The grey wolf or gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf or simply wolf, is the largest wild member of the Canidae family. It is an ice age survivor originating during the Late Pleistocene around 300,000 years ago. DNA sequencing and genetic drift studies reaffirm that the gray wolf shares a common ancestry with the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). Although certain aspects of this conclusion have been questioned, including recently, the main body of evidence confirms it. A number of other gray wolf subspecies have been identified, though the actual number of subspecies is still open to discussion. Gray wolves are typically apex predators in the ecosystems they occupy. Though not as adaptable as more generalist canid species, wolves have thrived in temperate forests, deserts, mountains, tundra, taiga, grasslands, and even urban areas.
Though once abundant over much of Eurasia and North America, the gray wolf inhabits a very small portion of its former range because of widespread destruction of its territory, human encroachment of its habitat, and the resulting human-wolf encounters that sparked broad extirpation. Even so, the gray wolf is regarded as being of least concern for extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, when the entire gray wolf population is considered as a whole. Today, wolves are protected in some areas, hunted for sport in others, or may be subject to extermination as perceived threats to livestock and pets.
In areas where human cultures and wolves are sympatric, wolves frequently feature in the folklore and mythology of those cultures, both positively and negatively.
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