Wolves are large carnivores — the largest member of the dog, or Canid, family. Wolves are common to all parts of the Northern Hemisphere. They are usually shy and cautious around humans, but unlike the dog, have not been domesticated at all.

Gray wolves, or timber wolves, are canines with long bushy tails that are often black-tipped. Their coat color is typically a mix of gray and brown with buffy facial markings and undersides, but the color can vary from solid white to brown or black. Gray wolves look somewhat like a large German shepherd. Wolves vary in size depending on where they live. Wolves in the north are usually larger than those in the south. The average size of a wolf’s body is three to five feet long and their tails are usually one to two feet long. Females typically weigh 60 to 100 pounds, and males weigh 70 to 145 pounds.

gray wolf, (Canis lupus), also called timber wolf, largest wild member of the dog family (Canidae). It inhabits vast areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Between 5 and 24 subspecies of gray wolves are recognized in North America and 7 to 12 are recognized in Eurasia, with 1 in Africa. Wolves were domesticated several thousand years ago, and selective breeding produced dogs.

Physical Description Of A Gray Wolf

Keen senses, large canine teeth, powerful jaws, and the ability to pursue prey at 60 km (37 miles) per hour equip the gray wolf well for a predatory way of life. A typical northern male may be about 2 metres (6.6 feet) long, including the bushy half-metre-long tail. Standing 76 cm (30 inches) tall at the shoulder, it weighs about 45 kg (100 pounds), but weight ranges from 14 to 65 kg (31 to 143 pounds), depending on the geographic area. Females average about 20 percent smaller than males. The largest wolves are found in west-central Canada, Alaska, and across northern Asia. The smallest tend to be near the southern end of their distribution (the Middle East, Arabia, and India). Fur on the upper body, though usually gray, may be brown, reddish, black, or whitish, while the underparts and legs are usually yellow-white. Light-coloured wolves are common in Arctic regions.

Classification/Taxonomy Of A Gray Wolf

This the classification of wolves, according to ITIS:

Kingdom: Animalia Subkingdom: Bilateria Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata Infraphylum: Gnathostomata Superclass: Tetrapoda Class: Mammalia Subclass: Theria Infraclass: Eutheria Order: Carnivora Suborder: Caniformia Family: Canidae Genus: Canis Species: 

  • Canis lupus (gray wolf)
  • Canis rufus (red wolf)
  • Canis lycaon (Eastern wolf)

Range

The historic range of the gray wolf covered over two-thirds of the United States. Today gray wolves have populations in Alaska, northern Michigan, northern Wisconsin, western Montana, northern Idaho, northeast Oregon, and the Yellowstone area of Wyoming. Mexican wolves, a subspecies of the gray wolf, were reintroduced to protected parkland in eastern Arizona and southwest New Mexico. Wolves can thrive in a diversity of habitats from the tundra to woodlands, forests, grasslands and deserts.

Diet

Wolves are carnivores—they prefer to eat large hoofed mammals such as deer, elk, bison, and moose. They also hunt smaller mammals such as beavers, rodents, and hares. Adults can eat 20 pounds of meat in a single meal.

Behavior

Wolves communicate through body language, scent marking, barking, growling, and howling. Much of their communication is about reinforcing the social hierarchy of the pack. When a wolf wants to show that it is submissive to another wolf, it will crouch, whimper, tuck in its tail, lick the other wolf’s mouth, or roll over on its back.

When a wolf wants to challenge another wolf, it will growl or lay its ears back on its head. A playful wolf dances and bows. Barking is used as a warning, and howling is for long-distance communication to pull a pack back together and to keep strangers away.

Life History Of A Gray Wolf

Wolves live in packs. Most packs have four to nine members, but the size can range from as few as two wolves to as many as 15. Occasionally a pack can increase to 30 members, until some individuals break off to find new territory and form their own pack.

Within the pack hierarchy, there are male and female hierarchies. The alpha male is dominant over the entire pack, both males and females. The alpha female and male are the only ones that breed.

When the young adults reach the age of three, they can either join the pack or leave to find their own territory. The new territory can be close by if there is a lot of prey. In some areas, young adults travel hundreds of miles to find a new territory..

The wolf pups are usually born in a den. At birth, they cannot see or hear and weigh about one pound. The pups are weaned at about six weeks. Adult pack members swallow meat and bring it back to the den for their pups. After the adults regurgitate the food, the pups have a hearty meal. The mother wolf moves her pups to new den sites every couple of months until the fall, when the pack stops living at den sites. In the wild, wolves live 8 to 13 years, sometimes more. In captivity, they live upward of 15 years.

How Much Does A Wolf Weigh?

Wolves can weigh up to as much as 120 pounds. This weight can vary depending on the species, age, and gender of the wolf. Taking all species into account the general weight of a wolf is between 40 to 120 pounds.

Gray wolves are the larger species normally weighing between 50 and 120 pounds, and red wolves are the smaller species normally weigh between 50 and 85 pounds. An even smaller species, the Abyssinian wolf, which is still being debated whether it’s a wolf or not, normally weighs up to 30 pounds.

How Much Does A Gray Wolf Weigh?

Male gray wolves weigh more than females. Depending on where they live the size of wolves can vary, but male gray wolves generally weigh between 70 and 115 pounds.

Females weigh between 50 and 95 pounds.

How Much Does A Timber Wolf Weigh?

Timber wolves once lived throughout the US and Canada, but today the majority live in Canada and Alaska. Like other wolves males weigh more than females.

An average male timber wolf weighs 75 pounds.

Females weigh approximately 60 pounds.

How Much Does An Arctic Wolf Weigh?

Arctic wolves live in Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Their weight will vary based on where they live, but arctic wolves generally weigh between 75 and 125 pounds.

How Much Does A Baby Wolf Weigh?

A baby wolf, or pup, weighs about one pound at birth.

That don’t stay at that weight for long though. Pups grow up fast and in about six months they will be the size of their adult parents.

There are two species of wolf in North America, the gray wolf and the red wolf.

The red wolf was historically found from Texas to Pennsylvania but is now found in North Carolina only.

The gray wolf is the most commonly found wolf in North America.

There are five sub-species of the gray wolf: the Mexican wolf, the Great Plains wolf, the Rocky Mountain wolf, the eastern timber wolf, and the arctic wolf.

Why Do Wolves Howl At The Moon?

You’ve heard the old expression about wolves howling at the moon, but that is not factual. According to scientists, it’s really just coincidental. That unmistakable sound is their way of attracting the attention of the rest of their pack or to warn off other wolf packs from approaching their territory.

Sometimes they howl because another wolf howled first. Kind of like you hear dogs barking. Once one barks the other dogs around will start barking.

Conservation Status

Though wolves once roamed far and wide, they are very scarce today. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists red wolves as critically endangered. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, there are 20 to 80 red wolves currently living in the wild. 

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