The Timber or Gray wolf was placed on the Endangered Species List in the United States in 1973. Although wolf populations have yet to recover, there is a movement—led by livestock owners (who fear that wolves will eat their livestock) and hunters (who want to kill or avoid competing with wolves)—to lift Endangered Species Act protections in several states.
Indeed, as humans simultaneously took over wolf habitat, filled the habitat with livestock, and depleted the staples of the wolf’s traditional diet (deer, elk, caribou, and bison), the wolf turned to sheep and cattle to supplement its diet. The wolf eats a varied diet: When in packs, wolves will successfully bring down larger mammals such as bison, elk, deer, musk oxen, and moose. (They tend to focus on ill, old, or weak members of a herd.)
Conversely, a solitary wolf will hunt smaller animals such as beavers and rabbits. A wolf may travel as far as 30 miles in a single, 24-hour period (often at night) to find prey. The carcasses left behind serve an important ecosystem function, as they provide fodder for such scavengers as wolverines, vultures, foxes, and sometimes bears.
Traditionally feared by humans, wolves actually shy away from human contact. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, no attack on a human by a healthy, wild wolf has ever been confirmed in North America. There have been cases of aggression recorded, but a wild, healthy wolf who is not habituated to humans (that is, who has not been taught to see humans as a source of food) and who is not provoked poses very little risk to humans.