hamilton's petition is requesting the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority to protect the endangered Ethiopian wolf.
USA only: Robert Goldman's petition is calling upon the U.S. government to increase protection of wild wolves in the U.S.
Heather L's petition is requesting the United States Fish & Wildlife Service to improve its recovery plan of the critically endangered red wolf.
#EndTheTrade Coalition's petition is calling on our world’s governments to permanently end the commercial trade and sale in markets of wild terrestrial animals worldwide.
The following organisations are carrying out essential work to ensure a future for wild wolves:
Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program works for the conservation of the endangered Ethiopian wolf and its habitat.
Endangered Wolf Center's mission is to preserve and protect endangered Mexican wolves, red wolves and other wild canid species.
California Wolf Center is dedicated to the recovery of wolves in the wild lands they once roamed and saving the endangered Mexican wolf.
The Wolves and Humans Foundation is dedicated to the conservation of Europe’s large carnivores; wolves, bears and lynx.
American Wolf Foundation provides support for endangered wolf conservation, awareness and coexistence initiatives, with a special emphasis on the critically endangered red wolf.
Voyageurs Wolf Project is focused on understanding the summer ecology of wolves in Minnesota, in order to provide critical information for wolf conservation.
Wolf Conservation Center is working to protect and preserve wolves in North America, including two endangered subspecies, Mexican and red wolves.
UK Wolf Conservation Trust supports wolf conservation projects across Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.
Project Coyote promote coexistence between people and US native carnivores such as wolves and coyotes.
If you know of any more ways in which we can create a better future for wolves, then please get in contact with your suggestions!