Temporal range: Pleistocene – present (700,000 years–present)
|A wolf howling|
|Historical (red + green) and modern (green) range of wild subspecies of C. lupus|
Appearance[change | change source]
Adult wolves are usually 1.4 to 1.8 metres (4.6 to 5.9 ft) in length from nose to tail depending on the subspecies. Wolves living in the far north tend to be larger than those living further south. As adults they may weigh typically between 23 to 50 kilograms (51 to 110 lb). The heaviest wolf recorded weighed 86 kilograms (190 lb).
The wolf has a long muzzle, short ears, long legs, and a long bushy tail.
Wolves usually measure 26 to 38 inches (66 to 97 cm) at the shoulder. Wolves have fur made up of two layers. The top layer is resistant to dirt, and the under-layer is water resistant. The color of their fur can be any combination of grey, white, taupe, brown, and black.
Life[change | change source]
Wolves live in groups called "packs". They are pack hunters. The members of the pack are usually family members, often just the parents and offspring. Wolves that are not family may join if they do not have a pack of their own. Packs are usually up to 12 wolves, but they can be as small as two or as large as 25. The leaders are called the parent (breeding) male and the parent (breeding) female. Their territory is marked by scent and howling; they will fight any intruders. Young wolves are called 'pups' or 'whelps'. Adult females usually give birth to five or six pups in a litter.
Wolves can run very fast and far. A wolf can run 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) in a day.
Grey wolves can live six to eight years in the wild. They can live in captivity for up to 17 years.
Diet[change | change source]
Wolves are carnivores and eat mostly medium to large size hoofed animals (unguligrades), but they will also eat rodents, insectivores and foxes. Some wolves have been seen eating salmon, seals, beached whales, lizards, snakes and birds. They also eat moose, bison, deer and other large animals. Wolves usually stalk old or sick animals, but they do not always catch what they stalk. They may go days without food. Sometimes only one out of twelve hunts are successful. But the way they eat stays the same. The alpha male and female feed first. Then the other members feed. Sometimes (especially if the prey they have killed is large) wolves may store food and come back that day to feed on it. Wolves have very sharp teeth which helps them tear large chunks of meat from a dead animal. They will eat up to 2/7 their body weight. Wolves will also swallow food and then bring it back up for pups to eat.
Habitat[change | change source]
Arctic wolf[change | change source]
The habitat of Arctic wolves is very hostile. Not much is known about their lifestyle. They are more friendly than other wolves, but they can still be very aggressive.
Their winter fur is highly resistant to the cold. Wolves in northern climates can rest comfortably in open areas at −40 °C (−40 °F) by placing their muzzles between the rear legs and covering their faces with their tail. Wolf fur provides better insulation than dog fur, and does not collect ice when warm breath is condensed against it. Since about 1930, the skull of many Arctic wolves has become smaller. This might be because of hybridization between wolves and dogs. They are 3 feet (0.91 m) tall when they're adults. Adult arctic wolves weigh about 75 to 120 pounds (34 to 54 kg). Arctic wolves live in a group of 7-20 wolves. They may live up to 5–10 years in the wild. They can live for 14 years if they are well cared for in a zoo.
Wolves and humans[change | change source]
Even though many people think that wolves are terrible, mean creatures, they are actually much gentler than many people imagine. The main reason wolves become violent is because they may be sick or to protect other wolves in the pack. Many people around the world, especially in Canada and Alaska, have huskies for pets: they are a close relative of the wolf.
A few years ago wolves were put back into Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to breed, because they were becoming endangered. The wolves have been very successful in the park. There had been no wolves there for a long time, because of hunting and poisoned water. Many people were not happy about this because they were afraid that the wolves would eat the sheep and cows near the park. However, wolves only eat livestock when they can not find wild prey.
Extinction in Britain[change | change source]
Wolves in Britain were all killed after centuries of hunting. The last wolves survived in the Scottish Highlands. There is a legend that the last one was killed there in 1743 by a character called MacQueen.
Within the past ten years, there have been studies that are in favour of allowing new wolves to come and live in the English countryside and Scottish Highlands again. One study was in 2007. Researchers from Norway, Britain, and Imperial College London decided that wolves would help add back plants and birds that now are eaten by deer. The wolves would keep the deer population lower. People were generally positive, but farmers living in rural areas wanted to be paid for livestock that were killed by the wolves.
In popular culture[change | change source]
- Many fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs have wolves in them as the main villain.
- Minecraft has wolves which can be tamed.
References[change | change source]
- Linnæus, Carl (1758). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I (in Latin) (10 ed.). Holmiæ (Stockholm): Laurentius Salvius. pp. 39–40. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
- Pang (2009). "mtDNA data indicate a single origin for dogs south of Yangtze River, less than 16,300 years ago, from numerous wolves". Molecular Biology and Evolution. pp. 2849–2864. doi:10.1093/molbev/msp195. PMC 2775109. PMID 19723671.
- "Gray Wolf Fact Sheet". Nature. Educational Broadcasting Corporation, Public Broadcasting Service. 13 April 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Heptner, V. G.; Naumov, N. P. (1998). Mammals of the Soviet Union Vol. II Part 1a, Sirenia and Carnivora (Sea cows; Wolves and Bears). Science Publishers, Inc. USA. p. 197. ISBN 1-886106-81-9.
- Hunter, Luke & Barrett, Priscilla (2011), A Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World, New Holland Publishers, p. 100, ISBN 978-1-84773-346-7
- Graves, Will (2007) Wolves in Russia: anxiety throughout the ages. Detselig Enterprises. p. 35 ISBN 1550593323
- Clutton-Brock J; Kitchener A.C. & Lynch J.M. 1994. Changes in the skull morphology of the Arctic wolf, Canis lupus arctos, during the twentieth century. Journal of Zoology 233:19–36.
- "Wild wolves 'good for ecosystems'". BBC News: Science / Nature. 31 January 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
Other websites[change | change source]
Media related to Canis lupus at Wikimedia Commons