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The wolf has led an uneasy existence and has been cast as a force of evil, dangerous and an uncontrollable savage for thousands of years. As far back as 500BC, Aesops Fables represented the wolf as a creature symbolising evil. During The Middle Ages, many believed in the existence of werewolves. Deemed to possess the power of Satan, a human could take on the form of the wolf and feed upon fellow humans in a most goulish manner. Today, wolves still suffer from a negative image; as man-eaters and livestock destroyers. Wolf conservationists across the world are working to free the wolf of that destructive image

American-European settlers in North America were responsible for virtually eliminating the wolf through poaching, poisoning, shooting and the destruction of natural habitat. Today, because of the protection and reintroduction of the species, North America's population of wolves is estimated at 70,000. In Europe, the wolf population is estimated between 15,000 and 18,000. The status and protection of the wolf varies from country to country. Spain has the largest wolf population with an estimated 2,000 wolves, however the population is under threat because of poaching and habitat loss. Polish government legislation has ensured the smaller population of around 650 to 800 will be protected.

Many wolf conservationists feel the biggest threat to wolves worldwide is the loss of habitat. Human populations, agriculture, and reclamation of land, clearly indicates the wolf is running out of wilderness and is also forced to live in closer proximity to humans and are adapting to these conditions. In urban Italy, wolves live alone or in pairs rather than in packs and have learned to scavenge and hunt smaller prey. Unfortunately, the closer the wolf is to humans, the easier they are to poach. Conservationists believe that by educating people about the true nature of this shy, intelligent creature along with preserving and restoring natural habitats, the wolf has a future.

Not all cultures in the world have such a dark view of the wolf. Native Indians revered the wolf for its strength, loyalty and prowess, and have always lived in a peaceful co-existence with the animal. For the wolf, as for many species in today's world, the question is, after many years of unbridled slaughter and habitat destruction, we must learn to live alongside these creatures... can we?

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