Scientific Name: Canis Lupus
The gray wolf is a keystone predator, and as such, is an integral component of healthy functioning ecosystems. Gray wolves are widely distributed, inhabiting all the vegetation types of the Northern Hemisphere. They are genetically most closely related to the coyote, the dingo, the jackal, and the domestic dog.
• Are 26-32 inches high at the shoulder
• Weigh 50 to 130 pounds
• Are 4.5 to 6.5 feet from nose to tip of the tail. (The tail makes up ¼ of the body length)
• Have a thick double coat of fur, which comes in a variety of colors –all black, white, and shades of buff tan grizzled with brown, gray, and red.
• Can hear sounds up to 6 miles away
• Have eyesight on par with humans
• Have a sense of smell 100 times better than ours
Wolves live in packs. Packs normally consist of the adult parents, referred to as the alpha pair, and their offspring of perhaps two or three years. Sometimes an unrelated wolf will join a pack. Pack structure is hierarchical with separate male and female hierarchies and some seasonally related cross-sexual structure. Pack size can vary from a pair to 30 members or more, with the average size being 6 to 8. Usually only one litter of pups is raised each year, with an average of 4-6 pups. However, depending on prey availability, more than one female may be bred in a single season resulting in several litters.
What Do They Eat?
Wolves are predators who normally prey on large hoofed mammals (ungulates) like elk, deer, moose, sheep, goats and even bison. They also eat smaller animals like rabbits, beaver, snowshoe hares, fish and bird’s eggs. Occasionally they consume berries, fruit, and even grass. (Grass is probably eaten to maintain digestive health rather than to provide nutrition). The wolf lives a feast or famine existence, eating as much as 22 pounds of food at one sitting and going weeks without or with very little food.
Wolves are well designed for hunting meat:
• 42 teeth (compared to the 32 teeth of an adult human
• A biting capacity of 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch (compared with 750 for a German Shephard and 300 for a human being).
• Ability to travel long distances by trotting at about five miles per hour and can run at speeds of 25 to 35 miles per hour for short bursts while chasing prey.
• Wolves travel an average of 10 to 30 miles each day in search of food.
Under usual food and weather conditions, the abilities of a prey population to survive about equals the abilities of the wolf population to make a living from prey. Many factors may influence predator/prey dynamics, but the majority of healthy elk “tested” by wolves escape.