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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին


Grey Wolf (Canis lupus)

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Subfamily: Caninae

Genus: Canis

Species: Canis lupus



The Gray Wolf is the largest species of approximately 41 species of “canis”. The species of Gray Wolves is divided into 39 subspecies. Depending on their geographical location their sizes differ. In general southern populations are smaller than northern ones. Males achieve a body length from 100 centimeter to 130 centimeter and weight between 30 to 80 kg whereas the length of females differs from 87 up to 117 centimeter and their weight from 23 to 55 kilogram. The height from paws to shoulders is between 60 to 90 centimeter.

Not only the size, also the coloration of their coat differs depending on their geographical habitat. The color varies from pure white in Arctic regions, to white mixed with gray, brown, cinnamon and black or almost pure black.

A dense underfur makes Gray Wolves able to cope with low temperatures.

The average life-expectation is 5 or 6 years, but theoretically they can live up to 15 years.

Gray wolves can be seen as separated from red wolves (Canis rufus), which are smaller, have a slimmer snout and longer ears, and from coyotes (Canis latres), which also are smaller and their snout and feet are more petite.

Habitat and Range

Originally, the Grey Wolf was the world's most widely distributed mammal. The populations were spread over the northern hemisphere up to 20° South. They occupy a wide variety of habitats, from arctic tundra to forest, prairie, and arid landscapes. 


Wolves are quite social animals. They live in packs out of 2 to over 30 individuals. One pack consists of an alpha pair and its offspring. Sometimes there are unrelated wolves that immigrate to a pack.

There is a strong hierarchy within a pack. On the top is a leader, usually the alpha male, that is dominant over all other pack members. It is followed by the alpha female. When the alpha men is injured or can't hold its dominance, a beta male takes over its rule. In that case the former alpha man normally leaves the pack. According to its place in hierarchy it is determined which wolf mates and when it eats. Various postures like rolling over to show the stomach, crouching and facial expressions express the different rules. Often only the alpha pair gets pups, but all other members of the pack care for the little ones.

Each year the pack has a nomadic and a stationary period. In summer and spring, when the pups are born and reared, the pack stays at the same place. In autumn and winter they travel over long distances up to 200 kilometers a day with an average velocity of 8 kilometer per hour. Normally these movements take place at night.

A further way besides body language to communicate is vocalization like howling. On the one hand that is the way they communicate with pack members over long distances while they are hunting, on the other hand they also communicate with other packs about the boundaries of territories. Scent marks are used by the alpha man.

Wolves are highly territorial animals. A lone wolf is easily attacked by wolfs of an other pack or coyotes. If they found foreign pups, packs probably kill them.



Wolves are carnivores. They hunt on their own, sometimes steal food of other predators or eat from carcasses. They find their prey by scent. Their prey differs according to which animals are available in their habitat. A lone wolf hunts small mammals, which are a vital part of its diet. Larger animals such as moose or reindeer are mainly attacked in pack. Gray wolves hunt predominately weak and old animals with the result that they can control the populations of their prey. They utilize the whole carcass and even eat parts of the bones. Up to 9 kilogram meat is eaten by a single wolf  at one meal.


Breeding time is between January and April. In northern regions the breeding time starts later than in southern areas. Mated pairs normally stay together for life. Just if one partner dies, it may be replaced. Once a year in breeding time female wolves come into estrus that lasts 5 to 14 days. After mating the female digs a den in which it rears its pups. Entrances of dens often fall down first and then heighten again to avoid flooding. Sometimes dens are also found in cliffs, under fallen-trees or in caves. After 60 up to 63 days, 5 to 14 blind and deaf pups are born in the den and remain there for several weeks without leaving. After 10 days the pups open their eyes although they are still unable to walk. But during the next 5 up to 10 days they learn to stand and vocalize. The mother stays with them the first 3 weeks almost all the time and the little wolves are fed regurgitated food by all pack members. 8 to 10 weeks after their birth wolves leave the den for the first time. Now they learn how to play, to fight and to hunt. In order to survive in winter they have to develop and learn fast. Females are mature within the age of 2, whereas males not until three years after their birth. Between the age of 1 and 3 young males are often dispersed from their natal pack.   

Conservation Status

The Gray Wolf has become extinct in much of Western Europe, in Mexico and much of the USA. Their original worldwide range has been reduced by about one-third for instance by habitat destruction, environmental change or persecution by humans. Since about 1970 several protection  and reintroduction programs helped to save stabilize wolf populations. At a global level the species does not meet any of the criteria for the threatened categories and is assigned as “Least Concern”. However, in some regions of the world, several wolf populations are seriously vulnerable as in North  America.

A wolf as a wild dog

Often it is said that the wolf is the wild friend of our dog at home. Even if dogs and wolves share several similar biological traits and belong to the same family they differ in many ways. The biggest difference is that dogs developed to faithful companions of human beings whereas wolves are still wild animals and rearing them is quite difficult. Wolves don't adapt to humans as dogs do.

In general dogs and wolves don't mate, but it is possible that they get vital pups together. The chance that that happens in nature is quite small! But wolf-dog hybrids exist and also so called Coywolves, a mixture between Gray Wolves and Coyotes.

A fascinating animal

Wolves have always been an important part in human mythology and folklore. For many people they are a symbol of wilderness and spirit. Although they have often the reputation of being big and bad, they are also often seen as good animals that are ancestors of human beings (Turks, Mongols) or are linked with the sun (some Eurasian cultures) and gods (Ancient Greek: Apollo).

In the founding story of Rome the founders Remus and Romulus are raised up by the Capitoline Wolf. In northern European and some Native American cultures wolves are associated with witchcraft or even death.

Humans hunt and poison wolves. On the one hand they started to hunt them because of their fur. On the other hand they wanted to destroy the populations because of livestock depredation and fear. Even if there are occurrences that wolves have attacked human beings or even killed them, they normally aren't aggressive against people. Conflicts arise when wolves don't have enough habitats, in  which humans disturb them through their activities. Often livestock depredation is over stated: Wolves normally prefer their wild prey.

Short Facts

  • Gray wolves can achieve a speed up to 70 km/h.
  • Searching for food wolves sometimes travel more than 100 km away from the territory of their pack.
  • Besides Little Red Cap there is no any report that a healthy wolf has ever eaten a human.
  • Wolves play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling natural prey populations and removing weak individuals. 

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