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Apr 8, 2009

Mild temperatures have returned and seem to be settling into the northwoods of Minnesota. Although we still have about a half of foot of snow on the ground, the warm weather will diminish that in time.

Next week on April 15 and 16, the Timber Wolf Alliance is hosting the Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference 2009 in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University will be giving the keynote address. His talk will be very timely with all the news about his study of wolves on Isle Royale with their genetic defects from decades of inbreeding. I’ll be going to the conference and will report back with all the latest news on the status of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region.

Natural History Of Wolves

Many times while working at the Ambassador’s Desk at the International Wolf Center, I am asked if the wolves are what’s called a “Timber Wolf”. The answer is both yes and no. All of our wolves are a subspecies of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus), namely the Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), the Great Plains wolf (Canis lupus nubilus), and the Northwestern wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis). I explain that a wolf you would find in the wild in Northern Minnesota is actually the Great Plains wolf. There is a subspecies that was found in the New England states and is still in the wild in Eastern Canada called the Eastern Timber Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon). When Europeans first came to American, the Eastern Timber Wolf was the first wolf they encountered and classified. AS the Europeans made their westward move, the name “Timber Wolf” came to denote a generic name for the wolves in North America, much like the name brand Klennex is used like a generic name for any brand facial tissue. Another factor to consider is that most settlers made no distinction between the wolf and the coyote. Coyotes will inhabit more open and brushy habitats and as a result was commonly called “brush Wolf” while the wolves which lived in the more densely forested habitats were called “timber wolf”.

Historically, the Eastern Timber wolf’s range did reach into the Western Great Lake region. They were actually the widest ranging subspecies in North America at the time. Up until the mid 1980’s, the wolf in Minnesota was still classified as the Eastern Timber wolf, but in reality that particular subspecies had been eliminated in the United States and the wolf from the Great Plains had filled the vacant niche left behind. So if you are reading any old research material concerning the wolves in the Great Lakes region, you will find them referred to as “Timber Wolves”.

So yes, you may refer to these wolves at the International Wolf Center as “Timber wolves”, as used in the common name for any North American wolf, but they are not of the subspecies properly called the Eastern Timber wolf. And no, I don’t believe a certain basketball team in Minnesota will be changing their name anytime soon to the Great Plains Wolves.

Personal notes and observation at the IWC

With the mild weather comes as decrease of hormonal aggression that Maya was exhibiting toward Aidan. Because of the earlier stalking and dominance displays, Aidan is still wary of Maya, but they can also be seen sleeping next to each other, showing a social bond. Denali is going to be one large wolf, he towers over Maya and only seems dwarfed by big, old Grizzer. Grizzer continues to seek out both pups for social play and dare I say…mischief. Shadow has retained his dominate status with very little effort this winter and we appear to be going into Spring with a very socially cohesive pack.

Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit

This week’s photo shows Denali at almost 1-year of age. He still has much more red tint to his coat than his brother Aidan.

Happy Howls

“Helping to Raise Wolf Awareness”

Imported from external blog

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Posted: Wednesday April 8, 2009, 1:13 pm
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Don Gossett
male, age 59, married
Babbitt, MN, USA
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\nIsle Royale is located in the northwest portion of Lake Superior. It is ~50 miles long and ~8 miles wide. Isle Royale is home to a population of wolves and moose. These wolves are the sole predator of the moose, and moose represent ~90% of the wolves...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\nWarmer spring weather has finally engulfed the northwoods of Minnesota. Only patches of snow can be found now in the shaded areas of the surrounding forests. Although snow is in the forecast over the next few days, its time will be limited as spring ...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\nIt has been a fairly mild week here in the northwoods, except for Wednesday mornings -33F wakeup call. The mild temperatures are forecast to stick around for a while, which is good for Friday’ s (February 6, 2009) launch of the Ely W...

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