Grey Wolf

Grey Wolf

Gray wolf, Timber wolf, Western wolf

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Canis lupus
Population size
400,000
Life Span
10-20 yrs
TOP SPEED
75 km/h
WEIGHT
16-60 kg
HEIGHT
80-85 cm
LENGTH
105-160 cm

This wolf is the largest species of the wild dog family. Females are smaller than males. Male wolves have a straight tail and narrow chest. The feet of males are large and the legs are long. The overall color of the Grey wolf's fur is typically grey with black markings and lighter underparts, though wolves can occasionally be black, brown, red or even pure white. Grey wolves have a very thick fur, consisting of the coarse outer coat, which covers the soft undercoat. Due to the acute sense of hearing as well as keen sense of smell, the animal is able to successfully track down prey. In addition, the long legs allow them to make long steps, promoting high speed during the chase.

Distibution

Grey wolves occur across North America and Eurasia, primarily found in remote areas and wilderness. Their range includes different habitats such as forest, arctic tundra, arid terrain and prairie.

Grey Wolf habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Grey wolves are social animals, living, hunting and travelling in packs. An average wolf pack consists of 7-8 individuals, including the alpha male and female with their young as well as older offspring. The alphas are the leaders of the pack, establishing the group's territory, selecting the den sites, tracking down and hunting prey.They live in close ties with the members of their pack, communicating with each other through a wide variety of calls, including barks, whine, howls and growls.They are most active at sunrise and sunset. As a matter of fact, Grey wolves do not actually howl at the moon: they simply tend to howl, when the night is lighter, which usually happens during the full moon.Throughout the year, these animals undergo a stationary and nomadic phases: stationary phase takes place in spring and summer months, when they grown up the young, while nomadic phase lasts from the autumn to winter. Grey wolves prefer moving at night, being able to travel up to 200 km per day.

Group name

Diet and Nutrition

The Grey wolf is carnivore and scavenger. The usual diet of this animal primarily consists of ungulates such as elk, moose, deer and caribou. They also consume small species like rabbits or beavers. In addition, these wolves will scavenge on occasion.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
January-April
PREGNANCY DURATION
60-63 days
BABY CARRYING
1-14 pups
INDEPENDENT AGE
45 days
FEMALE NAME
bitch
MALE NAME
dog
BABY NAME
pup, whelp

Within a pack, only the alpha male and female breed. The alphas are monogamous, mating for life, until one of the mates dies, after which a new alpha male of female is determined, and the pair is re-established. Grey wolves breed from January to April. The female is responsible for digging a den, where she further gives birth and raises the pups. The gestation period last about 60-63 days, after which 1-14 pups are born with an average of 6-7. For the first 45 days, all members of the pack participate in feeding the pups through regurgitation. The mother stays with the young for the first 3 weeks, after which the pups continue living in the den, until they reach the age of 8-10 weeks. Females are sexually mature at 2 years old, and males - at 3 years old.

Population

Population threats

Primary threats include loss and fragmentation of their habitat, leading to considerable reduction of their population. Due to being considered as livestock predators, these animals are frequently killed both individually and in whole packs. In some areas of its range, the species is not legally protected, and thus is widely hunted and trapped.

Population number

They Grey wolf is fairly widespread throughout its range. The overall population of the species is presently stable, estimated at about 400,000 animals. On the IUCN Red List, the Grey wolf is classified as Least Concern (LC).

Ecological niche

Feeding upon wide variety of animal species such as deer or elk, they control the numbers of their populations, thus benefiting different animal and plant species of their range. Carcasses of prey, left by these wolves, are an important source of nutrients and food for other animals of the area, including scavengers and grizzly bears.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Grey wolf is sometimes called the "common wolf". Also, in North America, the species is referred to as "timber wolf" while in the Arctic, the animal is known as "white wolf".
  • Grey wolves are not fast animals, reaching a speed of about 45km/h. However, they possess excellent senses of hearing and smell, which allow them to hunt efficiently. In addition, Grey wolves are extremely strong and enduring animals, able to pursue the prey all day and night if needed.
  • Grey wolves feed their pups by regurgitation: finding food, they chew and ingest it, and then, returning to the den, vomit swallowed food, feeding the pups.
  • Grey wolves are extremely sociable animals: family members develop very close relationships, showing deep affection for one another and are known to sacrifice themselves when needed to protect the family members.
  • A lone wolf is a wolf that has been expelled from the pack or has left the pack on its own free will. Typically, a lone wolf does not tend to bark and associate with packs.
  • Over the centuries, the Grey wolf has always been pictured as villain, typically being a negative character in various fairy-tales and fables. However, despite this baseless and horrible reputation, Grey wolfs are very intelligent and sociable animals.
  • Like human fingerprints, howl of each wolf is unique, allowing the pack members as well as scientists identify an individual.

References

1. Grey Wolf Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_wolf
2. Grey Wolf on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/3746/0

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