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The Manitoba wolf is in many ways an animal of legend, and one of its many nicknames, "the elusive wolf," might describe it best. Some experts believe that this species of wolf never existed, and, if it did, is now extinct. Other experts believe that the gray wolf subspecies classified by Spencer Baird in 1858 as Canis lupus griseoalbus, or the Manitoba wolf, is actually the same as the Hudson Bay wolf, Canis lupus hudsonicus.
This subspecies of wolf is said to have inhabited the area from Central Manitoba to Northern Saskatchewan. The many nicknames given to this wolf include the Saskatchewan timber wolf and the grizzly wolf. The Manitoba wolf is described as being a large wolf, gray to white in color, that preyed primarily upon caribou.
If it is not the same subspecies as the Hudson Bay wolf, most experts agree it would have been very similar to this subspecies. The Hudson Bay wolf, which is listed as endangered, roams a territory that is the same as that described for the Manitoba wolf. The Hudson Bay wolf also has a similar physical description.
These wolves are about 3 feet tall (0.9 m) at the shoulder and weigh as much as 140 pounds (63 kg). Their coloring ranges from light gray to a creamy white. The Hudson Bay wolf, sometimes called Hudson's wolf, hunts in packs and will take down large prey such as caribou.
If the Manitoba wolf did exist as a separate subspecies of the gray wolf, it is not the only North American wolf to have been driven to extinction. Among these are the Kenai Peninsula wolf, one of North America's largest wolves, weighing as much as 200 pounds (90 kg), that was extinct as the result of poisoning, hunting and trapping by 1925. Other subspecies, smaller than the Manitoba or the Kenai Peninsula wolves, that met similar fates include the Southern Rocky Mountain wolf, the Texas wolf and the Cascade Mountain wolf. All of these subspecies went extinct during the 20th century.
Most North American subspecies of the gray wolf that do survive are only found in pockets of their original range. There are captive breeding programs, however, that have sought to reintroduce some endangered subspecies back into the territories where they once roamed. This reintroduction is often controversial, especially in agricultural areas where it is feared the wolves will feed on livestock.