The gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf or, simply, wolf, is a mammal of the order Carnivora. The gray wolf is the largest member of the genus Canis. Its shoulder height ranges from 0.6 to 0.9 meters (26ï¿½36 inches) and its weight typically varies between 32 and 62 kilograms (70ï¿½135 pounds). As evidenced by DNA sequencing and genetic drift studies, the gray wolf shares a common ancestry with the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). The gray wolf was once abundant over much of North America and Eurasia. However, as a result of habitat destruction and widespread hunting, it now inhabits a very limited portion of its former range. In some regions, gray wolves are listed as endangered or threatened, although considered as a whole, wolves are regarded as a species of least concern for extinction according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Wolves are still hunted in many areas of the world for sport and as perceived threats to livestock. Kazakhstan is currently thought to have the largest wolf population of any nation in the world, with as many as 90,000, versus some 60,000 for Canada, which is three and a half times larger. Being apex predators, gray wolves are integral components of the ecosystems they typically occupy. The diversity of such ecosystems reflects its adaptability as a species, as the ecosystems in which wolves have been known to thrive include, but are not limited to, temperate forests, deserts, mountains, tundra, taiga, and grasslands. Wolves feature in folklore and mythology of cultures ancient to modern across the northern hemisphere; from the Norse legend of the giant Fenrir to more sympathetic depictions in Central Asia and the suckling of Romulus and Remus in the foundation of Rome. More familiar still are the fairy tales where the wolf appears as a villain such as Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. Wolf legends have also given rise to the popular horror figure of the werewolf.
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