I hear gray wolves howling around my house a lot and wanted to study them to understand them better. The wolf has always been a tradition in America forever.
In some Native American tribes, the wolf was a spirit animal to many people. Some tribes, such as the Quileute and the Kwakiutl, tell stories of their first ancestors transformed from wolves into men.
The wolf is an intelligent, social creature. They can run fast, work in packs to take down large prey, and have a complex social structure.
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The word wolf comes from one of the most common Anglo-Saxon names, Wulf. Surnames like Lovett, Lovel, and Lowell, are derived from Anglo-Norman nicknames such as wolf cub or son of a wolf. The name is prevalent, with the Louvre museum once called Lupara, as the owner intended it to be a wolf kennel. The word Lupara is derived from Lupus, meaning wolf.
What is a Male Wolf Called?
A male wolf is called a “male wolf.” Unlike most mammals, they do not have a specific name or term to distinguish them. A male wolf that is breeding is called a stud or brute. The male canines can be called “sire” if breeding.
What is a Female Wolf Called?
Again, a female wolf does not have a specific term to name. Female canines are generally called a bitch.
What Other Names are There for Wolves?
Wolves can be known by their place in the wolf pack. They can be alpha, beta, gamma, omega, stud, brute, pup, juvenile, adolescent, or adult.
Which U.S. States Have Wolves?
Wolves can be found in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. They can also be found throughout Canada.
Where Do Wolves Live in Canada?
Wolves can be found in Alberta, British Columbia, Labrador, Manitoba, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon.
The distribution of the wolf is spread across the regions of North America. There are a lot of places where wolves used to roam but are no longer found.
The population of wolves in the United States and Canada is as follows:
Which State has the most Wolves?
Alaska has a larger population of wolves than any other state in the country. Behind Alaska, Minnesota has the second-highest population of wolves.
Spring: The winter can reach subzero temperatures at night and sometimes during the day. In Yellowstone National Park, the average winter temperatures are between zero and 20 degrees Fahrenheit at higher elevations.
Summer: Summer can be highly beneficial to the wolves, with New Mexico and Arizona reaching temperatures up to 92 degrees. These warmer temperatures allow for an increase in animals such as white-tailed deer, which are plentiful prey for the region’s wolves. In colder climates like Alaska, the wolves experience temperatures up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit but drop to the 40s during the night.
Fall: Fall is the ideal time for the wolves to start putting on weight and fat reserves for the winter. With temperatures of 60 degrees throughout their range, the wolves are free to hunt throughout most of the day and night.
Winter: Winter can be harsh for the wolf, with temperatures in Alaska reaching -50 degrees. The wolves must have enough fat reserves from the previous seasons to last in the cold, freezing conditions.
Wolves will still conserve energy where possible in other parts of the country where it doesn’t get as cold. This can include using tracks already made, with the alpha at the front and the wolves following a single file behind.
Do you know what is in a wolves diet? Find out here
The wolf is unique because it has adapted to most habitats, including icy tundra, forests, grasslands, and even deserts.
Arctic wolves in Alaska and Canada live in freezing conditions, down to -40 degrees, whereas the Mexican wolf can live in the Southwest in a desert and brush habitat.
Their habitat has to include a broad area that can supply them with large populations of animals to feed on. The habitat must also include protection from human persecution and areas suitable for taking shelter and digging dens for their pups.
Wolves prefer to stay in forested regions, but only as long as the habitat suits their purpose. They have adapted to most conditions and can live comfortably in most.
How Many Wolves are in the United States?
The total number of wolves residing in North America is approximately 20,000. Of these, 12000 live in Alaska, with the remaining wolves being spread between eight other states.
How Many Wolves are in Canada?
Approximately 50,000 wolves are residing in Canada. The subspecies living here are the eastern, northwestern, and arctic wolf.
There are only one species of wolf throughout North America. This is the gray wolf (Canis lupus).
The only other wolf species in the world is the red wolf (Canis lupus rufus). The red wolf is a genetic mixture of the gray wolf and the coyote.
There are five subspecies of the gray wolf currently living in North America. The table below shows these and where they can be found.
For more information on the subspecies of wolves that live in North America, I have written a complete article here.
What is the Behavior of a Wolf?
Wolves live in packs and are very social animals. Wolves are led by an alpha male and an alpha female. The alphas will decide when it is time to move and when it is time to hunt.
Only alpha males and females mate, with other wolves looking after the offspring. Mating occurs between January and March. The young will typically leave at two or three and look for a new pack.
The average home range of a wolf in the Rocky Mountains is approximately 104 km (65 miles). This differs wildly from the wolves in Alaska and Canada, which have a home range between 485 km (300 miles) and 1600 km (1000 miles). The average home range of the wolf in Alaska is approximately 950 km (600 miles).
Wolves spend a lot of their time traveling. With their vast territories, wolves spend almost a third of their day traveling. If the prey is low in their area and hungry, they may travel up to 160 km (100 miles) in one day but average 30 – 50 km (20 – 30 miles) per day.
Wolves will communicate with each other using howls, barks, and yips. The communication is used to warn their pack of predators, inform other wolves to stay out of their territory, and signal other members their location.
Wolves will use dens to give birth to their young. The young can not travel when born and will spend their first three to four weeks in the den.
Dens are usually dug into south-facing slopes to avoid the wind and cold. Wolves typically use protection, such as boulders, hollow logs, or tree roots at the entrance.
Wolves do not bring any bedding into the den, although the bones of past prey may litter the shelter.
Dens are approximately 20 inches high, 40 inches deep, and 50 inches wide, with the entrance tunnel as long as 18 feet.
If you wanted more information on how wolves communicate, I have written a complete article here.
How long and how far can a wolf run?
Wolves are excellent hunters and have the speed to take down their prey, such as white-tailed deer. Wolves can run at speeds up to 70 km/h but only in short bursts while chasing prey.
Although these sprinting distances are usually relatively short, the wolf’s endurance allows them to pursue prey for long stretches at a slower pace. Their long, muscular legs aid the wolf in sprinting.
In addition to their sprinting speed, wolves can travel for long distances at a slower pace. Wolves will trot at a rate of 8 km/h and keep this pace for a considerable time.
How Long do Wolves Live?
Wolves live between six and eight years in the wild, depending on several factors. The canid family members, wolves, can survive in captivity for the same length of time as dogs, up to 16 years.
However, in the wild, there are many pitfalls for the wolf. In captivity, they would enjoy regular veterinary care and food.
The biggest killer of wolves in the wild is starvation. Starvation kills a majority of pups before their first winter has ended. If they can survive the first winter and the next, the pups have a good chance of survival.
It is estimated that with starvation, collisions, and other dangers in the wild, only 40-60 percent of pups will make it through the first couple of years.
Fatal injuries from collisions can hurt their chances of reaching their full potential and fighting with other wolves for territory.
Their prey can often fight back, with moose and bison inflicting injuries with both antlers, claws, and hooves.
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What color is a wolf’s fur?
A wolf’s fur can be many colors and depend on the wolf species, with not all gray wolves being gray. They can range from black, brown, grey, ocher, cream, and shades of blonde.
- Arctic wolf – Arctic wolf coats are ideally suited to their environment and give excellent camouflage. The arctic wolf is almost entirely white in winter, with yellow, grey, and black hair in places.
- Northwestern wolf – The northwestern wolf is most commonly gray or black but can have a tan, white, gray, and sometimes almost look an icy blue.
- Mexican wolf – The Mexican wolf has a mixture of fur colors, including gray, white, red, brown, and black.
- Eastern wolf – The eastern wolf is generally gray or grayish brown, with a slight red color in some parts.
- Great Plains wolf – The Great Plains wolf can have a reddish tint, with gray or black being the coat’s primary color.
The wolf has two sets of fur; underfur and guard hairs. The guard hairs are long and help to conserve heat. Guard hairs can be between 60 to 100 mm long and up to 150 mm on the mane. Wolves can function in temperatures down to -40 degrees.
The hair on the back of the wolf is darker than the rest and longer. Wolves will start shedding their fur in late spring.
Wolves have five toes on their front feet but only four on their hind feet. The front contains a dewclaw towards the body, with four toes pointing forward.
Wolves can eat up to 9kg of food, which is the capacity of their stomachs. Wolves do not chew their food but swallow it after biting it into manageable sizes. Wolves eat almost all of their prey, including the bones from which they get the marrow.
The wolves have powerful jaws with a pressure of 1,500 pounds per square inch. This is almost double the crushing pressure of a German Shepherd, the closest looking dog, would be.
Wolves have twenty-two teeth. These teeth are approximately 1 inch long and are sharp, strong, and curved. The teeth allow them to grab their prey.
Unsure of how to tell a coyote from a wolf? In this article, I show you the difference
How Good Are A Wolf’s Senses?
Wolves have an excellent sense of hearing. On the open tundra, wolves can hear sounds up to 16 km (10 miles away), whereas in forested areas, this reduces to 10 km (6 miles).
Wolves can detect the smell of prey up to 2.4 km due to an extended rostrum providing a large olfactory organ. Wolves can smell a carcass up to 20 km away.
Wolves use their noses to locate other members of their pack. Similarly, they can smell wolves from other packs and predators in the area.
Wolves have great vision with their eyes on the front of their heads. Although this gives them a disadvantage over their prey, which generally has a 300-degree view, they can quickly detect the slightest movement in front of them.
Wolves possess four of the taste categories that humans have. These are salty, bitter, sweet, and acidic.
The wolf is the largest wild Canidae family member. Some dog breeds do grow much larger than the wolf.
Are Male Wolves Bigger Than Females?
As with many mammals, the male wolf is slightly bigger than the female. Their size and weight are more significant than the females, with more mass in their bodies.
How Tall is a Wolf?
The size of a wolf depends on the subspecies and the location of the wolf. The average height for a male gray wolf is 32 inches at the shoulder, with the female approximately 25 inches at shoulder height. This height is determined in the first two years of life, with little size added after this period.
Northwestern wolves are much larger than other subspecies of the gray wolf. The Northwestern wolf can reach up to 1 meter tall at shoulder height. The Mexican wolf rarely gets past 81cm at shoulder height.
What Is the Length of a Wolf?
The length of wolves again depends on the location and the subspecies they represent. The average male gray wolf’s length is up to 6.5 feet from nose to end of the tail, whereas the female grows to approximately 6 feet in length.
I have written an article on the evolution of the wolf, which you can find here
How Big was the Largest Wolf?
Although no longer alive, the dire wolf was the largest. Dire wolves weighted 80 kg (174 lbs).
Their length was longer than gray wolves measuring 5 feet in length.
The largest wolf ever recorded was from Alberta. The wolf weighed in at a whopping 104.3 kg (230 lbs).
The Northwestern wolf is the largest in North America and can weigh up to 50 kg (110 lb). Their height at the shoulders can be up to 91.5 cm.
How Heavy is a Wolf?
Wolves vary in size greatly depending on their subspecies and location. Northwestern Wolves are much larger than the Mexican wolf.
Gray wolves, the only species in North America, can weigh up to 130 pounds, with most wolves between 85 and 115 pounds.
Males weigh more than the females, with the females weighing up to 20 pounds less. A male adult wolf’s weight will be decided in the first two years of life, with minimal weight gain. Weight loss can be made, but generally from starvation.
How Heavy is a Wolf Pup?
Pups, when they are first born, are tiny and weigh in the region of a pound. The pup is fed milk from its mother. This happens for the first three to four weeks after birth. Adult wolves will help by regurgitating meat for the pups. The pups will lick the mouths of the adult to get to the regurgitated meat.
Weight and size are put on rapidly for the cubs as they begin exploring their surroundings at three weeks old. Once the wolf has reached six months, they are almost the same size and weight as the adults.
Wolves are carnivores and will plenty of meat. This will include large hooved mammals such as moose, elk, bison, and different deer species, including white-tailed deer. They will also eat fish, birds, rodents, and beavers.
What is A Wolves Favorite Food?
As wolves are carnivores, meat is their primary food source. The wolves’ favored diet is large hoofed mammals such as white-tailed deer, moose, buffalo, and goats.
These large ungulates are the perfect prey for the wolf as they can hunt them in groups, bringing down the much larger prey. The large animals are excellent for the wolves as they may not eat daily, gorging themselves when they get the chance to eat.
For more information on what wolves eat, I have written this article
Wolves have adapted well to the water and are not hesitant to wade or swim through stretches of water. Icy streams are no obstacle due to the wolves’ fur, which keeps them from getting wet.
Wolves will often follow their prey into the water, either attacking them while still in the water or waiting until they have got out.
Wolves will also use the water as a way to drink, and importantly, they will also use it to cool down in the hot temperatures of summer.
A breed of wolf called sea wolves lives in British Columbia in Canada. The food sources are prosperous, with the sea full of sea lions, birds, salmon, and whales.
Sea wolves can swim for miles between the islands to feast on animal carcasses and other animals.
Wolves howl and bark to enhance their societal structure. The communication can indicate to other members of the same pack that they are to regroup or move.
The howls can also be used to signify to other members the exact location of the wolf. The howl can also be used to let other wolves know that they are in enemy territory.
How Long are Wolves Pregnant?
Wolves are pregnant between 59 and 75 days before giving birth to their pups. Pups are born deaf and blind and weigh about one pound. Their eyes are closed until 12 – 15 days after they are born, and one week later start to walk. After three weeks in the den, the mother may let them explore outside the shelter.
Do Wolves Give Birth Every Year?
Wolves can give birth every year once they have reached reproductive age. They typically begin breeding once they are two or three years old. The female will enter estrus every year after maturing. Wolves have a small litter once a year of three to six pups. Once the pups have reached two or three years old, they will move into other territories to mate.
Wolves traveling alone will also not howl, leading researchers better to understand the reason for the wolf’s communication.
Wolves alone can not take down large prey such as deer and moose. This changes their feeding habits to feed more on small animals such as rodents.
Do wolves have leaders?
Wolves have a rigid societal structure, and they do have leaders to uphold the rules of conduct.
There are two pack leaders, a male, and a female. These are called the alpha male and alpha female. Alpha wolves are the only wolves in the pack that is allowed to breed and produce pups. Alpha wolves are the most dominant wolves in the pack and will keep strict watch over the group.
Why do wolves hunt in packs?
Wolves will hunt in packs to take down large animals such as deer, moose, or bison. Hunting in a pack allows them to hunt safely and efficiently against large mammals.
Different packs of wolves will specialize in hunting certain prey. Some wolves may only prey on white-tailed deer, while others prey on bison. This is generally down to their habitat and environment, but they can learn their prey’s strengths and weaknesses.
Wolves hunting in packs may track a herd of large prey for a few days before attacking. They will assess the herd, looking for any weakness among them. The alpha wolves will select any sick, injured, or weak animals as there will be less risk.
Wolves will use the conditions to their advantage. They understand that hoofed mammals will get stuck in deep snow in the winter, whereas the wolves have padded, wide paws that act almost like snowshoes on top of the ice or snow.
In the summer, the wolves will change their tactics. Wolves have been seen to run the herd of prey into dry riverbeds where they stumble on the stones.
Although the alpha wolves select the target for the wolf pack, this may change. If a different animal stumbles or injures itself, then the alpha wolves will communicate to the rest of the pack to turn their attention to that animal.
Why do wolves travel in packs?
Wolves travel in packs for a few reasons. As discussed, wolves can take down prey much larger than them by hunting together. A wolf pack will attack an animal with the same or less body mass than the wolf pack combined.
By traveling together, wolves can defend their territory against other wolves and predators.
Can wolves survive alone?
Wolves are social animals and live in packs. Wolves can be on their own when looking for a new pack at two to three years old. Wolves on their own have different characteristics from wolves in packs. Wolves in packs will mark their scent around and at the edges of their territory, whereas lone wolves will not.
Are gray wolves dangerous?
There have been two documented deaths from healthy wolves in North America. Although only two are recorded, there have been at least 30 other people killed by wolves.
There have also been a lot of wolf attacks that have caused severe injuries but not death.
Wolves have very few predators in North America, but some do. The cougar has been known to attack lone wolves but would not take on a pack.
Black and brown bears will sometimes attack and kill wolves and wolf pups. Bears have a sensitive nose and are thought to have one of the best senses of smell in the world. They can detect an animal carcass from as far as twenty miles away, and any intrusion into the wolf’s kill may cause the wolves to attack the bear.
Wolves will communicate using barks, howls, and yips. Each wolf has an individual style that is not used by any other wolf, allowing the pack to recognize them straight away.
It was once thought that wolves howled at the moon as they howl with their faces pointed toward the sky. However, this is incorrect. Wolves will howl upwards as the acoustics travel up to almost 16 km (10 miles) across the plains and tundra. In forested areas, the sound will move at a reduced distance of 10 km (6 miles).
Wolves bark from 320 to 904 Hz and growl at a much lower 380 – 450 Hz. The howling lies between 150 and 780 cycles per second (Hz).
Howling can last for between 1 and 11 seconds in length and can range through 10 harmonic overtones. Although the pitch generally stays at a constant pitch, wolves have been known to change the pitch of their howl four or five times.
If you want more information on how wolves communicate, I have written a complete article here.
Wolves move around a lot, which they will generally do at night. This is because the night temperatures are cooler, which helps them retain energy.
If you would like more details about wolves, I have compiled 101 facts about them here.