How Long Have Wolves Been on Earth?

The gray wolf (Canis lupis) originated in Eurasia during the Pleistocene era, approximately one million years ago, and migrated to North America roughly 750,000 years ago. Wolf ancestors emerged in the Paleocene era, some 60 million years ago. These were primitive carnivores, before the canine and feline families became distinct.

Another species of wolf, the dire wolf or Canis dirus, emerged around the same time as the gray wolf. The dire wolf evolved more rapidly and coexisted with the gray wolf, but the species is now extinct. The gray wolf became the predominant canine predator in North America some 7,000 years ago.

While humans present a threat to gray wolf habitats, the species is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The red wolf (Canis rufus), also found in North American, is considered critically endangered. The other species of wolf, the Abyssinian wolf (Canis simensis), is found only in Ethiopia, where its population is estimated at 550 wolves.