To coincide with the release by Hancock House Publishers of Dreaming of Wolves: Adventures in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, I am pleased to write a series of articles summarizing the current ecological and legal status of wolves in the wild. I will begin with the status of gray and red wolves in the lower 48 states of the United States and continue with wolves in other regions as I have time.
As keystone species, wolves have played a major role in shaping the content and dynamics of ecosystems, and in the evolution of such valued (by wolves and humans) game animals as elk, caribou, bison, deer, and moose. In addition, wolves and humans share a long history of interaction – a long history of competition and conflict, and, in the case of one subspecies of wolf, the domestic dog, a long history of cooperation and friendship. But as humans have come to dominate the earth’s physical environment, the status of the wolf has come to depend almost entirely on human societal attitudes about nature, wildlife, and the role of large predators. Thus the status of the wolf during the last few centuries is largely a story about shifting human values.