The Northwestern wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf found in North America. They are one of the largest subspecies of wolves. Their coat varies in color and can be black, white, gray, tan and even blue-ish. Gray or black colorations are usually the most common.
Northwestern wolves are found in western North America. They range from Alaska, the upper Mackenzie River Valley; southward into the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan as well as the Northwestern United States. These animals inhabit forests and rocky mountain areas.
Northwestern wolves are social animals and live in packs. A pack is usually a family group of 6-12 animals, consisting of a dominant breeding pair, their young and older offspring. The breeding pair is the oldest, largest, and strongest wolves in the pack and usually only they produce pups. These massive predators have very keen senses of sight, hearing, and smell and can travel at around 5 miles per hour for long periods of time during their hunt or traveling within their territory. They are mostly active at sunrise and sunset. A wolf pack may spend 8-10 hours a day on the move and may cover 40 miles a day during winter hunts. In order to communicate with each other, these animals use body language to convey the rules of the pack. The alpha male and female are in charge of the pack. To show dominance, the alphas carry their tails high and stand tall. Subordinate wolves show submissive behavior by holding their tails down and often lower their bodies. The pack has a whole complex social hierarchy maintained through different vocalizations, body postures, and scent marking. 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.
Northwestern wolves are carnivores. Their diet includes moose, bison, elk, caribou, sheep, deer, mountain goats, ground squirrels, and snowshoe hare. They also feed on beavers, salmon, voles, and lemmings.
Northwestern wolves are monogamous and within a pack only the alpha pair mates and produces a single litter of pups. In northern parts of their range, the breeding season takes place in early January through late February. The females give birth to a litter of 4-6 pups after the gestation period of 63 days. A den is usually located in a rock crevice, a hole dug or even a tree stump. The pups are born deaf and blind and start hearing in 12-14 days. After 3 to 6 weeks, the pups usually leave the den and begin to explore the nearby territory, not leaving far from their den. As the pups mature, the pack moves to a more open area within their territory. Young usually reach adult size by 6-8 months of age and become reproductively mature when they are 22 months old.
Main threats to Northwestern wolves include hunting and trapping, as well as loss and fragmentation of their habitat.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Northwestern wolf total population size.
Feeding upon a wide variety of animal species such as deer or elk, Northwestern wolves control the numbers of their populations, thus benefiting different animal and plant species of their range.