Habitat and Physical Adaptations of the Gray Wolf (data entry 2020)
Historic/ current/ potential habitat - Click to magnify
2014 - Map by Curt Bradley, Center for Biological Diversity.
This map is available for media use. See Potential Habitat report. (2014)
Habitat: Wolves belong to a group of species known as generalists. This means that as long as their basic needs of food, water, and shelter are met, they can adapt to a wide variety of environmental conditions. This includes the tundra of Alaska and Siberia, forestlands, prairies, mountains, the deserts of Mexico and southwestern states and the coastal beaches of British Columbia. Wolves’ favored prey – ungulates – can be found in all these varied habitats in the form of elk, deer, bison, caribou, big horned sheep, mountain goats. In addition, wolves aren't particularly picky about the smaller prey they will eat. This is another trait of generalist species. Originally, worldwide, wolves were the most widely
distributed of wild mammals.
When searching for a territory to call home, two additional limiting factors come into play. Wolves will avoid settling into areas already occupied by another family of wolves and will also avoid areas that are too heavily occupied by humans. Human disturbance of the landscapes, such as road/ town/city development, deforestation, livestock grazing and mining in areas that were historically prime wolf habitat, have placed major obstacles to the wolves’ recovery.
The Size of wolf territories largely depend on the availability of suitable prey for their family size. The greater the prey base, the smaller the territory can be. An increase in family size can place a demand for increased in territory size which, due to the factors listed above, may or may not be easily attainable. According to USFWS, it is not uncommon for territories to be as large as 50 square miles, but they may even extend up to 1,000 square miles in areas where prey is scarce.