Wolves: Biology and Controversy

Thank you for choosing this wildlife module. Wolves catch the attention of almost everyone but rarely for the same reasons.  The adjectives used to describe wolves run the spectrum from beautiful and majestic to ferocious and sneaky.

As a biologist interested in human-wildlife interactions, the fact that wolves are a keystone species as well as the controversy and misconceptions about them makes wolves a particularly intriguing topic of study.

After being extripated from almost the entire continental United States, wolves have been reintroduced into several areas of their previous habitat.  Thirteen years after their reintroduction in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, I had the opportunity to work on wolf predation studies in the area.  Other scientists studied the effects of wolves on the entire ecosystem.  It is fascinating to learn how the presence of wolves not only affects the size of the ungulate population, but also where ungulates move and even the condition of trees and song birds in the area.


courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wolves are an excellent subject for biological study as well as a useful tool for examining the intricate relationship between humans and the environment.  Though there are dozens of misconceptions about wolves, I have learned (as will your students) that some of the most diverse perspectives on the wolf debate are entirely valid.  Being able to understand the perspectives of all sides of an issue will greatly enhance the ability for students to make educated decisions on their future actions.

Human beings have the greatest impact on their environment out of any other species on the planet.  It is essential for youth to understand how their actions and decisions are affecting the world around them.  Ecological, social, economic, political, and environmental implications are seen in the largest and smallest decisions in our daily lives.  Pairing this wildlife module with a service volunteer project with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte will place your students directly into a habitat where many wildlife species currently live, and some, such as the wolf, once lived and could one day return.  The activity they participate in will help to show them first-hand the extent human decisions and mentalities have on the environment.  Students will be led closer to making personal opinions about whether or not human actions on the environment are positive, negative, or somewhere in between.


Sarah Lykens

Outreach Assistant

Coalition for the Upper South Platte

Service opportunities through CUSP that would complement this curriculum include activities within the areas of habitat restoration, forest health, stream bank stabilization, trail work, invasive species removal, and any other activity that improves wildlife habitat in the watershed. To schedule a service learning activity, please click here.

Teacher’s Guide

Walking Through the Curriculum
The Wolves: Biology and Controversy Module consists of a pre- and post-assessment, three classroom activities for your students, and a service learning day with CUSP.  The activities and supporting documents provided will cover information on the biology of wolves, their role as a keystone species, and management options and complications.

The pre-assessment can be accessed here.  The access code is KJL5B5.  Please give your students the access code and assign them a “first” and “last” name with which to enter to take the test.  Because the test results will be visible to CUSP, we suggest that you assign your students a unique number sequence for their “first” name and your school name and grade for their “last” name so that they remain anonymous to us yet identifiable to you. Example:  First name – 123, Last name – Arapahoe 9th. 

Once your class has completed the service learning module, they need to take the post-assessment here.  The access code for it is TSJ8LB, and they can use the same name as they used for the pre-assessment.  CUSP will send you the results of the assessments.

The following link will take you to the complete curriculum guide:
Teacher’s Master Guide
  in pdf format



Students will: (1) Understand the significance of keystone species and population interactions in an ecosystem; (2) Understand some system-wide implications of human actions on the environment; (3) Research and discuss diverse perspectives on wolf conflict, create a plan for wolf management, and practice compromise; (4) Participate in fieldwork to observe and mitigate environmental effects of human behavior.

The Objectives, Standards, and STEM Connections document provides more detail on the applicable state standards for this module. 



Teachers will be required to show proof of classroom work before going into the field.  The entire curriculum will take approximately 4 to 5 hours, plus a day of volunteering.

Pre-Assessment: 15 minutes

Ecological Aspect:

Biodiversity Case Study: 20 minutes

Ripple Effect Lesson: 1 hour

Management Aspect:

Fact or Myth Activity: 20-30 minutes

Diverse Perspectives Activity: 2 hours

Post-Assessment: 15 minutes 



All documents are available below under Teacher Resources

Biodiversity Case Study: One case study handout per student

Ripple Effect Activity :Set of evidence cards (per student/group), poster board or other large surface for creating evidence card concept map (per student/group), Writing instrument (per student/group),

Fact or Myth Activity: Fact or Myth statements (per class), white board, dry erase marker

Diverse Perspectives Activity: Perspective handouts (per group), Minnesota state management summary (per group), management plan form (per group), writing instrument (per group), item used as a ‘talking stick’

Supplies needed and estimated time required in pdf format

Teacher Resources

Background Information

Biodiversity Case Study

Ripple Effect Activity

Fact or Myth Activity

Diverse Perspectives Activity

Minnesota Wolf Management Plan Summary

Living with Wolves: Wolf Hunting in Perspective

Living with Wolves: Environmental Groups Weigh In

Living with Wolves: A Rancher’s Perspective

Living with Wolves: The Cost to Ranchers

Perspectives – Wolf Management Form


Suggested Reading

International Wolf Center: www.wolf.org
Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani. The University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Us Fish and Wildlife Service Grey Wolf Websites: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/; http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/; http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/



International Wolf Center: www.wolf.org
Defenders of Wildlife: www.defenders.org
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Species Profile: http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A00D
Wolves and Economics http://wyoming.sierraclub.org/WOLVES%20AND%20ECONOMICS.pdf
Living with Wolves: Environmental Groups weigh in http://www.kpax.com/news/living-with-wolves-environmental-groups-weigh-in/#!prettyPhoto/0/
Perspectives: An environmentalist’s view on wolves http://www.capitalpress.com/content/wcc-rr-wolf-environmental-cameo-w-art
Living With Wolves: Wolf Hunting In Perspective
Living with Wolves: A rancher’s perspective
Living with Wolves: The cost to ranchers
Minnesota Wolf Management Plan http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/stateplans/mnplnsum.htm



International Wolf Center: www.wolf.org and http://www.wolf.org/wolves/learn/basic/faqs/faq.asp#27
Defenders of Wildlife: http://www.defenders.org/programs_and_policy/wildlife_conservation/imperiled_species/wolves/wolf_recovery_efforts/northeast_wolves/myths_facts.php and http://www.defenders.org/programs_and_policy/wildlife_conservation/solutions/wolf_compensation_trust/wolf_predation_and_livestock_losses.php
Disease, Domestic Dogs, and the Ethiopian Wolf. Chapter 4.  Laurenson, K., F. Shiferaw, and C. Sillero-Zubiri.  http://www.canids.org/PUBLICAT/EWACTPLN/EWAP%20Chapter%204%20Disease%20and%20Domestic%20Dogs.PDF
Origin of dogs traced.  BBC News. 22 November, 2002.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2498669.stm

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