Frequently Asked Questions
A comprehensive index to the most commonly asked wolf-related questions.
What is the scientific classification of the gray wolf?
Species: C. lupus
Binomial name: Canis lupus (Linnaeus, 1758)
What is the average weight, height and length of a wolf?
Adult female gray wolves weigh between 50 and 85 pounds and adult males between 70 and 110 pounds. The average length (tip of nose to tip of tail) of an adult female gray wolf is 4.5 to 6 feet; adult males average 5 to 6.5 feet. The average height (at the shoulder) of a gray wolf is 26 to 32 inches.
What is the weight/size of the biggest/largest wolf ever recorded?
The heaviest recorded gray wolf in North America was killed on 70 Mile River in east-central Alaska on July 12, 1939 and weighed 175 lbs, while the heaviest recorded wolf in Eurasia was killed after World War II in Kobeliaky, Poltavskij Region, Ukrainian SSR, and weighed 190 lbs. Wolves rarely exceed over 120 pounds in weight, but exceptionally large individuals have been recorded in Alaska, Canada, and the former Soviet Union.
How many teeth wolves have?
Wolves have 42 teeth specialized for stabbing, shearing and crushing bones. The first four teeth, front and bottom, are called incisors, and are used for nipping and gnawing meat from the bone. Wolves use their canine teeth, which can grow to be 2 inches in length, for gripping and holding itself to the prey animal. The premolars are used for slicing and grinding. The specialized molars, called carnassials, are used for slicing and tearing. The last molars are used for pulverizing and grinding food.
How many scent glands wolves have and where are they located?
Wolves have three scent glands. A precaudal gland is located on the lower part/the base of the tail and the other two glands are positioned around their eyes and between their toes. Wolves use their glands to spread scent messages which work as invisible signals for other wolves (i.e. scent-rolling to mark territory). Female wolves also produce pheromones during the breeding season.
When do wolves breed, how long is their gestation period, when are their young ones born and how much do they weigh?
Wolves breed once a year in late winter or early spring depending on where they live. The standard gray wolf's mating season takes place in February to March. Wolves that live in Arctic regions typically breed a few weeks later, in March to April. Red wolves breed in late January or early February.
The gestation period (length of pregnancy) of gray and red wolves is usually around 63 days. Wolf pups are born in spring time and they are deaf and blind, and their weight at birth is most normally 1 pound.
How fast can wolves run?
Wolves will travel for long distances by trotting at about 5 miles per hour. They can run at speeds of 36 to 38 miles per hour for short bursts while chasing prey. Although bursts of maximum speed are relatively short, wolves can maintain pursuit of running prey animals for long distances and over rough terrain.
How far can wolves travel?
Wolves are hunters, and they travel far and wide to locate prey. They may travel 50 miles or more each day in search of food, and they are superbly designed for a life on the move.
What do wolves eat?
Wolves are carnivores, or meat-eaters. Gray wolves prey primarily on ungulates - large, hoofed mammals such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, Dall sheep, musk oxen, and mountain goats. Medium-sized mammals, such as beaver and snowshoe hares, can be an important secondary food source. Occasionally wolves will prey on birds or small mammals such as mice and voles, but these are supplementary to their requirements for large amounts of meat. Wolves have been observed catching fish in places like Alaska and western Canada. They will also kill and eat domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep, and they will consume carrion if no fresh meat is available. Some wolves eat small amounts of fruit, although this is not a significant part of their diet. If prey is abundant, wolves may not consume an entire carcass, or they may leave entire carcasses without eating. This is called "surplus killing" and seems inconsistent with the wolves' habit of killing because they are hungry. Surplus killing seems to occur when prey are vulnerable and easy to catch - in winter, for instance, when there is deep snow. Since wolves are programmed to kill when possible, they may simply be taking advantage of unusual situations when wild prey are relatively easy to catch. They may return later to feed on an unconsumed carcass, or they may leave it to a host of scavengers. Additionally, they may cache food and dig it up at a later time.
Red wolves primarily prey on white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits, nutria and other rodents.
What is the hunting technique of a wolf?
The wolf has a very distinct hunting strategy, described in detail in Chapter VII of David Mech's book, The Wolf (1970). Wolves hunt in packs (their basic social organization) so that they can catch and kill much larger prey. This is usually easier said than done, and so with the wolf, food is either "feast or famine" (Rutter & Pimlott, 1968). The wolf's hunting technique is divided up into very distinct stages:
1) LOCATING - This stage is often the most difficult. Wolves have been known to follow migrating herds of ungulates in order to keep touch with their food source (Rutter & Pimlott, 1968; Herman & Willard, 1978), others simply move about their home range looking for potential prey. The wolf finds prey either by using direct scenting, chance encounter, or tracking. Scenting is the most common way of detecting prey, as wolves (like most canines) have a very good sense of smell. It has been documented that wolves can smell prey as far as 1.5 miles away, but a more common estimate is from 300-500 yards.
2) STALKING - Direct scenting and tracking allow wolves to follow prey for long distances without being seen. In stalking, the wolf sneaks as close to the prey as possible without being detected and making it run away. Wolves can usually get very close because they move upwind.
3) ENCOUNTER - In this stage, the wolf confronts its prey. The prey animal can respond by either, approaching the wolves, standing its ground, or fleeing. Because of their large size, moose will typically stand their ground and are very effective in this defense. When wolves see that their prey is not running away, they stop their approach and wait for it to run because wolves have a unique way of killing their prey. Some wolf packs will surround their prey and lunge at it, trying to entice it to run (Rutter & Pimlott, 1968).
4) RUSH - This occurs when the prey flees from the wolves. During this stage, the wolves must move quickly and get close to their prey to give themselves to catch it.
5) CHASE - This is an extension of the rush, where the wolf either gets within striking distance and may attack, or falls behind and will give up the chase altogether. Wolves will sometime chase their prey for miles, but more commonly, chases are short sprints.
When caught, it was typically thought that wolves kill their prey by using a technique called "hamstringing." Many anecdotal reports say that wolves will cut the large Achilles' tendon that connects the hamstring muscles to the bone in their prey, thus making the animal unable to run. A rather interesting way to kill prey, but more recent studies have not shown wolves to use this technique, so hamstringing is a current issue of debate. Rutter and Pimlott (1968) point out that wolves typically attack from the rear, tearing at hindquarters and legs of their prey. These wounds lead to loss of blood and shock, at which time, some will spring onto a prey's rump and begin to eat it.
Another very interesting aspect of hunting in the wolf is the use of strategy to catch and kill their prey. Rutter and Pimlott (1968) document one encounter where a pack of wolves located a deer on the edge of its group and all began chasing it. Knowing that deer tend to run in circular patterns when trying to escape, the subordinate wolves backed off the deer while the dominant male continued to chase it... directly to the waiting members of the pack. This is just one example of hunting strategy in wolves give them a better chance of being successful in their hunt. Even with these strategies, it is estimated that wolves still only catch from 7 to 10% of the potential prey they test.
How much do wolves eat?
Getting enough to eat is a full-time job for a wolf. When wolves catch and kill a large mammal, they will gorge and then rest while the food is being rapidly digested. They will generally consume all but the hide, some of the large bones and skull and the rumen (stomach contents of ungulates) of their prey. Gray wolves can survive on about 2 1/2 pounds of food per wolf per day, but they require about 7 pounds per wolf per day to reproduce successfully. The most a large gray wolf can eat at one time is about 22.5 pounds. Adult wolves can survive for days and even weeks without food if they have to. Growing pups, however, require regular nourishment in order to be strong enough to travel and hunt with the adults by the autumn of their first year. Wolves often rely on food they have cached after a successful hunt in order to see them through lean times.
Red wolves may eat 2 to 5 pounds of food per day when prey is abundant. Because they are smaller than gray wolves, they can consume less at one time than their larger cousins. But like all wolves, eating for red wolves is a matter of "feast" followed by "famine".
What is the lifespan of a wolf?
It is misleading to say that wolves in the wild live an average of a certain number of years. There are so many variables. Some wolves die soon after they are born, and others are killed or die in early or middle adulthood. Members of the dog family like wolves and domestic dogs can live to be 15 or 16 years old - sometimes even older. Dogs and wolves in captivity have a better shot at making it to a ripe old age because they usually receive routine veterinary care and regular meals. However, wild wolves have a tough life filled with pitfalls. Many pups don't make it through the first winter of their lives. Those that survive the first two years have a pretty good chance of living another two to four years if they can avoid fatal injury and if they can get enough to eat. Some wild wolves do live to be 9 or 10, and there are verified records of a few living into their early teens.
What is a wolf pack?
A wolf pack is a cohesive family unit consisting of the adult parents and their offspring of the current year, and perhaps the previous year and sometimes two years or more. Wolf parents used to be incorrectly referred to as the "alpha male" and "alpha female", or the "alpha pair", but these terms have been replaced by the more appropriate "breeding male", "breeding female", and "breeding pair”, or simply "parents". The adult parents are usually unrelated, and other unrelated wolves may sometimes join the pack. The acceptance of other wolves into the pack is uncommon, but possible. See also: Wolf Pack Hierarchy for brief explanation and background, Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs for a more detailed and in-depth analysis, and "Alpha" Wolf? for video commentary by Dr. L. David Mech.
Do wolves accept rogue/lone/stranger wolves into their pack?
How many pups wolves can have?Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation by David Mech and Luigi Boitani wrote:Strange wolves sometimes temporarily join packs already containing a breeding pair. We will refer to these animals as 'adoptees' to distinguish them from wolves that enter a pack to replace a lost breeder. Most adoptees are males, and most 'adoptions' take place from February to May.
One of the main mysteries of this behavior is why strange wolves are sometimes allowed to join packs, whereas in so many other cases they are chased, attacked, or killed.
Outsiders are more likely to be accepted into a family by a widowed breeder seeking a new mate.
An average litter size for gray and red wolves is 4 to 6, but sometimes fewer pups are born and sometimes more.
How do wolves choose their mate?
The breeding pair in Canis lupus are in a lifelong monogamous relationship, meaning they are pair bonded for life. An unrelated adult wolf will sometimes be adopted into a pack and take over mating duties if one of the breeding pair dies. If this occurs, mating can also occur between the newly accepted step-parent and offspring of the replaced individual (Mech, 1999). It is considered facultative monogamy because the female is capable of raising the pups on her own if she had to, but the male makes it easier for her by bringing food, defending the den, and letting the female conserve her energy for milk production. Also, the food source is not really defensible, and so the female does not rely on the male to secure food for her, or any other precious resource for that matter.
The urge to mate does not begin in wolves until they are about 22 months old, and this urge accompanies the leaving of the young from the pack. This is one proposed mechanism to prevent inbreeding (Mech, 1999; Smith et al., 1997). Affectionate behavior begins before the female comes into heat. The male and female will rub heads, bunt snouts, and snuffle each other throughout the year.
How big is a wolf's track?
The size of a wolf's track is dependent on the age and size of the wolf, as well as the substrate the track was made in. A good size estimate for a gray wolf's track size is 4 1/2 inches long by 3 1/2 inches wide. In comparison, a coyote's track will be closer to 2 1/2 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide. Only a few breeds of dogs leave tracks longer than 4 inches (Great Danes, St. Bernards, and some bloodhounds). Red wolves have smaller feet than gray wolves.
All wolves have feet superbly adapted to long-distance travel over different types of terrain and through (and over!) snow. The wolf's blocky feet and long, flexible toes conform to uneven terrain, thus allowing the animal to maintain speed when necessary as well as a tireless, ground-eating trot when traveling.
How strong are wolves' jaws?
The massive molars and powerful jaws of a wolf are used to crush the bones of its prey. The biting capacity of a wolf is 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch. The strength of a wolf's jaws makes it possible to bite through a moose femur in six to eight bites. In comparison, a German Shepherd has a biting pressure of 750 pounds per square inch. A human has a much lower biting pressure of 300 pounds per square inch.
In what habitats do wolves live in?
The wolf habitat includes almost all Northern Hemisphere habitat types including artic tundra, plains, savannahs, hardwood, softwood, and mixed forest environments. Before the species became endangered, wolves occupied extensive ranges throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Japan. Because of the increasing human presence throughout most of the hemisphere, the largest concentration of wolves today is found in the northern area of North America, including many Canadian provinces and Alaska. In some areas, wolf density is as high as one wolf per 25 square miles. Because of this, the typical wolf habitat in North America today is the frozen tundra. Wolves are also found in Europe, Scandinavia, and throughout the mountainous regions in Italy, Spain and Poland (Mech, 1970).
What are the natural "enemies" of a wolf?
Wolves have no critical natural "enemies" although some other predators (bears, coyotes, lynxes, foxes, wolverines, eagles, and other wolves) are prone to kill off their young ones (e.g. bears have been documented to dig up wolf dens).
Aggressive encounters between wolves and tigers have been documented in the Russian Far East, as well as conflicts between wolves and wolverines in Scandinavia. Wolves sometimes encounter dholes (Asian wild dogs) in Asia, but little is known of these encounters.
Wolves rarely encounter other predatory animals and when they do, the confrontations are often short, and over very quickly without any serious fatalities inflicted (excluding encounters with tigers, which tend to be deadly).
How many species of wolf are there?
There are three universally recognized species of wolf: the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the * red wolf (Canis rufus) and the ** Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis).
* It is important to note that red wolf is high in coyote ancestry (roughly 75%) and is a coyote-wolf hybrid, with whatever "distinction" it had once as a "unique" wolf essentially diluted and gone. See: A genome-wide perspective on the evolutionary history of enigmatic wolf-like canids
** In regards to the Ethiopian wolf, see Figure 1 of the above study and Figure 10 of Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog; you will notice that, in comparison, the coyote and golden jackal are more closely related to the gray wolf than the Ethiopian wolf itself. In turn, this begs the question of whether or not we should consider coyotes and jackals as "wolves," too, or if we should only consider "wolves" as Canis lupus and its subspecies. See also Wolf-like canid phylogeny by La Striata which illustrates and proposes the argument.
The African wolf was considered a subspecies of the golden jackal (Canis aureus); however, studies in 2011 believed that it may be more accurately classified as a subspecies of the gray wolf under Canis lupus lupaster. (African grey wolf compendium is a useful compilation of recent studies shared right here on the forums.) Recently, a 2015 study declared that it was a separate species entirely (Canis anthus), though closely related to wolves (but not as closely related as coyotes).
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 2215007873
Currently, there are a total of 12 officially classified subspecies of the gray wolf.
Five (5) North American ones and seven (7) Eurasian ones.
Subspecies: North America
- Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos)
Eastern Timber Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon)
Great Plains Wolf (Canis lupus nubilus)
Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
Northwestern Gray Wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis)
- Eurasian Wolf (Canis lupus lupus)
Italian Wolf (Canis lupus italicus)
Arabian Wolf (Canis lupus arabs)
Steppe Wolf (Canis lupus campestris)
Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes)
Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus signatus)
Tundra Wolf (Canis lupus albus)
The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) and some species of wild dog, such as the Australian dingo (Canis lupus dingo) and the New Guinea Singing Dog, are also considered as subspecies of the gray wolf.
What are the eye colors of a wolf?
Wolves are born with limpid blue eyes. The color reduces/fades and becomes lighter as the wolves mature and eventually the color of the eyes changes into any shade of amber, yellow, ocher, gold, or brown. Wolves can also have bluish or greenish tints in their eyes, but very rarely an adult wolf has blue or green eyes. Fully-grown wolves with blue or green eyes are not unheard of, but the condition of the eyes is caused by a rare genetic defect, or "glitch", and therefore blue or green-eyed wolves are extremely uncommon.
Pure-blooded wild wolves have not been documented being bi-eyed (heterochromic; having two differently colored eyes). Heterochromia is a common trait in Northern dog breeds and low and midrange wolfdogs, but not in wolves or high-content wolfdogs.
What are the coat colors of a wolf?
All wolves, including the Arctic wolves, which are known for their white coats, are born with a dark fur. The color will change and become more prominent as the wolves grow up. The color of a wolf's coat is often a multicolored mixture of earthly colors such as brown, tan, white, gray and black (in all of their shades and tones), and the coat pattern is cryptic and unbroken. The black color in North American wolves is caused by a recessive gene called melanin (hence the name; ”melanistic wolves”), and it was most likely introduced to the existing wolf population as a result of hybridization with domestic dogs brought from the Old World (Europe).
How far does a wolf leap?
Wolves can bound and leap as far as 16 feet.
How big is the territory of a wolf pack?
In most regions where wolves live, each wolf pack has its own territory, an area in which it lives, hunts and raises its offspring and which it actively defends against other canids (dog-like animals), including other wolves. Exceptions are nomadic wolves whose prey is migratory such as the tundra wolves that follow the caribou herds on their annual treks over huge distances. Territory size is highly variable and depends on a number of factors such as prey abundance, the nature of the terrain, climate and the presence of other predators including other wolf packs. Gray wolf territories in the lower 48 states may be less than 100 square miles while territories in Alaska and Canada can range from about 300 to 1,000 square miles or more.
Red wolf territories in northeastern North Carolina vary in size, but most are estimated to range between 38 to 87 square miles.
What is the shape of a wolf territory?
Do wolf territories border each other?Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation by David Mech and Luigi Boitani wrote:Theoretically, if territory holders are competing maximally with neighbors, territorial mosaics should resemble the hexagonal cells of honeybee hives. This spacing allows the maximum number of territories with the least space among them. The earliest published wolf territorial mosaic fits this model, as do most later reports including sufficient numbers of territories.
Territory shape will never be accurately determined, however, due to the current radio collar method.
. . . Shapes of territories are a wide variety of shapes... but never circles or ovals. In addition, there are no shapes that I recognize... just a bunch of lines making a shape.
Wolf territories frequently border each other and several packs may have overlapping territories.
How to distinguish a wolf from a dog?
Compared to equally sized wolves, dogs tend to have 20% smaller skulls, 30% smaller brains, as well as proportionately smaller teeth than other canid species. Dogs require fewer calories to function than wolves. Their diet of human refuse in antiquity made the large brains and jaw muscles needed for hunting unnecessary. It is thought by certain experts that the dog's limp ears are a result of atrophy of the jaw muscles. The skin of domestic dogs tends to be thicker than that of wolves, with some Inuit tribes favoring the former for use as clothing due to its greater resistance to wear and tear in harsh weather. The paws of a dog are half the size of those of a wolf, and their tails tend to curl upwards, another trait not found in wolves.
Dogs tend to be poorer than wolves at observational learning, being more responsive to instrumental conditioning. Feral dogs show little of the complex social structure or dominance hierarchy present in wolf packs. For dogs, other members of their kind are of no help in locating food items, and are more like competitors. Feral dogs are primarily scavengers, with studies showing that unlike their wild cousins, they are poor ungulate hunters, having little impact on wildlife populations where they are sympatric. However, feral dogs have been reported to be effective hunters of reptiles in the Galapagos Islands, and free-ranging pet dogs are more prone to predatory behavior toward wild animals.
Despite common belief, domestic dogs can be monogamous. Breeding in feral packs can be, but does not have to be restricted to a dominant pair (despite common belief, such things also occur in wolf packs). Male dogs are unusual among canids by the fact that they mostly seem to play no role in raising their puppies, and do not kill the young of other females to increase their own reproductive success. Some sources say that dogs differ from wolves and most other large canid species by the fact that they do not regurgitate food for their young, nor the young of other dogs in the same territory. However, this difference was not observed in all domestic dogs. Regurgitating of food by the females for the young as well as care for the young by the males has been observed in domestic dogs, dingos as well as in other feral or semi-feral dogs. Regurgitating of food by the females and direct choosing of only one mate has been observed even in those semi-feral dogs of direct domestic dog ancestry. Also regurgitating of food by males has been observed in free-ranging domestic dogs.
Dogs display much greater tractability than "tame" wolves, and are generally much more responsive to coercive techniques involving fear, aversive stimuli, and force than wolves, which are most responsive toward positive conditioning and rewards. Unlike tame wolves, dogs tend to respond more to voice than hand signals. Although they are less difficult to control than wolves, they can be comparatively more difficult to teach than a motivated wolf.
Is it possible to tame a wolf?
The term "tame" is ambiguous and applies to wolves rather loosely.
It is possible to socialize, train and habituate a wolf, but only under appropriate circumstances, and only by professional and knowledgeable individuals. Wolves lack the tractability of domestic canines and despite habituation and training they still remain HIGHLY unpredictable and precarious. Wolves do not make suitable pets. Successful wolf ownership requires extensive knowledge about wolves, exceptional dedication and financial resources, and even when all these requirements are adequately met, wolves still make high-risk animals to maintain.
It is unrecommended to obtain a wolf without proper training, education and knowledge.
Why do wolves howl?
Wolves howl to mark their territory and to communicate with one another. They locate members of their own pack by howling, and they often engage in a group howl before setting off to hunt. The howl is a clear warning to neighboring wolves to stay away, or stay linked with pack members when the wolves are separated.
How far can a wolf howl be heard?
What is the body language of wolves and how they express it?Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation by David Mech and Luigi Boitani wrote:In forested areas, wolves can hear howling at distances of 11 km (6.6 miles) and on open tundra up to 16 km (9.6 miles)
To communicate dominance, breeding parents carry their tails high and stand tall. Less dominant wolves exhibit submissive behavior by holding their tails down and often lower their bodies while pawing at the higher ranking wolves.
There are two levels of submissive behavior: active and passive. Active submission is a contact activity in which signs of inferiority are evident such as crouching, muzzle licking and tail tucking. The behaviors typical of active submission are first used by pups to elicit regurgitation in adults. These behaviors are retained into adulthood by subordinate wolves, where they function as a gesture of intimacy and the acceptance of the differentiation of the roles of the wolves that are involved.
Passive submission is shown when a subordinate wolf lays on its side or back, thus exposing the vulnerable ventral side of its chest and abdomen to the more dominant wolf. The subordinate wolf may also abduct its rear leg to allow for anogenital inspection by the dominant wolf. If two wolves have a disagreement, they may show their teeth and growl at each other. Both wolves try to look as fierce as they can. Usually the less dominant wolf, the subordinate one, gives up before a fight begins. To show that it accepts the other wolf's authority, it rolls over on its back. Reactions to this behavior may range from tolerance (the dominant wolf standing over the submissive wolf) to mortal attack, particularly in the case of a trespassing alien wolf. Following the dominance rules usually keeps the wolves in a pack from fighting among themselves and hurting each other.
Wolves convey much with their bodies. If they are angry, they may stick their ears straight up and bare their teeth. A wolf who is suspicious pulls its ears back and squints. Fear is often shown by flattening the ears against the head. A wolf who wants to play "dances" and bows playfully.
Wolves have a very good sense of smell about 100 times greater than humans. They use this sense for communication in a variety of ways. Wolves mark their territories with urine and scats, a behavior called scent-marking. When wolves from outside of the pack smell these scents, they know that an area is already occupied. It is likely that pack members can recognize the identity of a pack mate by its urine, which is useful when entering a new territory or when pack members become separated. Dominant animals may scent mark through urination every two minutes. When they do so they raise a leg, this dominant posture utilizes multiple forms of communication and is called a "Raised Leg Urination", or RLU.
Wolves will also use urine to scent mark food caches that have been exhausted. By marking an empty cache, the animal will not waste time digging for food that isn't there.
Wolves use their sense of smell to communicate through chemical messages. These chemical messages between members of the same species are known as "pheromones." Sources of pheromones in wolves include glands on the toes, tail, eyes, candle, genitalia and skin. For example, a male is able to identify a female in estrus by compounds (pheromones) present in her urine and copulation will only be attempted during this time.
Of course, their sense of smell also tells them when food or enemies are near.
Wolves howl any time of the day, but they are most easily heard in the evening when the wind dies down and wolves are most active. Wolves' vocalizations can be separated into four categories: barking, whimpering, growling, and howling. Sounds created by the wolf may actually be a combination of sounds such as a bark-howl or growl-bark.
Barking is used as a warning. A mother may bark to her pups because she senses danger, or a bark or bark-howl may be used to show aggression in defense of the pack or territory.
Whimpering may be used by a mother to indicate her willingness to nurse her young. It is also used to indicate "I give up" if they are in a submissive position and another wolf is dominating them.
Growling is used as a warning. A wolf may growl at intruding wolves or predators, or to indicate dominance.
Howling is the one form of communication used by wolves that is intended for long distance. A defensive howl is used to keep the pack together and strangers away, to stand their ground and protect young pups who cannot yet travel from danger, and protect kill sites. A social howl is used to locate one another, rally together and possibly just for fun.
Wolves use three different languages:
1. Sound - Howls, Barks, Whimpers and Growls
2. Special Scents - Scats, Urine and Pheromones
3. Body Language - Body Positions, Movements and Facial Expressions
How far can a wolf hear, see and smell?
The surface area receptive to smell in the wolf nose is 100 times that of a human nose, and approximately 14 times that of a dog's, although the degree of sensitivity to smell is not directly correlative to surface area.
The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of An Endangered Species by L. David Mech wrote:"Researchers estimate that this ability is up to one hundred times more sensitive than that of man."
L. David Mech wrote:"Wolves can hear as far as six miles away in the forest and ten miles away on the open tundra."
What is a wolfdog?L. David Mech wrote:"They [wolves] can see details clearly up to a distance of about 75 feet."
A wolfdog hybrid is the result of a crossbreeding (whether intended or unintended) between a domestic dog and a wolf. Wolfdogs are divided into three separate "subgroups":
I. Low-content wolfdogs
II. Mid-content wolfdogs
III. High-content wolfdogs
How good is the eye sight of a wolf? How is their vision range? Are wolves colorblind?
A wolf's eye sight is just about as good as that of a human being. However, some experts believe that wolves may be nearsighted because their eyes lack a foveal pit, an indentation in the retina which provides for focusing, especially on distant objects. Wolves have excellent peripheral vision and their eyes are optimized to detect motion. In addition, they have a very high ratio of rods (grayscale receptors) to cones (color receptors) in the retina; in fact, about 95% rods. This abundance of rods aids the wolf in the ability to see at night. A wolf's night vision is far superior to that of a human being.
Although little research has been done into a wolf's ability to see color, it is believed that they may be partially colorblind. Wolves have only red and blue photo receptors in their eyes, unlike humans, who have red, green, and blue photo receptors. Tests on domestic canines show that they may not be able to distinguish yellow from green or orange from red. Tests on wolves, where red, blue, yellow, and green dyes were put onto clean snow, show that they often detect the red and yellow stains. This could be because they associate these colors with blood and urine and have little interest in the other colors. There is no conclusive evidence regarding the color vision abilities of wolves, however. Some scientist agree that wolves can see all of the colors, but only take an interest in those that might benefit them in some way.
Canines have a third eyelid (nictitans) which stretches across the eye and contains a gland which, along with glands in the ciliary body, acts to lubricate the eye. However, these tear glands excrete an oily substance rather than watery tears: canines are not able to shed the moist tears of sorrow as humans do.
Are wolves dangerous to people?
Generally, healthy wild wolves do not pose danger or threat to humans, as they are timid and reclusive by nature, and typically avoid people and human settlements. BUT! There are several well-documented accounts of healthy wild wolves attacking people in North America, and although there were no witnesses, a 2007 inquest determined that a young man killed in northern Saskatchewan in 2005 died as a result of a wolf attack, and an Alaskan woman died in March 2010 also due to a wolf attack. Accounts of wolves killing people persist in India and in Russia and parts of central Asia. It is a fact that when wild animals become habituated to people, they may lose their fear of humans, especially if they are fed or if they associate humans with providing food. Like any large predator, wolves are perfectly capable of killing people. No one should ever encourage a wolf or any other wild animal to approach, and hikers and campers should take all necessary precautions to prevent mishaps involving wildlife.
What are the reasons behind wolf attacks?
A provoked animal can always be a threat to humans. A healthy wild wolf is a rare sight and wolves being naturally preserved and elusive animals, they tend to take off before any actual interactions with humans take place. Wolves that have been fed or otherwise habituated to human presence lose their instinctual fear and avoidance for humans and in this state they are capable of harming a human. Diseased or injured wolves can also attack if they feel threatened.
Unprovoked/unmotivated attacks by (habituated) wolves have also been documented.
Wolves have been recorded attacking and in some cases even eating humans, most of these encounters taking place is various parts of Europe and Asia. Wolves do not typically prey upon humans, but consumption of human flesh by wolves is not unheard of.
Are wolves able to climb trees?
With the proper leverage, speed and strength, a wolf is capable of climbing up the trunk of a tree. However, canids have short and blunt claws which are not designed to grip upward surfaces, and they also lack proper agility and equilibrium. Some wolves have been documented chasing their prey into trees - such as squirrels and birds - but climbing consumes a lot of excess energy and effort, and wolves generally lack a sufficient technique to perform a 100% functioning climbing action.
What is the global wolf population?
What do wolves die from?Around the world there are an estimated 200,000 wolves in 57 countries, compared to up to 2 million in earlier times.
The natural causes of wolf mortality are primarily starvation, which kills mostly pups, and death from other wolves because of territory fights. Diseases such as mange, canine parvovirus and distemper can be killers both in small and recovering populations and in some established populations as well. Evidence suggests, however, that large wolf populations build up a resistance to canine parvovirus. Lyme disease also infects wolves, and heartworm can reduce a wolf's endurance by restricting blood flow to the lungs. Injuries caused by prey result in some deaths. The large mammals that wolves hunt and kill can inflict mortal injuries with antlers and hooves. Human-caused mortality including legal (hunting and trapping in some locales) and illegal (poaching) activities can be high in some populations. Wolves are sometimes hit by cars in areas where road density is high. Pup mortality rates are highly variable, but approximately 40 to 60% of wolf pups die each year.
Can/do wolves disperse in groups?
Most wolves disperse alone, but there are exceptions to the rule. Some wolves disperse in groups (such as in duos), but they eventually split up.
How far will a dispersal go?
It has been recorded up to 886 kilometers (521 miles). The younger the disperser, the farther it goes. A dispersal wolf will continue to travel until it has "settled", that is, until it finds the right conditions in an area.
Can/do wolves associate themselves with multiple packs?
It is not exactly common, but not much is known about this behavior.
In a population in northwestern Montana, "two individuals (both genders) traveled freely between two packs and were observed caring for pups in two packs during one denning season" (Boyd et al. 1995, 139).
What is the fate of a "fractured pack"?
A fractured pack's, or pack's whose key members have died, fate depends on just which members have died. Because the heart of a pack is the breeding pair (dominant pair), the death of all offspring would just result in the pair breeding again next year. If one member of the breeding pair dies, the other surviving breeding member may hold the territory until a new mate arrives. If the breeding pair is lost, the remaining members may disperse and become part of the "floating" population, unless they are pups which would die from starvation or from predators.
What countries are wolves found in, and approximately how many are there?
Note: The information depicted below is not necessarily fully reliable or accurate; it is more like an incomplete, indirect/unofficial estimation of wolf populations in each country.
Bold = Largest wolf populations
EUROPE & RUSSIA
Czech Republic: 20
Bosnia and Herzegovina: 650*
Saudi Arabia: 300-600
United States: 9,000
When do wolf pups' eyes start to change color?
The limpid blue color of wolf pups' eyes will gradually fade into the adult eye color (gold, brown, ocher, orange, yellow) over the next 6 to 10 weeks.
When do wolf pup's furs start to change color?
The dark, black-brown color of wolf pups' pelages will begin to shift color between 8 to 9 months of age, or slightly earlier.
What is the ancestor of the wolf?
The most likely ancestral candidate of the gray wolf is Canis lepophagus, a small, narrow-skulled North American canid of the Miocene era, which may have also given rise to coyotes. Some larger, broader-skulled C. lepophagus fossils found in northern Texas may represent the ancestral stock from which true wolves derive.
The first true wolves began to appear at the end of the Blancan North American Stage and the onset of the early Irvingtonian.
Other prehistoric canids thought to be the ancestors of the modern wolves also include the Canis donnezani, one of wolves' forefathers, and Canis edwardii, the first canid to be classified as a "true wolf".
Do wolves in a wolf pack take turns, or share, the nursing duties?
No, as long as only one wolf is pregnant.
How long does a pack have to rest after a hunt?Despite much speculation, there is no published evidence that pseudopregant [metestrous females that are not pregnant] female wolves have nursed pups. Although milk can be expressed from the nipples of some pseudopregnant females during metestus, the secretion is nonfunctional. Reported cases of cooperative nursing in wolves have all involved females that were both pregnant.
Typically 12 hours or more before they go off on another hunt/long trek.
What parts of the carcass are eaten first?
Generally, liver, heart, and intestines are consumed first, followed by the flesh, bones, and hide.
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Most of the information is confirmed and provided by the International Wolf Center (http://www.wolf.org).
Additional sources can be found included on each individual donor's post.
Additional Resources & Further Reading:
Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) Fact Sheet, 2014
Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation