Grey Wolf
Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Canis lupus
Population size
400,000
Life Span
10-20 years
Top speed
65
40
km/hmph
km/h mph 
Weight
16-60
35.2-132
kglbs
kg lbs 
Height
80-85
31.5-33.5
cminch
cm inch 
Length
105-160
41.3-63
cminch
cm inch 

The wolf (Canis lupus), 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 popularly understood, comprise wild subspecies.

Appearance

The Grey 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. Females are smaller than males. Male wolves have straight tails and narrow chests. 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 very thick fur, consisting of a coarse outer coat, which covers the soft undercoat. Due to the acute sense of hearing and keen sense of smell, the animal can successfully track down prey. In addition, the long legs allow them to make long steps, promoting high speed during the chase.

Video

Grey Wolf habitat map
Grey Wolf
Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Habits and Lifestyle

Grey wolves are social animals, living, hunting, and traveling 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, whines, howls, and growls. Grey wolves do not actually howl at the moon; they tend to howl when the night is lighter, which usually happens during the full moon. These animals are nocturnal predators. They move around their territory when hunting, using the same trails for extended periods. These follow the banks of rivers, the shorelines of lakes, and ravines overgrown with shrubs, plantations, roads, and human paths. Grey wolves prefer moving at night, being able to travel up to 200 km (124 miles) per day. Throughout the year, they undergo stationary and nomadic phases: the stationary phase takes place in the spring and summer months, when they grow up young, while the nomadic phase lasts from autumn to winter.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Grey wolves are mainly carnivores and scavengers. Their usual diet primarily consists of ungulates such as elk, moose, deer, and caribou. They also consume small species like rabbits or beavers. In times of scarcity, wolves will readily eat carrion. Nonetheless, wolves are not fussy eaters. They will also eat waterfowl and their eggs, and will prey on lizards, snakes, frogs, and large insects when available. Wolves in some areas may consume fish and even marine life. Wolves also consume some plant material. In Europe, they eat apples, pears, figs, melons, berries, and cherries. In North America, wolves eat blueberries and raspberries. They 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.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
January-April
PREGNANCY DURATION
60-63 days
BABY CARRYING
1-14 pups
INDEPENDENT AGE
8-10 weeks
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 or 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 lasts about 60-63 days, after which 1-14 helpless 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 become reproductively mature at 2 years old, and males when they are 3 years old.

Population

Population threats

Primary threats include loss and fragmentation of their habitat, leading to a considerable reduction of their population. Due to being considered 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

The 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

Grey wolves feed upon a wide variety of animal species such as deer or elk, and thus control the numbers of their populations; this way wolves benefit different animal and plant species of their range. Carcasses of prey, left by wolves, are an important source of nutrients and food for other animals in 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 their 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, show 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 a 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, the howl of each wolf is unique, allowing the pack members as well as scientists to identify an individual.

Coloring Pages

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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