Spine-chilling howls, piercing looks – no doubt, the gray wolf has managed to take the center stage of mythology and fairy tales since times immemorial.
They are fascinating creatures and in this article on gray wolf facts, we are going to learn what makes them so fascinating.
We humans are pathetic, to say the least. There was a point in time where we nearly drove them to extinction, without even realizing that they are a key element in the ecosystem.
Not just gray wolves, we humans are responsible for the extinction of various other animals and we like it or not, we are the worst offenders ever when it comes to the destruction of the nature that nurtures us.
We as a species, need to understand that every animal (terrestrial, marine or avian), every insect, every plant that exists today on this planet is there for a reason – a reason far bigger than the ability of our puny minds to comprehend.
So, while you engage in reading these amazing gray wolf facts, feed your mind with one tiny piece of information – ‘they exist for a reason, they are necessary.’
Now, let us come back and start with our list of facts about gray wolf. We hope you are ready!
Gray Wolf Facts: Scientific Classification
|Binomial Name||Canis lupus|
Gray Wolf Facts: Subspecies
There is a lot of fuss about the total number of gray wolf subspecies available (or, was available) on this planet. The ones that have been majorly identified are mentioned below:
Gray Wolf Facts: North American Extant (Living) Subspecies
|C. l. arctos||Arctic Wolf|
|C. l. baileyi||Mexican Wolf|
|C. l. columbianus||British Columbian Wolf|
|C. l. crassodon||Vancouver Island Wolf|
|C. l. hudsonicus||Hudson Bay Wolf|
|C. l. irremotus||Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf|
|C. l. labradorius||Labrador Wolf|
|C. l. ligoni||Alexander Archipelago Wolf|
|C. l. lycaon||Eastern Wolf|
|C. l. mackenzii||Mackenzie River Wolf|
|C. l. manningi||Baffin Island Wolf|
|C. l. occidentalis||Northwestern Wolf|
|C. l. orion||Greenland Wolf|
|C. l. pambasileus||Alaskan Interior Wolf|
|C. l. rufus||Red Wolf|
|C. l. tundrarum||Alaskan Tundra Wolf|
Eurasian and Australian Extant Subspecies
|C. l. albus||Tundra Wolf|
|C. l. arabs||Arabian Wolf|
|C. l. campestris||Steppe Wolf|
|C. l. chanco||Mongolian Wolf|
|C. l. dingo||Dingo and New Guinea Singing Dog|
|C. l. familiaris||Domestic Dog|
|C. l. filchneri||Tibetan Wolf|
|C. l. lupus||Eurasian Wolf|
|C. l. pallipes||Indian Wolf|
Gray Wolf Extinct Subspecies
|C. l. alces||Kenai Peninsula Wolf|
|C. l. beothucus||Newfoundland Wolf|
|C. l. bernardi||Banks Island Wolf|
|C. l. floridanus||Florida Black Wolf|
|C. l. fuscus||Cascade Mountains Wolf|
|C. l. gregoryi||Mississippi Valley Wolf|
|C. l. griseoalbus||Manitoba Wolf|
|C. l. hattai||Hokkaidō wolf|
|C. l. hodophilax||Japanese Wolf|
|C. l. mogollonensis||Mogollon Mountains Wolf|
|C. l. monstrabilis||Texas Wolf|
|C. l. nubilus||Great Plains Wolf|
|C. l. youngi||Southern Rocky Mountain Wolf|
|C. l. cristaldii||Sicilian Wolf|
Gray Wolf General Info | 1-5
1. Gray wolf is the common wolf we usually talk about. So, someone says the word ‘wolf,’ know that he or she is talking about the gray wolf.
2. There are many different names that are used for the gray wolf. Most of these names are usually the common names of various subspecies of the wolf.
3. Lobo, timber wolf, grey wolf (note the spelling variation) are some other names that are in use.
4. It belongs to the canid family – the same family which the dogs belong to. Interestingly, gray wolves were domesticated several thousand years ago and through their selective breeding, we now have dogs!
5. Unlike dogs, the wolves belong to the wilderness and they are largest known members of the canid family.
Physical Characteristics | 6-25
This segment of gray wolf facts will deal with the physical shape and structure, weight and various other measurements of animal. Let’s begin…
Gray Wolf Facts: Shape and Structure
6. The gray wolf is the largest member in the whole Canidae family. When we compare coyotes, jackals and gray wolves, we find a constant size relationship between their bodies.
7. If the gray wolf is shrunk proportionately, it will look very similar to the jackal or the coyote.
8. In reality, a gray wolf has a heavier and larger build. It has shorter ears; a broader snout and its tail is longer while the torso is shorter.
9. The neck of a gray wolf is heavily muscled; the back is sloping and the rib cage is deeply descending.
10. Compared to other candis, the legs are slightly longer. This enables swift movement for the gray wolf. Also, the design of the legs allows the gray wolf to easily cross deep snow which is usually found in majority of the wolf’s geographical range.
11. The ears of a gray wolf are triangular in shape and compared to the body, are relatively small.
12. Compared to the male wolves, the female wolves have thinner necks, shorter legs, narrower foreheads, narrower muzzles and less massive shoulders.
Gray Wolf Facts: Weight
13. Generally the male gray wolves are heavier than female gray wolves. On an average, the females are 20% smaller than the males.
14. The mean body mass of a gray wolves is 40 kilograms or 88 pounds. The largest specimen recorded in America had a body mass of 79.4 kilograms or 175 pounds.
15. The smallest gray wolf specimen recorded in America had a body mass of 12 kilograms or 26 pounds.
16. The European wolves have an average weight of 38.5 kilograms or 85 pounds. Those that are found in North America have an average weight of 36 kilograms or 79 pounds.
17. The Indian wolves as well as the Arabian wolves have an average weight of 25 kilograms or 55 pounds.
18. Females typically weigh around 2.3 to 4.5 kilograms or 5 to 10 pounds less than the male wolves.
19. It is quite uncommon to find wolves that exceed the weight of 54 kilograms or 119 pounds. Though such heavy wolves are rare, there have been records of such wolves in at least three places – Alaska, Canada, middle Russia.
20. The heaviest Russian specimen ever found was 80 kilograms or 180 pounds. The largest specimen found in North America was 79.4 kilograms or 175 pounds but it was killed in 1939 on July 12 on 70 Mile River of east-central Alaska.
Gray Wolf Facts: Some Measurements
21. In general, the average length of the adult wolves is between 105 cm and 160 cm (41 inches to 63 inches).
22. Measured at shoulder, the average height is between 80 and 85 centimeters or 31 and 33 inches.
23. The tail has an average measurement of 29 to 50 centimeters or 11 to 20 inches.
24. The height of the ears average between 3.5 and 4.3 inches or 90 and 110 millimeters.
25. The hind feet have an average measurement of 8.7 inches to 9.8 inches or 220-250 millimeters.
Gray Wolf Fur | 26-43
In this segment of gray wolf facts, we will learn about its fur and find out what role it plays in protecting the animal from different weather conditions. Read on…
26. In cold climates, gray wolf has fluffy and dense winter fur. On the contrary, the fur is scarcer and coarse in warmer climates.
27. In the norther wolves, the fur consists of long and coarse guard hairs atop the short underfur.
28. During spring, the wolves will shed most of their underfur and some of their guard hairs. They grow back during the autumn.
29. The winter fur is known to be extremely cold-resistant. In temperatures as low as -40 degrees Centigrade (-40 degrees Fahrenheit), these wolves can happily rest without any discomfort simply by tucking in their muzzle between their hind legs and covering the faces with their tail.
30. Don’t be surprised but the limbs of females are far smoother furred than the males and as they age, females will develop smoothest overall coats.
31. Females that are lactating will retain the winter fur for the longest time frame. However, some hair loss becomes visible around their teats.
32. As the wolves age, they will have more white hair at the tip of their tails, along their noses and on their foreheads.
33. Wolves have longest hairs on their back, particularly on the back of their necks and on the back of their front quarters.
34. The shoulders have the longest hairs that form a crest on the upper parts of the necks of the wolves.
35. Tufts are formed on their cheeks because the hairs there are elongated.
36. Short hairs cover the ears of the wolves. On the limbs from the elbows, the hairs are elastic, short and closely adjacent.
37. The overall coat color of a wolf is determined by the color of the guard hairs.
38. Leaving aside the white wolves, the rest of the wolves will have some hairs that are banded, black, grey, brown and white.
39. When it comes to coat color of the wolves in North America, Golger’s rule is seen. According to the rule, species will be more heavily pigmented in the areas that have more humid environments.
40. Following this rule, the wolves found in the Canadian arctic are white. Moving down to South Canada, the US and Mexico, grey is the most predominant color.
41. In British Columbia and some part of Rocky Mountains of Alberta, the coat color becomes mostly black and some have blue-gray coat while some of the wolves have silver-black coat.
42. In Eurasia, there is no difference in coat colors between males and females. In North America however, the females have redder tones compared to the males.
43. In North America, the black-colored wolves appeared after there was an admixture between the wolves and the dogs after the dogs arrived in North America through the Bering Strait along with humans some 12,000 to 14,000 years ago.
Gray Wolf Facts: Distribution and Habitat | 44-53
Where do you find gray wolves? What kind of areas do they live in? This segment of gray wolf facts will answer those questions. Keep reading…
44. There was a time when the gray wolf was found in very large numbers throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere including North America, Asia and Europe.
45. There were times when the gray wolves were found in every type of environment located in the north of the equator. They were spread out from desserts to tundra.
46. Unfortunately, they were gradually exterminated by humans wherever they were found. The major reason for such persecution was threat to livestock and threat of attack on humans.
47. Today, in most of United States, Mexico and Western Europe, the wolves have been extirpated (that is, they have been made locally extinct).
48. If we talk of today’s range of the wolves, they can be found in the remote areas and wilderness in Alaska, Canada, Norther United States, Asia and Europe.
49. They can be found in various mountainous areas, desserts, pastures, tundra, inland wetlands, forests and shrublands.
50. Various factors determine how well a habitat is used by wolves. Those factors include abundance of prey, human presence, road densities, livestock densities and even topography of the place.
51. Gray wolf is extremely adaptable. It is one of the very few species that managed to survive the last Ice Age that had hit Earth. Their physical characteristics allowed them to quickly adapt to the harsh conditions of the Ice Age.
52. Gray wolf is a keystone species in any ecosystem it lives in.
53. Gray wolf is responsible for controlling the animal species they prey on. Gray wolves are directly responsible for controlling both the behavior as well as numbers of large herbivores, which eventually impact the vegetation in a place.
Gray Wolf Facts: Diet | 54-64
What do the gray wolves eat? Are they herbivores? Are they carnivores? This segment of gray wolf facts will answer those questions.
54. Wolves are pack hunters and they usually take down herbivore mammals. They will usually select that mammal that has a body mass that is pretty similar to the total mass of the wolf pack combined.
55. Wolves generally go after large ungulates (hooved mammals like deer, caribou, moose, elk etc.).
56. Hunting in pack, wolves are capable of bringing down prey as large as 500 kilograms in weight.
57. Wild ungulates with weights ranging from 240-650 kg (large ungulates) and 23 to 130 kg (medium ungulates) are majorly hunted down by the gray wolves.
58. Though the gray wolves feed primarily on large and medium ungulates, they even go after small animals like small carnivores, insectivores, hares, rodents etc.
59. Wolves are also known to eat waterfowls and even their eggs.
60. When food becomes scarce, wolves can move on to eat large insects, frogs, snakes and lizards.
61. European wolves are known to eat even cherries, berries, melons, figs, pears and apples.
62. Wolves found in North America can also eat raspberries and blueberries.
63. Wolves are known to extract some vitamins by eating grass as well. They even eat shoots of reeds, grain crops, nightshade berries, cowberry, bilberries, mountain ash berries and even berries of lily of the valley.
64. Wolves are not shy of eating carrion (decaying flesh of dead animals) when there is a scarcity of food.
65. Wolves are known to display cannibalism during severe shortage of food. They can attack and kill the weakest or injured wolves and eat. They even feed on the dead bodies of their pack members.
Social or Pack Behavior | 66-88
Are gray wolves social animals? Do they maintain facts? If they do, what is the pack size and what is the composition of such packs? This segment of gray wolf facts will answer all your questions.
66. Wolves are known to be extremely social animals and they stay in packs. A pack size usually ranges from 6 to 10.
67. Gray wolves can have packs well up to 24 individuals.
68. Very rarely do gray wolves engage in making exceptionally large packs containing up to 42 individuals.
69. In North America, the average pack size of gray wolves is 8.
70. In Europe, the average pack size of gray wolves is 6.
71. In Eurasia, the average pack size can be anywhere between 5 to 11 wolves.
72. Though gray wolves are pack animals, it is not uncommon to see lone wolves. However, lone wolves do not stay alone for long.
73. Lone wolves wander out alone temporarily usually to make their own pack or to join some other pack.
74. A basic wolf pack consists of a mated adult pair and their adult offspring.
75. Sometimes two or three such families make up a pack.
76. A mated adult pair of gray wolves will usually mate every year to produce pups. The offspring stay with the pack for anywhere between 10 months and 54 months, after which they will move out to make their own packs or join other packs.
77. There are usually two things that trigger such dispersal or moving out from the pack. Those two are:
- Increased competition for food within the pack.
- Onset of sexual maturity.
78. The wolves that disperse out can travel to great lengths. Some can travel 206 kilometers, some travel 390 kilometers and there are some that will travel up to 670 kilometers.
79. Again, there are some dispersed individuals that will disperse out and make new packs close to their natal packs.
80. A new pack is usually formed by a dispersed male and a dispersed female. They will travel together in an area which does not contain any other hostile pack.
81. Did you know that the wolf packs will not easily adopt other wolves? The pack will usually kill them instead of adopting.
82. There are rare cases of wolf packs adopting other wolves. Usually the one that is adopted is between the age of 1 year to 3 years and will not really fight for breeding rights within the pack that adopted it.
83. There are cases (very rare) where a lone wolf gets adopted in order to replace a breeder that has recently died.
84. Adoption, if it happens, will usually happen between the months of February and May.
85. The wolf that is adopted by another pack is usually a male. Male wolf that is adopted may mate with a female within the pack that adopts the male wolf.
86. Wolves will usually not go for inbreeding when outbreeding possibilities are there.
87. Wolves suffer from stress and their cortisol levels increase when a member of the pack dies.
88. A wolf pack will usually contain more males than females. Unpaired females are very rare.
Wolf Territory | 89-100
Do gray wolves have defined territories? If yes, how big are those territories? How do they define their territories? This segment of gray wolf facts will try to answer these common questions.
89. Wolves are extremely territorial. In order to survive well, they will establish a territory that is way bigger than what they actually need.
90. The reason why they establish a bigger territory is that it ensures a very steady supply of prey.
91. There are at least two determining factors when it comes to the territory size of the gray wolves. One of the factors is albeit, the availability of prey while the other factor is the age of the pups in the packs.
92. The territory size of the wolves can increase under two conditions. One of them is when the prey availability is low. The second condition is when the pups in the pack attain the age of 6 months and they need adult nutrition.
93. Wolves will constantly travel in search of prey. This means that they travel across their territory. In general, a pack can travel and cover up to 9% of the territory every day!
94. The average distance that a wolf pack usually travels in a day is 25 kilometers per day or 16 miles per day.
95. The core of the entire territory that a pack holds is up to 35 square kilometers or 14 square miles. The pack will usually spend 50% of its time within the core territory.
96. Quite normally, the prey density is much higher in the areas surrounding the territory of a pack of wolves.
97. Wolves in general do not tend to hunt in outskirts or borders of their territories in order to avoid fatal encounters with other hostile packs.
98. Wolf packs will usually not leave their territory. Only when there is severe scarcity of food, they will move out of their territory for hunting.
99. The smallest known territory of a gray wolf pack that was recorded was 33 square kilometers or 13 square miles. It was a pack of 6 wolves in northern Minnesota.
100. The largest known territory belonged to a pack of gray wolves was Alaska. It was pack of 10 wolves with a territory of 6,272 square kilometers or 2,422 square miles.
Territory Marking | 101-110
Since we have now learned that gray wolves have territories, the question is, how do they mark their territories and tell other wolves that a territory belongs to them? Find out the answer to this question in this segment of gray wolf facts.
101. There are three ways in which gray wolves will make other packs aware of their territory. Those three ways are scent-marking, howling and scratching.
102. The most effective method is the combination of scent-marking and scratching.
103. Wolves will generally scent mark their territories using anal scent glands, feces and urine. They use raised leg urination for scent marking.
104. Raised leg urination make up 60% to 80% of the scent-marking.
105. The rate at which the wolves will scent mark their territories increases when they come across scent marks from the wolves belonging to other packs.
106. Newly bonded wolf pairs are the ones who will scent mark their territories most. Lone wolves on other hand will barely scent mark.
107. When it comes to scent-marking, the wolves will generally leave scents every 260 yards or 240 meters.
108. The areas where they scent mark across their territories are usual junctions and travelways that they use most frequently.
109. Scent marks can last in a place for 2-3 weeks. The wolves will usually scent mark on skeletons of large animals, trees, rocks and boulders.
110. Despite the fact that the wolves mark their territories, they will often engage in territorial fights which leads to up to 14% to 65% of the wolf deaths.
Gray Wolf Facts: Communication | 111-118
Since gray wolves live in packs, how do they communicate with the pack members? How do they notify others of danger or how do they reveal their exact location? This segment on gray wolf facts will explain these things.
111. If you thought that gray wolves howl at the moon, you are wrong! That’s a notion that has been spread by movies and folklore. Wolves do not howl at the moon.
112. Actually vocalizations by the wolves and the phases of the moon are completely unrelated.
113. Before they hunt or after they hunt, the wolves will howl in order to assemble the entire pack.
114. They will also howl when they need to pass on an alarm especially near their denning sites.
115. Wolves will also howl when they need to locate other members of the pack during a storm or when they are crossing a territory that is unfamiliar to them or when they need to communicate over great distances.
116. Wolves communicate when they need to anticipate the next move of their packmates or of other wolves.
117. There are other vocalizations that are used by the wolves apart from howls. Those vocalizations include whines, barks and growls.
118. Wolves never bark continuously like dogs. Their barks are not loud as well. They will usually bark for a few times and then retreat if they perceive a threat.
Reproduction in Wolves | 88-110
How do the gray wolves form families and how do they reproduce? How many pups do they raise? Find answers to all these questions in this segment of gray wolf facts.
119. Of any wolf pack, the foundation is always the mated pair. Usually, a wolf pack will have only one breeding pair.
120. There are variations in the foundations of wolf packs. These variations are very rare. One such foundation was one mature male mating with two mature females.
121. Yet another wolf pack was seen where the foundation was made by a mature male and his mate along with a year-old son from a previous mating.
122. Another variation of the foundation was seen where a mature female was with a new mate and the younger brother of the mate.
123. Another pack was seen in which 12 wolves that dispersed from 4 other packs came together to form a pack.
124. Wolves are monogamous animals. They will mate with a single partner and stay with the partner for life.
125. A wolf will go out and find a new partner only when its partner dies. The new partner is found pretty quickly.
126. Wolves will become mature when they are 2 years old. However, it takes them yet another year to become sexually mature.
127. The age at which the wolves will first breed will depend on various environmental factors. If the prey is abundant, wolves can rear pups at a young age.
128. Females can produce pups every year. On an average, they produce one litter a year.
129. Female wolves never reach menopause (did you know, coyote females reach menopause?).
130. It is the second half of the winter when the female wolves enter their estrus cycle. That is also the time when the breeding season (sometimes called rut) begins and the pack disperses.
131. When pack dispersion begins, the adults are the ones to disperse first. This is followed by the yearlings and then the juveniles. The pack will eventually reunite but they will stay away from the breeding pair.
132. The estrus cycle in a female wolf lasts for 14 days.
133. Once the mating is over and the female wolf conceives, the gestation period in females can last anywhere between 62 days and 75 days.
Gray Wolf Facts: Wolf Pups
134. Wolf pups are born during the spring months or during early summers. The places where they are born are very cold, for example, tundra.
135. Young females that conceive usually produce a litter of 4 to 5 pups. Older females that conceive can give birth to 6 to 8 pups but they may also give birth to up to 12 pups.
136. Nearly 60% to 80% of the new pups die. The remaining survive.
137. The new born wolf pups have uncanny resemblance to that of the German Shepherd pups.
138. At the time of birth, the pups are all deaf and blind. Their whole body remains covered with short yet soft fur of grayish-brown color.
139. When they are born, the wolf pups weigh anywhere between 300 grams and 500 grams.
140. It takes them anywhere between 9 and 12 days to open their eyes.
141. The milk canines in the pups erupt after 30 days but they start leaving their dens by 3rd week.
142. By the time the pups reach the age of 1.5 months, they become agile enough to run away from dangers.
143. It is the duty of the father wolf to provide food for the entire family during the first few weeks because the mother wolf will usually not leave the den.
144. By the time the pups are a month old, they will start eating some solid food and during the first four months of their lives, the pups will grow quickly and gain as much as 30 times their body weight at the time of birth.
145. By the time the pups are 3 weeks old, they will engage in play-fighting with controlled and gentle bites. By the time they are 5-8 weeks old, they will seriously fight and establish hierarchy.
Gray Wolf Denning | 146-157
How do the gray wolves build their dens? Where are those dens usually located? You can find answers to all your questions in this segment of gray wolf facts.
146. Gray wolves construct dens for the pups during the summer months. Usually the female wolves take up this task.
147. Females will construct the dens in the places which have natural settings. For instance, they will look for holes that have thick vegetation cover or they will opt for cliffs overhanging the riverbanks. They may also look for rock fissures.
148. It is not unusual for gray wolves to appropriate the dens of other small animals like foxes, marmots and badgers.
149. In case a gray wolf takes over a den from another animal, it will partly remake the den and widen it.
150. Female wolves have been seen to dig up short and small burrows with up to 3 openings. However, this particular behavior of digging burrows is quite rare.
151. The den that a gray wolf will construct will usually be within a distance of 500 meters from a water source.
152. Gray wolf dens usually face southwards. There are two reasons for this. First, there is abundant sunlight and second, the snow thaws more quickly.
153. Remains of food, playing areas for the wolf pups and the resting places are usually found around the dens.
154. The rotting odor of the food found around the dens are often responsible for attracting birds that love to scavenge. For instance, it is not uncommon to see ravens and magpies around wolf dens.
155. The number of places where wolves can create dens is limited. This is the reason why dens usually remain occupied by the members of the family.
156. In general wolves will make dens in areas which are away from human habitation. Still, they are sometimes seen to nest in areas such as places near the railways, paved roads and domiciles.
157. When a female wolf is pregnant, she will stay in the den which remains within the core territory (that is away from the periphery of the territory). She will do so because staying near the periphery can lead to violent and fatal encounters with members of other packs.
Gray Wolf Hunting Habits | 158-191
Ever wondered how the gray wolves hunt? Are they lone hunters or do they hunt in packs? Are they ambush hunters or do they chase and kill? When do they hunt – daytime or night? Find answers to all these questions in this segment of gray wolf facts.
158. Mated pairs or single wolves have often better success rates when it comes to hunting compared to pack hunting.
159. It has been observed many times that lone wolves have managed to bring down large prey such as muskoxen, bison and moose without the help of other wolves.
160. There are three factors that determine the overall size of the hunting pack. Those three factors are:
- Total number of pups that managed to survive the previous winter.
- Rate of survival of the adults.
- The rate at which the wolves disperse from the pack to form their own pack.
161. In order to hunt an elk, a wolf pack of four individuals is the best.
162. For hunting a bison, the success rate is high if the wolf pack is larger than four.
163. Wolves never use vocalizations during hunting. They stay silent.
164. Wolves are usually nocturnal hunters both in winter and summer.
165. During the winter days, the wolves can start hunting in the evening or twilight and continue to hunt all through the night.
166. There are times when the wolves can resort to daytime hunting during the winter seasons. This usually happens when they are hunting ungulates.
167. During the summer months, wolves show a tendency of hunting alone. They will rarely chase and pursue their prey. They will usually go for ambush hunting.
168. When the wolves search for prey, they will use what is known as loping pace. In this method, they will place one paw directly in front of the other.
169. When wolves use loping pace, they can continue it for many hours at a stretch. They will usually maintain a speed of anywhere between 8 and 9 kilometers per hour.
170. When necessary, the wolves can quickly speed up and achieve a speed of 50 to 60 kilometers per hour.
171. Wolves can run at a speed of 55 to 70 kilometers per hour while chasing prey. They can continue to chase their prey at this speed for 20 minutes straight.
172. In a single bound, wolves are capable of covering a horizontal distance of 16 feet or 5 meters.
173. Wolves will locate their prey using all their senses. The sense of smell in wolves is comparable to that of dogs. Their sense of smell is 10,000 times stronger than that of humans.
174. Wolves also make use of their vision and their auditory capabilities to hunt. It is known that the sense of hearing in wolves is 20 times sharper than in humans.
175. Wolves are very good is judging the costs and the benefits of attacking any prey. In case of a single mistake they can be gravely injured or even die.
176. Many of the large animals that the wolves’ prey upon have come up with defensive adaptations. It is because of this, wolves often end up losing their lives while they attempt to hunt preys like muskoxen, moose, elk etc.
177. Wolves are not really very successful when it comes to hunting ungulates.
178. Big preys like bison, elk, moose etc. will often stand their ground. This is when the wolves will try to scare the prey so that it tries to feel. Wolves chase their prey when they try to escape.
179. The basic strategy that wolves use while hunting is that of intimidating a herd so that it panics and disperses.
180. When a prey tries to flee, the wolves will try to injure it and slow it down by biting through hide and thick hair of the prey. Once the injuries make the prey disabled enough, the wolves will start eating.
181. In case of moose, wolves will usually bite on upper hind legs causing large perforations that will lead to exposure of tendons, muscle damage and a lot of bleeding.
182. When wolves hunt big prey, they usually wound the animal and leave it. The wolves will then lie around and rest for hours until the animal becomes weak enough by blood loss. This is when they will attack again and eat. This tactic minimizes the risk of injury for the wolves.
184. For small prey animals, the wolves will usually go for a throat bite. This severs the carotid artery and the nerve tracks, thereby killing the prey within a few minutes.
185. Surplus killing is not a usually thing among wolves. However, if the prey is abundant and vulnerable, wolves can engage in surplus killing.
186. Wolves will usually go for surplus killing if they are going after domestic animals. With wild prey, they will usually not do that.
187. The usual time for surplus killing, if the wolves go for it, is late winter and spring. They will also go for surplus kills during denning periods when wolves are denbound and require a steady meat supply. Also, if the snow cover is very thick and the preys are unable to move properly, wolves can go for surplus killing.
188. Once a prey has been captured, the breeding pair usually eats first. After they are done eating, the rest of the family will tear apart flesh from the carcass and take it somewhere else (usually scheduled areas) and eat without disturbances.
191. Each individual wolf is capable of eating anywhere between 3 kilograms and 9 kilograms of meat in a single sitting. Put in other words, each individual wolf can eat up to 19% of their body weight in a single sitting.
Gray Wolf Versus Other Predators | 192-205
How to gray wolves cope with other predators within their area? Do they co-exist or do they kill other predators? Do they get killed by other predators? Find answers to these simple questions in this segment of gray wolf facts.
192. If other canid species coexist in an area with wolves, the later will always dominate. For instances, coyotes in North America often get killed by wolves during the winter season when they try to feed on wolf kills.
193. Not just that, wolves are also known to dig up coyote dens and kill the coyote pups. The wolves very rarely eat the coyote pups they kill.
194. Brown bears that live in the same area as the wolves are known to always dominate the wolves when it comes to disputes over a carcass.
195. Brown bears can even attack wolf dens but in most cases, the wolf pack dominates the bears and chase them away.
196. Both the wolves and the brown bears are known to kill each other’s young. Wolves will almost always eat the bear cubs they kill. Brown bears on the other hand will usually feed on young wolves instead of the pups.
197. Encounters between American Black Bears and wolves is pretty rare but it happens. Wolves will often actively search black bears and kill them.
198. When it comes to a dispute over a carcass, the black bear loses to the wolves quite frequently.
199. Wolves also do not tolerate wolverines that try to scavenge on wolf kills. Wolves will either kill the wolverines or simply chase them away.
200. Wolves and cougars will usually prevent confronting each other. They will generally hunt at different elevations and will have a different set of prey animals.
201. Despite the fact that wolves and cougars avoid each other, wolf packs are known for dominating cougars. Wolves will often steal the cougar kills.
202. Wolves can kill cougars while the opposite is also true where cougars can dominate the wolves and even kill them.
203. In one-to-one encounters, the cougars almost always dominate the wolves.
204. In several places like India, Central Asia and Israel, encounters between stripped hyenas and wolves are not uncommon. Usually such encounters take place over carcasses.
205. In one-on-one encounters, the hyenas are usually victorious and they often prey on wolves. Wolves get an upper hand when they are in packs and can easily drive off outnumbered or single hyenas.
Gray Wolf Diseases | 206-216
Gray wolves are animals and every animal species is susceptible to some kind of disease. Gray wolves suffer from what type diseases? If you want to know, keep reading this segment of gray wolf facts.
206. Gray wolves are vulnerable to various viral diseases such as canine distemper, rabies, infectious canine hepatitis, canine coronavirus, papillomatosis and canine parvovirus.
207. Rabies majorly infects wolves in countries like Iraq, Russia, Afghanistan and India. The rabid wolves are totally not afraid of humans. In fact, most wolf attacks on humans are actually caused by the rabid wolves.
208. Once the rabies virus manages to infect a wolf, the incubation period is anywhere between 8 days and 21 days after which the host wolf becomes very agitated.
209. A rabid wolf will usually desert its pack and travel up to 80 kilometers in a single day, thereby increasing the risk of infecting wolves in far off areas.
210. Canine distemper, which has now been established as a lethal disease in dogs has not been very successful in killing wolves. However, death by this disease has been reported in Alaska and Canada.
211. Canine parvovirus is not really lethal for adult wolves however, it is quite lethal for wolf pups.
212. Apart from viral diseases, wolves also carry a host of bacterial diseases which include anthrax, listeriosis, bovine tuberculosis, tularemia, leptospirosis, lyme disease and brucellosis.
213. Wolves often get infested with mites, lice, ticks and fleas. Of all these, the mange mite is the most harmful.
214. Wolves also get infected with helminths (large parasitic worms) and protozoans.
215. Parasitic infections in wolves is a major concern for humans if the wolves stay in vicinity of human settlements. These parasitic infections can easily transmit from wolves to dogs and then from dogs to humans.
216. If wolves are near pastoral areas, the parasitic infections can quickly spread to livestock.
Gray Wolf Conservation and Status | 217-240
Are gray wolves endangered? Do they need protection? What are their stronghold areas? This segment of gray wolf facts will answer these questions. Keep reading.
217. Since the 1970s, the decline of wolves has been arrested because of legal protection the canid species received. This has helped in reintroduction and recolonization in various areas where wolves used to stay.
218. In 2003, the total global population of wolves was estimated to be 300,000. As of today, International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed wolves as LC (least concern) on its Red List.
219. Canada is the stronghold of gray wolves with 50,000 to 60,000 of them living in 80% of the historical range they previously occupied.
220. In Canada, people of the First Nations can hunt wolves without any kind of restrictions. Rest of the people in Canada need to get a license to trap or hunt wolves during the season.
221. Canadian law prevents hunting or harvesting more than 4,000 wolves in a year.
222. In Alaska, gray wolves are spread over 85% of the state’s total area. In total, 7,000 to 11,000 wolves are present in Alaska.
223. In Alaska, people cannot hunt any more than 1,200 wolves per year but hunting or trapping requires a license.
224. In contiguous United States, the population of wolves was on a steep decline because of three vital reasons – expansion of agriculture, wolf extermination campaigns and destruction of the primary prey of the wolves, such as the bison.
225. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 gave legal protection to the wolves and by mid-2000s Minnesota saw a rise in wolf population. The number of wolves in Minnesota grew to 3,000 by mid-2000s.
226. The wolves were absent in the Yellowstone National Park since the 1930s. They were reintroduced in 1995 by the federal government. At the same time, wolves were also introduced to central Idaho.
227. Southwestern Canada’s wolves started crossing into the northwestern Montana by 1970s. In 1986, the wolves established a denning site in the famous Glacier National Park.
228. By 2015, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana collectively had 1,704 wolves living in various parts of the states.
229. The wolf population in Washington in 2018 was a meager 126. Wolves have been declared as ‘endangered species’ in Washington since 1980 despite the fact that the federal law does not consider wolves as endangered.
230. There are 17,000 wolves living in 28 countries in Europe excluding Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
231. The Soviet era saw large scale extermination of wolves. Despite this fact, if we consider the former Soviet Union, the wolves have actually maintained most of their historical range.
232. There are up to 45,000 wolves in Russia, 20,000 in Kazakhstan and 1,500 in Georgia.
233. The Russians however consider the gray wolf as a pest because they attack livestock. In Russia, wolf management simply means killing wolves throughout the year.
234. Oman and Israel are the only two countries in the Middle East that give explicit protection to the wolves. Remaining countries do not have such protection for the wolves.
235. Turkey alone has 7,000 wolves. 1,000 to 2,000 are spread over the rest of the Middle East.
236. Israel has a population of 150 wolves and the species is under protection since 1954.
237. When it comes to South Asia, wolves have stronghold in northern parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
238. India has been legally protecting wolves since 1972. It is estimated that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has nearly 300 wolves covering an area of approximately 60,000 square kilometers. Himachal Pradesh has about 50 wolves.
239. Mongolia on the other hand has anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 wolves. Tibet has around 2,000 wolves.
240. China’s Xinjiang has around 10,000 wolves while Heilongjiang has nearly 650 wolves.
Gray Wolf in Mythology | 241-246
There are many animals that have found place in the mythologies that humans have created. Do gray wolves find a place in such mythologies? Find out in this segment of gray wolf facts.
241. The ancient Greeks associated the wolves with the god of light and order – Apollo.
242. The ancient Romans associated the wolves with Mars – the god of agriculture and war.
243. In Norse mythology, Odin had two pets – Geri and Freki (two wolves).
244. In Norse mythology again, there was a feared giant wolf named Fenrir. Fenrir was the eldest son of Angrboda and Loki.
245. The Pawnee creation myth states that the first animal that was brought to earth was the wolf. However, the humans killed it and because of this, the humans were punished with loss of immortality, destruction and death.
246. There are many cultures where it was believed that people turned into wolves. For instance, the European folklore talks of werewolf in which people turned into wolves to kill others.
Gray Wolf Evolution | 247-265
How did the gray wolves evolve? When did they come into existence? This segment of gray wolf facts is very interesting. Keep reading and you will not be disappointed!
247. The evolution of gray wolves is highly debated. However, the popularly held notion is that the earliest ancestors of the gray wolves started evolving some 60 million years ago (Paleocene).
248. These primitive carnivores were a specialized genus of cursorial carnivores. Cursorial animals are those that hunt by chasing.
249. Some 8 million years later came the primitive carnivores known as Miacids. They appeared during the Lower Tertiary.
250. This Tertiary period lasted for nearly 65 million years. This period is usually referred to as the ‘Age of the Rise of the Mammals.’
251. These miacids ranged from gophers (burrowing rodents) to dog-sized creatures. These miacids actually evolved from insectivores from the Cretaceous period.
252. Though weird, currently, the small rodent-type insectivores are also included in the ancestry of the wolves.
253. Much later evolved the creodonts that walked on their five toes, had long and thick tails, partially opposable thumbs and partially retractile claws.
254. Over the course of several million years evolution continued and the creodonts eventually transformed.
255. Some of the transformations decided to move out into the prairies and plains that eventually became wolves, bears, skunks, badgers and weasels.
256. Some of the transformations decided to stay in the jungles and they evolved into saber-toothed tigers, cheetahs and tigers.
257. Nearly 30-40 million years ago, the two superfamilies of carnivores – the canines and the felines were completely distinct. It is this time when more recognizable wolf ancestors came into existence. We call them the Cynodicits.
258. The cynodicits were much smaller compared to the modern-day wolves. They had flexible bodies and shortened legs.
259. Somewhere between 15 and 30 million years ago, the cynodicits again split into Cynodesmus and Tomarctus, giving rise to wolf-like animals that had more compact feet, shorter tails, smaller big toe and longer legs.
260. It is suggested that the wolf-like canids diverged out from a common ancestor somewhere between 2 and 3 million years ago.
261. Nearly 1 million year ago, the first gray wolf came into existence in Eurasia.
262. Some 700,000 years ago, the gray wolf then managed to get into the North America by crossing the Pleistocene land bridge (that connected the two continents).
263. In North America, the dire wolf or the Canis dirus had already evolved earlier. It was larger and far more robust compared to the gray wolf.
264. For nearly half a million year, the dire wolf and the gray wolf shared the continent until the dire wolf was wiped out (along with various other large species that lived during the Pleistocene) because of the great extinction event that took place some 16,000 years ago.
265. As the dire wolf was gradually wiped out, some 7,000 years ago, the gray wolf became the prime canine predator living in the North America.
Gray Wolf Random Facts | 266-275
This is the last segment of gray wolf facts. This segment deals with just random facts. Enjoy reading!
266. Gray wolves nurture deep social bonds. They have extreme affection for their family members and they often sacrifice themselves to protect the family.
267. Wolves do use howling to communicate. However, they can start howling simply because some nearby wolf has started howling.
268. Wolves have 42 teeth. These teeth are highly specialized. The canines (sometimes referred to as the ‘fangs’) are around 2.5 inches long. The molars are large and powerful for crushing and grinding bones.
269. Wolves can survive for more than a week without eating anything. One wolf survived for 17 days without eating anything.
270. Native Americans felt that they had inseparable bonds with wolves because both hunted for a living, both cared for their families, both defended their families from danger and both were very social.
271. Researchers found that in Yellowstone National Park, the presence of wolves forced the elk herds to move around frequently. This allowed willow and aspen trees to grow in areas which were previously overgrazed.
272. It is believed that wolves were first tamed in East Asia some 15,000 years ago.
273. In Canada, there are beachcombing wolves that are known for swimming between islands for eating clams, crabs and other things.
274. After humans and livestock, gray wolves are the most widespread large land mammals found on our planet.
275. Wolves have been portrayed as villains in fairy tales and fables. This has set a notion that they are dangerous. This is however not the case. They are social and highly intelligent animals and they seldom attack humans.
3… Thought Co
8… Live Science
10… Sea World
11… Wolf Worlds
15… Natural Worlds