Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Photo Copyright Lynn Chamberlain

The gray wolf, Canis lupus, once inhabited much of the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Asia, and Europe. The species has been driven from much of its former range by humans, but populations still exist in some areas of Alaska, Canada, northern Mexico, the northern United States, and Asia. The gray wolf was once common in Utah, but it was extirpated (exterminated) from the state by early settlers. Recent reintroductions of the gray wolf have occurred in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, but reintroductions are not currently planned for Utah. Recent reports, however, suggest that gray wolves may move to Utah from surrounding states in the near future.

Gray wolves typically travel and hunt in packs. They cover large areas while searching for prey, and prefer to consume large animals, such as deer and elk, but will also eat small mammals and carrion (animals already dead). The species can live in many types of habitat, but areas with little human activity are preferred. Gray wolves are primarily nocturnal, returning to underground dens during the day. In most cases, only the dominant male and female of each pack mate; the dominate female will typically produce one litter of four to ten pups in the spring of each year.

The gray wolf is a large dog-like mammal that is usually gray in color, but can vary from almost white to black. Wolves can be distinguished from coyotes because they are larger in size and carry their tails high when running, whereas coyote tails are down when running.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Burt, W. H. and R. P. Grossenheider. 1980. A field guide to the mammals. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 289 pp.