Facts About Wolves
The Grey Wolves
Wolf, or commonly known as the grey wolf, has the scientific name Canis lupus. It is closely related to the dog, coyote, and golden jackal. It is slender yet possesses a massively built rib cage. It has a sloping back and a muscled neck. Wolves are carnivorous mammals and are the largest in the dog or Canidae family. The gray wolves are found in the Northern hemisphere. There is a variety of subspecies in North America, Europe, and Asia. Wolves can endure hostile climate like the extreme cold in the north or heat in the desert.
Characteristics of the wolf
Weight: wolves weigh between 20 to 60 kilograms (44-132 lbs). The lightest wolf recorded weighed 22 pounds (10 kgs) while the heaviest was 175 lbs (80 kgs).
Height: Their shoulder height varies from31 to 33 inches. Their length is 36 to 63 inches (head to body) with a tail of 13 to 20 inches. Males are relatively bigger than females. They have ears of between 3.5 to 4.3 inches.
Wolves are strong and can travel for long distances. They have narrow chests, sturdy chests, and legs, increasing the efficiency of their movement. They can travel at a speed of 10 kilometers per hour and up to 65 kilometers per hour during a chase. Wolves can sprint 5 meters (16 feet) per run.
Wolves are known for their intelligence, evident in their upright ears and inquiring eyes. They have pointed muzzle and sharp teeth.
Behavior of wolves
Wolves are social animals and live in packs. These are social units comprising of a mated pair and their offspring. An average pack has between five to eleven wolves. Sometimes several such families come together to form a social unit. A pack may consist of as many as forty members. Mated pairs produce cubs annually. These young ones stay in the family until they are around three years when they disperse and start their packs. This dispersion may occur due to sexual maturity or if there is a competition of food among the members. When unrelated male and female travel together, they may form a new pack. They can remain in the vicinity of their families or travel as far as over 600km away.
Wolves are territorial, and they advertise their territories by howling or scent marking. These scents can be urine, feces, or anal gland scents. Upon experiencing smells from other wolf packs in their regions, they increase their scents. Raised leg urination is the most common form of scent marking. They can also scratch the ground to mark their territory further. About 14-65% of wolf mortality occurs due to territorial fights. Wolves communicate using vocals, scents, touch, taste, or body posture. As commonly believed, the phases of the moon have nothing to do with the howling of wolves. These animals may howl to assemble a pack, pass alarm, or locate each other. They also follow a hierarchy, led by an alpha male and female. Others in authority are beta wolves, subordinates, and the omega.
The wolf is monogamous and remains with a mated pair for life. They find another mate if the existing one dies. Only the alpha male and female mate within a pack; the mating season happens between February and May. If there is plenty of food, the beta and subordinates females may also reproduce. However, in times of scarcity, even the alpha male does not mate. They do so to control the population. The gestation period of a wolf is 65 days. The pregnant wolf uses an established den to raise the young ones once they are born. The cubs are born blind and helpless, forcing the mother to nurse them few days without leaving the den. Other members of the pack bring food to the hole in such times. Cubs of the wolves are born with blue eyes and remain that way until they are about ten weeks old. At about four weeks, the cubs leave the den and join the rest of the members. The young ones are weaned at around ten weeks and can travel with the rest of the pack. They excitedly attack freshly hunted prey.
Wolves are nocturnal, starting to hunt in the evening during winter, and continuing all night. Sometimes, they ambush their prey without any pursuit. Wolves hunt better individually or with a mated pair, as opposed to when they are a pack. They have a highly developed auditory system, enabling them to hear their prey from far. However, their sense of smell is not as well established as other hunting dogs. A wolf hunt involves locating the prey, stalking, the encounter, rush, and the chase. Tracing of the victim is aided by smell and tracking. As the wolves approach their prey, they hasten in speed and wag their tails. However, they try to remain unnoticed by their anticipated kill. On seeing the wolf, some prey may approach them, stand their ground, or flee. This behavior depends on the type of animal. Those who do not run may prompt the wolf to retreat. The method they use to kill prey depends on the size of the prey. They attack large prey from behind and the side. If it is a medium kill, they attack by biting the throat. These preys include deer, goats, and the like. When hunting small prey, they leap high and render the catch immobile with their front paws.
If there are other canids in the same area as the wolves, the wolves are dominant. Wolves attack species that feed on their kill. Coyotes, jackals, and foxes are victims of such competition. A dispute may also arise over carcasses like in the case of brown bears. They may also result from the need to protect dens. While the wolves eat the brown bears, the bears only eat the wolves’ cubs. Whether the wolves defeat their competitors depends on whether it is a single or outnumbered enemy.
Efforts to curb the killing of wolves have risen since the1970’s. As a result, there is a grey wolf population of around 300000 around the globe. A threat to these animals is the land use since some human population is encroaching the wild. Also, poachers view wolves as competition for their game catch. Since the wolves also feed on animals reared by humans, they stand a high chance of being killed. The majority of the grey wolf is found in Canada. Here, there is a stable wolf population.