October 14th to October 20th marks National Wolf Awareness Week. It is a time when the ignorant myths regarding the wolf are to be brought to light. Many people are afraid
of wolves, and many people believe very inaccurate so called "truths" regarding wolves. This site is meant as a place of information regarding an animal that I respect, and
adore, the wolf. It is not meant to persuade your opinion by giving biased information.
First, I'll give you the scientific info regarding wolves.
There are several different species of wolves. The actual classification of wolves is as follows:
||Animalia (all animals)|
||Chordata (animals with notochords)|
||Vertebrata (animals with a skeleton of bone or cartilage)|
||Eutheria (placental mammals)|
||Carnivora (meat eaters)|
||Canidae (dog family)|
||Lupis - Grey Wolf species (multiple sub species')
Rufus - Red Wolf
- Lupis Arctos - Arctic Wolf
- Lupis Baileyi - Mexican Wolf
- Lupis Lycaon - Eastern Timber Wolf
- Lupis Nubilus - Buffalo Wolf
- Lupis Occidentalis - Mackenzie Valley Wolf
Familiaris - Domestic Dog
Latrans - Coyote
Wolves are the descendants of a generalized, carnivore ancestor called Creodont which lived about 100 million years ago. This carnivore was common to all modern carnivores
such as cats, dogs and bears.
The gray wolf is the largest of all canines, growing up to 5.5 feet long and 2.5 feet tall. The tail grows from 15 to 19 inches on average. A fully grown male wolf can weigh
over 100 pounds. The wolf has gray fur with long tawny-colored legs, a narrow chest, and tawny-colored flanks. The males are 20% larger than females, and both genders get
larger the further north they are found.
Wolves are an extremely social animal.
They exist as a social unit called a pack. Pack sizes vary, averaging seven or less, depending on many variables including the current numbers of the wolf population, the
abundance of food, and social factors within the wolf pack. Wolves hunt, travel, and rest as a pack. Within each pack is an elaborate hierarchy. It usually consists of a
single breeding pair, the Alpha male and female, a lower group consisting of non-breeding adults, each with its own ranking, a group of outcasts, and a group of immature
wolves on their way up. The lowest ranking wolf is called the Omega wolf. Some of the younger wolves of the pack may leave to find vacant territory and a mate.
Wolves use body language and facial expressions to communicate with each other. Dominant wolves will freely look other animals directly in the eye, this declares and
reinforces their superior rank. A subordinate wolf will cringe towards the leader with tail low and bent legs, ears back and down, in a submissive nature. At other times,
active submission involves a group of subordinate wolves surrounding the dominant wolf with their noses up against it. Various facial muscles, eyes, ears and the nose are
extremely important when wolves are expressing their feelings. Bared teeth, an open mouth, ears erect and pointed forward indicate a threat by a dominant wolf.
Wolves are also very territorial animals and do not readily share it with wolves who are not members of their pack. Wolves communicate and mark their territories by scent.
They often do this by urinating near the edges of their territory, and on stumps, rocks and logs that are within their territory. Most of this is done by the dominant wolves,
usually the alpha male.
Wolves are naturally carnivores, meaning they eat only meat.
In a pack they can take down large animals such as elk, moose, and deer. In order to avoid wasting energy hunting, wolves prey on weaker members of herd animals. The old,
young, or sick make much easier targets, as well as much less dangerous for the wolves.
Alone, wolves will eat insects, worms, and even berries. In summer, when the herds migrate, wolves will eat mice, birds, and fish. Wolves can even eat carrion if need be.
Wolves always eat their food very quickly, to prevent it from being stolen by other animals. They will eat the best parts of their kill first, and return later for what
remains. They hide excess food in the snow and dirt, to protect it from scavengers, as well as preserve it.
If food is abundant, wolves can eat every 5-6 hours, but when food is scarce, they can still survive on light scraps for weeks. Their digestion is very efficient, allowing
them to fully digest most meat. Bone fragments that are not broken down somehow become wrapped in undigested hair, protecting the fragile intestines from injury. Pups are fed
by the adults who disgorge fresh meat from their stomachs, or carry back fresh pieces of meat to the den.
Although some claim that wolves eat humans, you actually stand a better chance of getting hit by a meteorite than killed by a wolf. Wolves rarely even attack humans, and
there has never been a documented case of a healthy wild wolf killing a human in North America. In contrast, 20 people are killed by domesticated dogs every year, and 3
million are attacked.
- It is said that wolves howl at the moon. This is a misconception, as wolves howl for many reasons when they are most active, which is often at night, thus the correlation of howling at the moon was made.
- Wolves howl to greet one another, to indicate their location, to define their territorial boundaries, and to call the pack together.
- Wolves are endangered in the lower 48 states, and threatened in Minnesota.
- They can reach up to 45 mph in short sprints and can run 25 mph for several miles. Their normal trot is at about 5 mph.
- The wolf has 42 teeth.
- The wolf has extremely powerful jaws capable of generating 1,500 psi pressure.
- The mating season for the wolf occurs in February and March.
- The gestation period for the wolf is roughly 60 days.
- Wolf pups are usually born in April and May.
- The average litter size for the wolf is 4 to 7 pups.
- Wolves will attack intruders (animals, and other wolves) to protect their territory.
- The main threat to wolf populations is loss of habitat.
- Radio tracking wolves has been used in wildlife research since 1963.
- A wolf's canine teeth "interlock" so it can grip and hang on to struggling prey.
- The back teeth, or carnassial molars, are designed to crush bones and shear meat.
- The hair of the wolf is shed in the spring and summer and sheds out in sheets unlike most dogs.
- The wolf's sense of smell is more than 100 times greater than a human.
- The hierarchy in a wolf pack neutralizes aggression, reduces conflict and promotes social order.
- There are two hierarchies in a wolf pack, one for females and one for males.
- Change of rank in a wolf pack is more frequent in lower rank positions.
- Wolf pups, while low in hierarchy, have many privileges and social freedom.
- In the winter, the wolf's tail helps keep the face warm.
- Wolves breed only once a year; most dogs breed twice.
- Arctic tundra, taiga, plains, steppes, savannahs, hardwood and softwood forests were all originally inhabited by the wolf.
- A wolf may spend as much as a third of its time on the move.
- The wolf is generally a docile animal with a strong aversion to fighting.
- A wolf's front feet are larger than their back feet.
- Packs hunt in territories of up to 600 square miles.
- Pups emerge from the den at about one month of age.
- All members of a wolf pack take part in caring for the young.
- Wolves are active at all times of the day in winter.
- Ambushing is used by both single wolves and by packs.
- A wolf can consume almost twenty pounds of prey at a feeding.
- It is common for wolves to be moving eight to ten hours in a day.
All pictures have been taken from assorted web pages. If any are copyrighted, please inform me so that I may remove them.
www.wolf.org - The International Wolf Center.
www.wolfcountry.net - The Richard E. Flauto Wildlife Foundation.
www.wolfweb.com - Wolf Web. Tons of info on wolves.
www.timberwolfinformation.org - The Timber Wolf Information Network.
www.graywolf.ca - Wolf Awareness Inc.
www.defenders.org/waw - Defenders of Wildlife.
www.baysmountain.com/mainpages/wolfcam.html - A Webcam of a wolf exhibit.
www.wolfsongalaska.org - Wolf song of Alaska.