US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation, edited by L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2003).


U.S. government work.


WOLVES CAN LIVE almost anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and almost everywhere they do, they are an issue. In the vast emptiness of the northern tundra or the Arabian desert, on the outskirts of a European town or in the safety of an American national park, in meager agricultural lands in India or mountains in rich Norway or Switzerland, wolves always attract people's attention. Wolves form a key part of many ecosystems, and they are considered charismatic creatures by most human cultures. Thus they polarize public opinion and make headlines year after year.

If we look back 6o years to the first landmark monograph by Young and Goldman (1944), or just 30 years to Mech's (1970) volume, we can see that both scientific knowledge of wolf biology and human attitudes toward the wolf have improved tremendously. The wolf has benefited from, and has often been a protagonist and a symbol of, the remarkable changes in the way Western societies regard conservation. However, much of this improvement paralleled the increasing distance between urban and rural cultures, and most of the changes occurred in urban populations.