How Big Are Wolves?

For thousands of years, wolves have captured humanitys imagination. While they may not be as large as lions or bears, wolves still fill people with fear. These sociable animals hunt in packs and are capable of bringing down prey much heavier than them. Their territory can spread over hundreds of miles, and packs can include up to 20 adult members.

They subsist primarily on Tibetan gazelle, but their diet also consists of Himalayan marmots , wooly hares, and pikas. While India , Nepal , and China ban hunting wolves, international trade continues to threaten their populations.

Their range has shifted in recent years due to the expansion of human settlements and the decline in the population of Siberian tigers , its chief rival for food. The trade of their fur, revenge killing, and hunting combine to threaten Mongolian wolf populations. Although they were once widespread throughout the southeastern states, red wolves went extinct in the wild due to hunting and habitat loss.

Hunting is the primary reason for the decline in steppe wolf populations and has led to the IUCN listing them as an Endangered species. Their lead-gray fur is dense, long, and soft, and historically their pelts have been highly prized by hunters and traders. Since the frozen Arctic ground makes digging dens difficult, they typically seek shelter in caves or rocky outcroppings.

The northern Rocky Mountain wolf ( Canis lupus irremotus ) is one of the largest subspecies of gray wolves. The Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan led to their reintroduction to Yellowstone Park and other remote locations in the region. However, mass extermination campaigns that ran from the Middle Ages through the 20th century severely curtailed their population.

What is the largest wolf in the world?

#1: Northwestern Wolf. The Northwestern wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis) is known by many names, including the Mackenzie Valley wolf, Canadian timber wolf, and Alaskan timber wolf. It is the largest wolf in the world, with the average male weighing 137 lb, while the average female weighs 101 lb.

How big do real wolves get?

Adult wolves stretch anywhere from four to six feet long and can weigh anywhere from 40 to 170 pounds at the largest. Animals over the 100-pound mark are rare, but it is quite possible to see one that size if you’re in the right area.

How big is the biggest breed of wolf?

The biggest wolf in the world was documented in 1939 by a famous wolf trapper in Alaska, Frank Glaser, who caught a 175-pound Mackenzie Valley male. Other non-confirmed documentations include reports of a 230-pound behemoth in Alberta, Canada.

How tall are wolves?

Wolf / Height

Wolves are predominantly divided into three species: Ethiopian wolves, red wolves and gray wolves. However, distinctions are made between varieties of wolves within these categories, organizing them into subspecies. Nearly 40 subspecies of wolves are officially recognized, the largest of which fall under the category of gray wolves.

The highly intelligent, observant packs of Alaskan Interior Wolves exercise a level of teamwork which enables them to take down massive prey such as bison, moose, and elk. This method not only takes down their meal efficiently, but reduces the risk of individual pack members getting injured.

Weight: 125 pounds Length: 5-7 feet Location: Northern Europe and Asia Estimated population: 30,000-40,000 They also exercise selective predation, picking off the old, sick, and weak members of caribou and bison herds. While these majestic wolves once roamed a much broader area of Northern Europe, their numbers were compromised by human hunters .

After being hunted for their beautiful pelts, the reduced Tundra Wolf population is densest primarily in the northern arctic and boreal Russia. The main defining features that set the Eurasian Wolf apart from other subspecies are its slender build and comparatively short, coarse coat. The colors of their coats vary greatly, fluctuating between cream, red, black, gray, or any combination of those.

Weight: Up to 175 pounds Length: 5 to 7 feet Location: Alaska and Western Canada Estimated population: 7,000 10,000 The Mackenzie Valley Wolf is also prevalent in Yellowstone National Park, where it plays the important role of keeping the Elk population in check. These smart, formidable wolves generally hunt by coordinating a stampede that causes the youngest and weakest members of the herd to fall behind for an easier takedown.

Wolves are the mysterious dog-like species that live in the woods. The word wolf carries a meaning of beauty for some and controversy for others. Wolves are the largest members of the dog family, but within the species, there are a variety of breeds, some larger than others.

They are adaptable creatures and then can live in many different climates, including the desert, grasslands, tundra, forest, and woodlands. They get their name from hanging around a specific area in Canada called the Mackenzie River Valley.

These stats are essential to their survival at high altitudes, giving them more room for bigger organs like their lungs. Image Credit: Theodore (Ted) Stark, FlickrThe Alaskan Interior Wolf haunts the semi-cold areas of Alaska and the Yukon. Though they are very closely related, scientists are finding out that Dire Wolves actually need their own species category.

As mentioned earlier, the size of an adult wolf is influenced by its genetic makeup and environment. With length spans ranging from 6 to 7 feet, wolves reach a formidable size among forest predators. In terms of our human perspective, wolves are basically large dogs with powerful prey drives and unchangeable natural instincts.

Jordin Horn is a freelance writer who has covered many topics, including home improvement, gardening, pets, CBD, and parenting. She calls Colorado home, but has also recently resided in China, Iowa, and Puerto Rico

The wolf (Canis lupus[a]), also known as the gray wolf or grey wolf, is a large canine native to Eurasia and North America. More than thirty subspecies of Canis lupus have been recognized, and gray wolves, as colloquially understood, comprise non-domestic/feral subspecies. The wolf is the largest extant member of the family Canidae. It is also distinguished from other Canis species by its less pointed ears and muzzle, as well as a shorter torso and a longer tail. The wolf is nonetheless related closely enough to smaller Canis species, such as the coyote and the golden jackal, to produce fertile hybrids with them. The banded fur of a wolf is usually mottled white, brown, gray, and black, although subspecies in the arctic region may be nearly all white.

Of all members of the genus Canis , the wolf is most specialized for cooperativegame hunting as demonstrated by its physical adaptations to tackling large prey, its more social nature , and its highly advanced expressive behaviour . The wolf is mainly a carnivore and feeds on large wild hooved mammals as well as smaller animals, livestock, carrion , and garbage.

The global wild wolf population was estimated to be 300,000 in 2003 and is considered to be of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Wolves have a long history of interactions with humans, having been despised and hunted in most pastoral communities because of their attacks on livestock, while conversely being respected in some agrarian and hunter-gatherer societies. Although the fear of wolves exists in many human societies, the majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies .

2.62 mya3.50 mya Cladogram and divergence of the gray wolf (including the domestic dog) among its closest extant relatives [8] In 1758, the Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus published in his Systema Naturae the binomial nomenclature . [3] Linnaeus considered the dog to be a separate species from the wolf because of its “cauda recurvata” (upturning tail) which is not found in any other canid . The earliest fossils of C. lupus were found in what was once eastern Beringia at Old Crow, Yukon , Canada, and at Cripple Creek Sump, Fairbanks , Alaska.

It is proposed that these features were specialized adaptations for the processing of carcass and bone associated with the hunting and scavenging of Pleistocene megafauna . Compared with those found in the modern spotted hyena , the frequency and location of tooth fractures in these wolves indicates they were habitual bone crackers. Genomic studies suggest modern wolves and dogs descend from a common ancestral wolf population [16][17][18] that existed 20,000 years ago.

[19][20] Other wolves appear to have originated in Beringia in an expansion that was driven by the huge ecological changes during the close of the Late Pleistocene. [15] The dingo, Basenji , Tibetan Mastiff and Chinese indigenous breeds are basal members of the domestic dog clade. The divergence time for wolves in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia is estimated to be fairly recent at around 1,600 years ago.

One African wolf from the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula shows admixture with Middle Eastern gray wolves and dogs. Similarly, a museum specimen of a wolf from southern China collected in 1963 showed a genome that was 1214% admixed from this unknown canid. [30] It is slender and powerfully built, with a large, deeply descending rib cage , a sloping back, and a heavily muscled neck.

The wolf’s legs are moderately longer than those of other canids, which enables the animal to move swiftly, and to overcome the deep snow that covers most of its geographical range in winter. The wolf’s head is large and heavy, with a wide forehead, strong jaws and a long, blunt muzzle. [38] Females tend to have narrower muzzles and foreheads, thinner necks, slightly shorter legs, and less massive shoulders than males.

The wolf has very dense and fluffy winter fur, with a short undercoat and long, coarse guard hairs . 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. In cold climates, the wolf can reduce the flow of blood near its skin to conserve body heat.

Female wolves tend to have smoother furred limbs than males and generally develop the smoothest overall coats as they age. [46] Differences in coat colour between sexes is absent in Eurasia; females tend to have redder tones in North America. Black-coloured wolves in North America acquired their colour from wolf-dog admixture after the first arrival of dogs across the Bering Strait 12,000 to 14,000 years ago.

Wolves live in forests, inland wetlands , shrublands , grasslands (including Arctic tundra ), pastures , deserts, and rocky peaks on mountains. Like all land mammals that are pack hunters , the wolf feeds predominantly on wild herbivorous hoofed mammals that can be divided into large size 240650 kg (5301,430 lb) and medium size 23130 kg (51287 lb), and have a body mass similar to that of the combined mass of the pack members. [54] The variation in diet between wolves living on different continents is based on the variety of hoofed mammals and of available smaller and domesticated prey.

A well-fed wolf stores fat under the skin, around the heart, intestines, kidneys, and bone marrow, particularly during the autumn and winter. Wolves also eat grass, which may provide some vitamins, but is most likely used mainly to induce vomiting to rid themselves of intestinal parasites or long guard hairs. [64] They are known to eat the berries of mountain-ash , lily of the valley , bilberries , cowberries , European black nightshade , grain crops, and the shoots of reeds.

In Eurasian areas with dense human activity, many wolf populations are forced to subsist largely on livestock and garbage. Prey in North America continue to occupy suitable habitats with low human density, the wolves eating livestock and garbage only in dire circumstances. According to a press release by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1921, the infamous Custer Wolf relied on coyotes to accompany him and warn him of danger.

[69] Interactions have been observed in Eurasia between wolves and golden jackals, the latter’s numbers being comparatively small in areas with high wolf densities. Wolves have been recorded on numerous occasions actively seeking out American black bears in their dens and killing them without eating them. [78] Wolves more broadly affect cougar population dynamics and distribution by dominating territory and prey opportunities and disrupting the feline’s behaviour.

With perhaps only four proven records of tigers killing wolves, these cases are rare; attacks appear to be competitive rather than predatory in nature. The wolf’s basic social unit is the nuclear family consisting of a mated pair accompanied by their offspring. In the rare cases where other wolves are adopted, the adoptee is almost invariably an immature animal of one to three years old, and unlikely to compete for breeding rights with the mated pair.

They tend to increase in size in areas with low prey populations, or when the pups reach the age of six months when they have the same nutritional needs as adults. Such markers can last for two to three weeks, and are typically placed near rocks, boulders, trees, or the skeletons of large animals. Wolves howl to assemble the pack usually before and after hunts, to pass on an alarm particularly at a den site, to locate each other during a storm, while crossing unfamiliar territory, and to communicate across great distances.

When building dens, females make use of natural shelters like fissures in rocks, cliffs overhanging riverbanks and holes thickly covered by vegetation. Resting places, play areas for the pups, and food remains are commonly found around wolf dens. The odor of urine and rotting food emanating from the denning area often attracts scavenging birds like magpies and ravens .

During pregnancy, female wolves remain in a den located away from the peripheral zone of their territories, where violent encounters with other packs are less likely to occur. The gestation period lasts 6275 days with pups usually being born in the spring months or early summer in very cold places such as on the tundra. Wolf pups begin play-fighting at the age of three weeks, though unlike young coyotes and foxes, their bites are gentle and controlled.

[113] This contrasts with the commonly held belief that larger packs benefit from cooperative hunting to bring down large game. These follow the banks of rivers, the shorelines of lakes, ravines overgrown with shrubs, plantations, or roads and human paths. Wolves have been killed while attempting to bring down bison, elk, moose, muskoxen, and even by one of their smallest hoofed prey, the white-tailed deer.

The wolf must give chase and gain on its fleeing prey, slow it down by biting through thick hair and hide, and then disable it enough to begin feeding. Wolves may wound large prey and then lie around resting for hours before killing it when it is weaker due to blood loss, thereby lessening the risk of injury to themselves. With medium-sized prey, such as roe deer or sheep , wolves kill by biting the throat, severing nerve tracks and the carotid artery , thus causing the animal to die within a few seconds to a minute.

Once prey is brought down, wolves begin to feed excitedly, ripping and tugging at the carcass in all directions, and bolting down large chunks of it. Wolves typically commence feeding by consuming the larger internal organs, like the heart , liver , lungs , and stomach lining. Infected wolves do not show any fear of humans, most documented wolf attacks on people being attributed to rabid animals.

The canine parvovirus, which causes death by dehydration , electrolyte imbalance , and endotoxic shock or sepsis , is largely survivable in wolves, but can be lethal to pups. While adult wolves tend not to show any clinical signs, it can severely weaken the pups of infected females. Ticks of the genus Ixodes can infect wolves with Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever .

Ancylostoma caninum attaches itself on the intestinal wall to feed on the host’s blood, and can cause hyperchromic anemia , emaciation, diarrhea , and possibly death. Toxocara canis , a hookworm known to infect wolf pups in the uterus, can cause intestinal irritation, bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although T. spiralis is not known to produce clinical signs in wolves, it can cause emaciation, salivation, and crippling muscle pains in dogs.

This has fostered recolonization and reintroduction in parts of its former range as a result of legal protection, changes in land use, and rural human population shifts to cities. Despite these threats, the IUCN classifies the wolf as Least Concern on its Red List due to its relatively widespread range and stable population. However, those wolf populations living in Bhutan , India, Nepal and Pakistan are listed in its AppendixI , indicating that these may become extinct without restrictions on their trade.

The decline of the traditional pastoral and rural economies seems to have ended the need to exterminate the wolf in parts of Europe. In the former Soviet Union , wolf populations have retained much of their historical range despite Soviet-era large scale extermination campaigns. [143] The Russian government has continued to pay bounties for wolves and annual harvests of 2030% do not appear to significantly affect their numbers.

In folklore, religion and mythology In Chinese astronomy , the wolf represents Sirius and guards the heavenly gate. The legend of the werewolf has been widespread in European folklore and involves people willingly turning into wolves to attack and kill others. The Navajo have traditionally believed that witches would turn into wolves by donning wolf skins and would kill people and raid graveyards.

Although Aesop used wolves to warn, criticize and moralize about human behaviour, his portrayals added to the wolf’s image as a deceitful and dangerous animal. The tale of ” Little Red Riding Hood “, first written in 1697 by Charles Perrault , is considered to have further contributed to the wolf’s negative reputation in the Western world. The hunting of wolves, and their attacks on humans and livestock, feature prominently in Russian literature , and are included in the works of Leo Tolstoy , Anton Chekhov , Nikolay Nekrasov , Ivan Bunin , Leonid Pavlovich Sabaneyev , and others.

His portrayal of wolves has been praised posthumously by wolf biologists for his depiction of them: rather than being villainous or gluttonous, as was common in wolf portrayals at the time of the book’s publication, they are shown as living in amiable family groups and drawing on the experience of infirm but experienced elder pack members. [173] Farley Mowat ‘s largely fictional 1963 memoir Never Cry Wolf is widely considered to be the most popular book on wolves, having been adapted into a Hollywood film and taught in several schools decades after its publication. The majority of losses occur during the summer grazing period, untended livestock in remote pastures being the most vulnerable to wolf predation.

The most frequently targeted livestock species are sheep (Europe), domestic reindeer (northern Scandinavia), goats (India), horses (Mongolia), cattle and turkeys (North America). Wolves may display unusually bold behaviour when attacking dogs accompanied by people, sometimes ignoring nearby humans. Predatory attacks can occur at any time of the year, with a peak in the JuneAugust period, when the chances of people entering forested areas (for livestock grazing or berry and mushroom picking) increase.

[192] Cases of non-rabid wolf attacks in winter have been recorded in Belarus , Kirov and Irkutsk oblasts, Karelia and Ukraine . Incidents of rabies in wolves are very rare in North America, though numerous in the eastern Mediterranean , the Middle East and Central Asia . This method relies heavily on the wolf’s fear of human scents, though it can lose its effectiveness when wolves become accustomed to the odor.

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#10: Himalayan Wolf

Larger than its geographic neighbor, the Indian wolf, the Himalayan wolf (Himalayan wolves roam throughout the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau, and the highlands of Central Asia. They are adapted to live at high elevations, unlike most wolves that prefer lower, more oxygen-rich environments. While the Himalayan wolf’s taxonomy is up to debate, some biologists argue that it is a distinct subspecies.Currently, the Himalayan wolf is listed as Endangered according to the IUCN. While India, Nepal, and China ban hunting wolves, international trade continues to threaten their populations.

#9: Mongolian Wolf

From its nose to its tail, the Mongolian wolf (Mongolian wolves are native to Mongolia, central and northern China, and Russia. Their range has shifted in recent years due to the expansion of human settlements and the decline in the population of Siberian tigers, its chief rival for food. Prey include saiga as well as domestic livestock.Known as “the sheep’s assassin” in Mongolian, wolves are occasionally killed by herders to protect their livestock. The trade of their fur, revenge killing, and hunting combine to threaten Mongolian wolf populations. No protections currently exist for Mongolian wolves, and their total number is unknown.

#8: Red Wolf

The red wolf (Red wolves are native to the southeastern regions of the United States. While more sociable than coyotes, they are less companionable than gray wolves. Their diet consists of rodents, rabbits, white-tailed deer, and nutria.Although they were once widespread throughout the southeastern states, red wolves went extinct in the wild due to hunting and habitat loss. Today, the IUCN lists red wolves as a Critically Endangered species. Most live in captivity or specially designated wildlife refuges. Still, released red wolves living in the wild continue to face threats from hunters.

#7: Steppe Wolf

Also known as the Caspian Sea wolf, steppe wolves (Steppe wolves can be found throughout the Caspian steppes, the Caucasus, the lower Volga region, and southern Kazakhstan. Occasionally, villagers will keep them as guard animals. Their diet includes Caspian seals, rodents, and fish. However, hungry steppe wolves may also eat berries and other plants to survive.Many steppe wolves live close to human settlements, and they frequently attack livestock. Since they are legal to hunt in certain regions, steppe wolves are at risk due to hunting by herders trying to protect their animals. Hunting is the primary reason for the decline in steppe wolf populations and has led to the IUCN listing them as an Endangered species.

#6: Tundra Wolf

The tundra wolf (Tundra wolves range from the tundra regions of Finland to the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. They tend to live in heavily wooded areas and river valleys. Their diet consists almost exclusively of reindeer, although they will also eat game such as rabbits, birds, and small rodents.

#5: Arctic Wolf

Also known as the white wolf or polar wolf, arctic wolves (Arctic wolves live throughout Greenland, Alaska, Iceland, and Canada. Since the frozen Arctic ground makes digging dens difficult, they typically seek shelter in caves or rocky outcroppings. They subsist on a diet of Arctic hares, caribou, and muskoxen. An arctic wolf can go 4 or 5 months without eating and can eat up to 20 lb of meat in a single meal.Due to their remote location, arctic wolves rarely come into contact with humans. They have few natural predators other than polar bears, as the bears occasionally kill and eat their cubs. Since there are around 200,000 arctic wolves worldwide, the IUCN lists them as a species of Least Concern.

#4: Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf

The northern Rocky Mountain wolf (Northern Rocky Mountain wolves historically resided throughout the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Today, they can be found in parts of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and southern Canada. They primarily prey on elk, bison, Rocky Mountain mule deer, and beaver. When prey is scarce, they will resort to killing and cannibalizing an injured or infirm member of the pack.While they were once widespread throughout the Rocky Mountains, northern Rocky Mountain wolves were almost hunted to extinction. The

#3: Eurasian Wolf

The largest wolf found outside North America, the Eurasian wolf (Eurasian wolves used to live all across Europe and the Russian steppe. However, mass extermination campaigns that ran from the Middle Ages through the 20th century severely curtailed their population. Today, they can still be found in northern and eastern Europe and across Russia’s steppe regions. They subsist on moose, deer, wild boar, and other local large prey in the wild.Despite a reduction in the number of Eurasian wolves, attacks on livestock are still common. They are protected in most European countries, and populations have skyrocketed throughout regions once part of the Soviet Union. Thanks to an increase in their numbers, the IUCN lists the Eurasian wolf as a species of Least Concern.

#2: Interior Alaskan Wolf

The Interior Alaskan wolf (Interior Alaskan wolves are native to the interior of Alaska and the Yukon. They make their homes within boreal forests, alpine and subalpine regions, and the Arctic tundra. Their diet varies by region but mainly consists of moose, caribou, and Dall sheep.Despite relatively sparse human settlements, attacks on livestock by Interior Alaskan wolves are common. Over the years, several programs aimed at reducing their numbers have led to mass killings. Still, the population appears to be stable, with an estimated 5,000 wolves living in the Yukon alone.

#1: Northwestern Wolf

The Northwestern wolf (Northwestern wolves range from Alaska through the western regions of Canada and down into the northwest United States. They prey on elk and have been documented stampeding a herd to separate young elk from their parents. Northwestern wolves are also known to hunt bison, although they usually only target the young or weak in a herd.Currently, the Northwestern wolf is not in significant danger. While the hunting and trapping of wolves do exist, its population is stable, especially in Canada, where it is most dominant.

Wolf Population

Today, the world wolf population of all subspecies is unknown. Grey wolves, the most common subspecies, populate the lower 48 states in around the 6,000 range.Wolves have been around since the beginning of the world. Their food source is meat, so they have been known to kill deer, elk, moose, and even livestock. That last one has gotten them on farmers’ hit list.At one point, wolves were almost extinct due to overhunting, but conservation efforts have brought them back into normal population levels. They were taken off the “endangered species” list in 2020. People disagree whether they are actually endangered still.

Where Do Wolves Live?

Wolves are mostly wild and roam all parts of the world. They currently live in North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. They are adaptable creatures and then can live in many different climates, including the desert, grasslands, tundra, forest, and woodlands.

1. Mackenzie Valley Wolf

The Mackenzie Valley Wolf, also known as the Canadian Timber Wolf, is currently the largest wolf breed in the world. They get their name from hanging around a specific area in Canada called the Mackenzie River Valley. You can also find them in other parts of Western Canada and Alaska.Weighing in at about 175 pounds, these wolves can be up to 7 feet long. These stats are essential to their survival at high altitudes, giving them more room for bigger organs like their lungs.

2. Eurasian Wolf

The Eurasian Wolf populates countries in Western Europe, Russia, Scandinavia and China. It’s got a skinnier build than other wolves, but it is still quite big at around 5 feet in length and up to 160 pounds. Their coats can be found in many colors, but are usually coarse and short.

3. Tundra Wolf

The Tundra Wolf can be as long as the Mackenzie Valley Wolf, however, it does not weigh as much. You can find these wolves mostly in the coldest parts of Russia. It grows an extremely thick coat to insulate it from harsh conditions. Their meals consist of caribou and bison. To conserve its energy, it tends to hunt only the weak animals within a herd.

4. Alaskan Interior Wolf

The Alaskan Interior Wolf haunts the semi-cold areas of Alaska and the Yukon. It’s also called the Yukon wolf. Within their pack, they tag-team hunting by surrounding their prey from all sides. The most common color of these wolves is black, but they are also grey in color. They are generally 6½ feet long and 120 pounds.

6. Dire Wolf

The Great Plains Wolf is about as long as the Yukon Wolf, but not quite as hefty in weight. This subspecies has potentially had the biggest hit to its population, as it was hunted to near extinction at one point. It’s the most common species in the United States and only has a pack size of about 5 or 6.

How Big Are Wolves?

As mentioned earlier, the size of an adult wolf is influenced by its genetic makeup and environment. Some wolves, like the Great Plains wolf, will never reach the gargantuan size of a well-fed Alaskan wolf. Wildlife experts say anything over 140 pounds is huge. With length spans ranging from 6 to 7 feet, wolves reach a formidable size among forest predators. However, they’re not nearly as big as some domesticated dog breeds like the Great Dane and English Mastiff.The biggest wolf in the world was documented in 1939 by a famous wolf trapper in Alaska, Frank Glaser, who caught a 175-pound Mackenzie Valley male. Other non-confirmed documentations include reports of a 230-pound behemoth in Alberta, Canada. In terms of our human perspective, wolves are basically large dogs with powerful prey drives and unchangeable natural instincts.

Wolf

TheOf all members of the genusThe global wild wolf population was estimated to be 300,000 in 2003 and is considered to be of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Wolves have a long history of interactions with humans, having been despised and hunted in most pastoral communities because of their attacks on livestock, while conversely being respected in some agrarian and hunter-gatherer societies. The wolf is also considered the ancestor of the domestic dog. Although the fear of wolves exists in many human societies, the majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. Wolf attacks on humans are rare because wolves are relatively few, live away from people, and have developed a fear of humans because of their experiences with hunters, ranchers, and shepherds.

Etymology

The English “wolf” stems from the Old EnglishSince pre-Christian times, Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons took on

Taxonomy

In 1758, the Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus published in his

Evolution

The phylogenetic descent of the extant wolfGenomic studies suggest modern wolves and dogs descend from a common ancestral wolf populationA 2016 genomic study suggests that Old World and New World wolves split around 12,500 years ago followed by the divergence of the lineage that led to dogs from other Old World wolves around 11,100–12,300 years ago.

Admixture with other canids

In the distant past, there has been gene flow between African wolves, golden jackals, and gray wolves. The African wolf is a descendant of a genetically admixed canid of 72% wolf and 28% Ethiopian wolf ancestry. One African wolf from the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula shows admixture with Middle Eastern gray wolves and dogs.The common ancestor of the coyote and the wolf has admixed with a ghost population of an extinct unidentified canid. This canid is genetically close to the dhole and evolved after the divergence of the African hunting dog from the other canid species. The basal position of the coyote compared to the wolf is proposed to be due to the coyote retaining more of the mitochondrial genome of this unidentified canid.In more recent times, some male Italian wolves originated from dog ancestry, which indicates female wolves will breed with male dogs in the wild.In 2021, a genetic study found that the dog’s similarity to the extant gray wolf was the result of substantial dog-into-wolf gene flow, with almost negligible wolf-into-dog gene flow since the dog’s domestication. Some gray wolves were related to all ancient and modern dogs.

Description

The wolf is the largest extant member of the Canidae family,Adult wolves measure 105–160 cm (41–63 in) in length and 80–85 cm (31–33 in) at shoulder height.

Pelage

The wolf has very dense and fluffy winter fur, with a short undercoat and long, coarse guard hairs.In cold climates, the wolf can reduce the flow of blood near its skin to conserve body heat. The warmth of the foot pads is regulated independently from the rest of the body and is maintained at just above tissue-freezing point where the pads come in contact with ice and snow.A wolf’s coat colour is determined by its guard hairs. Wolves usually have some hairs that are white, brown, gray and black.In North America, the coat colours of wolves follow Gloger’s rule, wolves in the Canadian arctic being white and those in southern Canada, the U.S., and Mexico being predominantly gray. In some areas of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia, the coat colour is predominantly black, some being blue-gray and some with silver and black.

Distribution and habitat

Wolves occur across Eurasia and North America. However, deliberate human persecution because of livestock predation and fear of attacks on humans has reduced the wolf’s range to about one-third of its historic range; the wolf is now extirpated (locally extinct) from much of its range in Western Europe, the United States and Mexico, and completely in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Japan. In modern times, the wolf occurs mostly in wilderness and remote areas. The wolf can be found between sea level and 3,000 m (9,800 ft). Wolves live in forests, inland wetlands, shrublands, grasslands (including Arctic tundra), pastures, deserts, and rocky peaks on mountains.

Diet

Like all land mammals that are pack hunters, the wolf feeds predominantly on wild herbivorous hoofed mammals that can be divided into large size 240–650 kg (530–1,430 lb) and medium size 23–130 kg (51–287 lb), and have a body mass similar to that of the combined mass of the pack members.In North America, the wolf’s diet is dominated by wild large hoofed mammals (ungulates) and medium-sized mammals. In Asia and Europe, their diet is dominated by wild medium-sized hoofed mammals and domestic species. The wolf depends on wild species, and if these are not readily available, as in Asia, the wolf is more reliant on domestic species.Nonetheless, wolves are not fussy eaters. Smaller-sized animals that may supplement their diet include rodents, hares, insectivores and smaller carnivores. They frequently eat waterfowl and their eggs. When such foods are insufficient, they prey on lizards, snakes, frogs, and large insects when available.In Europe, wolves eat apples, pears, figs, melons, berries and cherries. In North America, wolves eat blueberries and raspberries. Wolves also eat grass, which may provide some vitamins, but is most likely used mainly to induce vomiting to rid themselves of intestinal parasites or long guard hairs.In times of scarcity, wolves will readily eat carrion.

Interactions with other predators

Wolves typically dominate other canid species in areas where they both occur. In North America, incidents of wolves killing coyotes are common, particularly in winter, when coyotes feed on wolf kills. Wolves may attack coyote den sites, digging out and killing their pups, though rarely eating them. There are no records of coyotes killing wolves, though coyotes may chase wolves if they outnumber them.Brown bears typically dominate wolf packs in disputes over carcasses, while wolf packs mostly prevail against bears when defending their den sites. Both species kill each other’s young. Wolves eat the brown bears they kill, while brown bears seem to eat only young wolves.Wolves may interact and compete with felids, such as the Eurasian lynx, which may feed on smaller prey where wolves are presentIn Israel, Central Asia and India wolves may encounter striped hyenas, usually in disputes over carcasses. Striped hyenas feed extensively on wolf-killed carcasses in areas where the two species interact. One-to-one, hyenas dominate wolves, and may prey on them,

Social structure

The wolf is a social animal.Offspring typically stay in the pack for 10–54 months before dispersing.Wolves are territorial and generally establish territories far larger than they require to survive assuring a steady supply of prey. Territory size depends largely on the amount of prey available and the age of the pack’s pups. They tend to increase in size in areas with low prey populations,Wolves advertise their territories to other packs through howling and scent marking. Scent marking involves urine, feces, and anal gland scents. This is more effective at advertising territory than howling and is often used in combination with scratch marks. Wolves increase their rate of scent marking when they encounter the marks of wolves from other packs. Lone wolves will rarely mark, but newly bonded pairs will scent mark the most.Wolves communicate to anticipate what their pack mates or other wolves might do next.

Reproduction

Wolves are monogamous, mated pairs usually remaining together for life. Should one of the pair die, another mate is found quickly.Dens are usually constructed for pups during the summer period. When building dens, females make use of natural shelters like fissures in rocks, cliffs overhanging riverbanks and holes thickly covered by vegetation. Sometimes, the den is the appropriated burrow of smaller animals such as foxes, badgers or marmots. An appropriated den is often widened and partly remade. On rare occasions, female wolves dig burrows themselves, which are usually small and short with one to three openings. The den is usually constructed not more than 500 m (550 yd) away from a water source. It typically faces southwards where it can be better warmed by sunlight exposure, and the snow can thaw more quickly. Resting places, play areas for the pups, and food remains are commonly found around wolf dens. The odor of urine and rotting food emanating from the denning area often attracts scavenging birds like magpies and ravens. Though they mostly avoid areas within human sight, wolves have been known to nest near domiciles, paved roads and railways.The gestation period lasts 62–75 days with pups usually being born in the spring months or early summer in very cold places such as on the tundra. Young females give birth to four to five young, and older females from six to eight young and up to 14. Their mortality rate is 60–80%.

Hunting and feeding

Single wolves or mated pairs typically have higher success rates in hunting than do large packs; single wolves have occasionally been observed to kill large prey such as moose, bison and muskoxen unaided.Wolves move around their territory when hunting, using the same trails for extended periods. After snowfalls, wolves find their old trails and continue using them. These follow the banks of rivers, the shorelines of lakes, ravines overgrown with shrubs, plantations, or roads and human paths.When hunting large gregarious prey, wolves will try to isolate an individual from its group.The wolf must give chase and gain on its fleeing prey, slow it down by biting through thick hair and hide, and then disable it enough to begin feeding.Once prey is brought down, wolves begin to feed excitedly, ripping and tugging at the carcass in all directions, and bolting down large chunks of it.

Viral and bacterial

Viral diseases carried by wolves include: rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus, infectious canine hepatitis, papillomatosis, and canine coronavirus.Bacterial diseases carried by wolves include: brucellosis, Lyme disease, leptospirosis, tularemia, bovine tuberculosis,

Parasitic

Wolves carry ectoparasites and endoparasites; those in the former Soviet Union have been recorded to carry at least 50 species.Wolves are often infested with a variety of arthropod exoparasites, including fleas, ticks, lice, and mites. The most harmful to wolves, particularly pups, is the mange mite (Endoparasites known to infect wolves include: protozoans and helminths (flukes, tapeworms, roundworms and thorny-headed worms). Of 30,000 protozoan species, only a few have been recorded to infect wolves:Wolves can carry over 30 roundworm species, though most roundworm infections appear benign, depending on the number of worms and the age of the host.

Status and conservation

The global wild wolf population in 2003 was estimated at 300,000.

North America

In Canada, 50,000–60,000 wolves live in 80% of their historical range, making Canada an important stronghold for the species.In the contiguous United States, wolf declines were caused by the expansion of agriculture, the decimation of the wolf’s main prey species like the American bison, and extermination campaigns.

Eurasia

Europe, excluding Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, has 17,000 wolves in more than 28 countries.Wolves have been persecuted in Europe for centuries, having been exterminated in Great Britain by 1684, in Ireland by 1770, in Central Europe by 1899, in France by the 1930s, and in much of Scandinavia by the early 1970s. They continued to survive in parts of Finland, Eastern Europe and Southern Europe.In the former Soviet Union, wolf populations have retained much of their historical range despite Soviet-era large scale extermination campaigns. Their numbers range from 1,500 in Georgia, to 20,000 in Kazakhstan and up to 45,000 in Russia.In the Middle East, only Israel and Oman give wolves explicit legal protection.In southern Asia, the northern regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan are important strongholds for wolves. The wolf has been protected in India since 1972.

In folklore, religion and mythology

The wolf is a common motif in the mythologies and cosmologies of peoples throughout its historical range. The Ancient Greeks associated wolves with Apollo, the god of light and order.In Chinese astronomy, the wolf represents Sirius and guards the heavenly gate. In China, the wolf was traditionally associated with greed and cruelty and wolf epithets were used to describe negative behaviours such as cruelty (“wolf’s heart”), mistrust (“wolf’s look”) and lechery (“wolf-sex”). In both Hinduism and Buddhism, the wolf is ridden by gods of protection. In Vedic Hinduism, the wolf is a symbol of the night and the daytime quail must escape from its jaws. In Tantric Buddhism, wolves are depicted as inhabitants of graveyards and destroyers of corpses.In the Pawnee creation myth, the wolf was the first animal brought to Earth. When humans killed it, they were punished with death, destruction and the loss of immortality.The concept of people turning into wolves, and the inverse, has been present in many cultures. One Greek myth tells of Lycaon being transformed into a wolf by Zeus as punishment for his evil deeds.

In fable and literature

Aesop featured wolves in several of his fables, playing on the concerns of Ancient Greece’s settled, sheep-herding world. His most famous is the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, which is directed at those who knowingly raise false alarms, and from which the idiomatic phrase “to cry wolf” is derived. Some of his other fables concentrate on maintaining the trust between shepherds and guard dogs in their vigilance against wolves, as well as anxieties over the close relationship between wolves and dogs. Although Aesop used wolves to warn, criticize and moralize about human behaviour, his portrayals added to the wolf’s image as a deceitful and dangerous animal. The Bible uses an image of a wolf lying with a lamb in a utopian vision of the future. In the New Testament, Jesus is said to have used wolves as illustrations of the dangers his followers, whom he represents as sheep, would face should they follow him.Isengrim the wolf, a character first appearing in the 12th-century Latin poemWolves are among the central characters of Rudyard Kipling’s

Conflicts

Human presence appears to stress wolves, as seen by increased cortisol levels in instances such as snowmobiling near their territory.

Predation on livestock

Livestock depredation has been one of the primary reasons for hunting wolves and can pose a severe problem for wolf conservation. As well as causing economic losses, the threat of wolf predation causes great stress on livestock producers, and no foolproof solution of preventing such attacks short of exterminating wolves has been found.The majority of losses occur during the summer grazing period, untended livestock in remote pastures being the most vulnerable to wolf predation.

Competition with dogs

A review of the studies on the competitive effects of dogs on sympatric carnivores did not mention any research on competition between dogs and wolves.Wolves kill dogs on occasion, and some wolf populations rely on dogs as an important food source. In Croatia, wolves kill more dogs than sheep, and wolves in Russia appear to limit stray dog populations. Wolves may display unusually bold behaviour when attacking dogs accompanied by people, sometimes ignoring nearby humans. Wolf attacks on dogs may occur both in house yards and in forests. Wolf attacks on hunting dogs are considered a major problem in Scandinavia and Wisconsin.Although the number of dogs killed each year by wolves is relatively low, it induces a fear of wolves entering villages and farmyards to prey on them. In many cultures, dogs are seen as family members, or at least working team members, and losing one can lead to strong emotional responses such as demanding more liberal hunting regulations.Dogs that are employed to guard sheep help to mitigate human–wolf conflicts, and are often proposed as one of the non-lethal tools in the conservation of wolves.

Attacks on humans

The fear of wolves has been pervasive in many societies, though humans are not part of the wolf’s natural prey.Predatory attacks may be preceded by a long period of habituation, in which wolves gradually lose their fear of humans. The victims are repeatedly bitten on the head and face, and are then dragged off and consumed unless the wolves are driven off. Such attacks typically occur only locally and do not stop until the wolves involved are eliminated. Predatory attacks can occur at any time of the year, with a peak in the June–August period, when the chances of people entering forested areas (for livestock grazing or berry and mushroom picking) increase.Cases of rabid wolves are low when compared to other species, as wolves do not serve as primary reservoirs of the disease, but can be infected by animals such as dogs, jackals and foxes. Incidents of rabies in wolves are very rare in North America, though numerous in the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central Asia. Wolves apparently develop the “furious” phase of rabies to a very high degree. This, coupled with their size and strength, makes rabid wolves perhaps the most dangerous of rabid animals.

Human hunting of wolves

Theodore Roosevelt said wolves are difficult to hunt because of their elusiveness, sharp senses, high endurance, and ability to quickly incapacitate and kill a dog.A popular method of wolf hunting in Russia involves trapping a pack within a small area by encircling it with fladry poles carrying a human scent. This method relies heavily on the wolf’s fear of human scents, though it can lose its effectiveness when wolves become accustomed to the odor. Some hunters can lure wolves by imitating their calls. In Kazakhstan and Mongolia, wolves are traditionally hunted with eagles and falcons, though this practice is declining, as experienced falconers are becoming few in number. Shooting wolves from aircraft is highly effective, due to increased visibility and direct lines of fire.

As pets and working animals

Wolves and wolf-dog hybrids are sometimes kept as exotic pets. Although closely related to domestic dogs, wolves do not show the same tractability as dogs in living alongside humans, being generally less responsive to human commands and more likely to act aggressively. A person is more likely to be fatally mauled by a pet wolf or wolf-dog hybrid than by a dog.