Wolf Statistics & Interest
Wolves are extremely expressive, and make use of a wide
repertoire of growls, barks, whines, and squeals to
communicate. By far the most famous method of
communication, however, is the howl - which may have more
power to stir human emotions than any other animal cry.
Wolves howl for any number of reasons. They may wish to
attract a mate, or bring the pack together, or even inform
members of their own pack ( or others ) of their
whereabouts. They may howl before a hunt, after consuming
a kill, or when an intruder is present. Wolf pups may howl
in distress or after they have been playing. Experienced
observers note that there are different types of howls for
different occasions - hunting, communication within the
pack, even mourning. Howls range in duration from one to
ten seconds. Across open territory, a wolf howl can be
audible for ten miles. Such communal howls confuses
listeners into believing they hear many more wolves than
are actually howling. General Ulysses S. Grant wrote in
his memoirs of hearing twenty wolves howl at a distance.
In fact, there were only two.
Another form of communication among wolves is scent marking.
Whether it be by urination, scratching, or defecation.
Scratching, which is often done after urinating, appears
to release odors from scent glands in the wolf's paws.
Thus it leaves both a scent mark and a visual sign of the
wolf's presence. Wolves use scent marking to delineate
territorial boundaries between packs, so that a series of
scent marks serves as a warning to other wolves to keep
away. Biologists have noted that wolves usually leave more
scent marks around the perimeter of their established
territory than in it's center. Scent marks may also be
used as a kind of road map to enable wolves to find their
Wolves also possess highly developed senses of hearing and smell.
Observers of these creatures have long noted their keen
ability to detect the scent of prey, and scientist have
estimated the wolf's sensitivity to smells at one hundred
times that of a human beings. One writer observed that a
pack of wolves detected a moose and it's calves from a
distance of several miles. Hearing in these animals is
equally impressive. Wolves have been known to answer human
beings imitating wolf howls from 3 miles away, and one
researcher estimates that they can detect sound at two or
three times that distance. As with many large mammals, the
wolf's sense of site is less keen, but because they have a
high proportion of rods ( faint light receptors ) to cones
( color receptors ) in the retina, their night vision is
very good, and considerably superior to that of a human
The life of a wolf in the wild is not easy. Diseases like
distemper, tapeworm, and heartworm. Injuries from the
hooves and horns of intended prey. Shortages of food and
the ravages of winter all take their toll. But the wolf's
greatest enemy inflicts by far the greatest damage: MAN.
Hunting, poisoning, trapping and highway deaths have been
responsible for a massive decline in the wolf population.
Scientists determine a wolf's age by analyzing the teeth,
and wild wolves rarely live longer than five or six years.
Captive ones, by contrast, may last three times as long.
The oldest captive wolf died at age seventeen.
Packs, the basic social structure in the wolf's existence,
consist of extended families of wolves, and range in size
from three to twenty-five, most number five to eight
wolves. Every pack develops it's own unique personality
that differentiates it from the others. Observers familiar
with certain packs can identify them from a distance by
the wolves behavior alone. Some packs may last a
relatively short time, breaking up in the summer or
winter. Others remain together for years, inhabiting the
same dens, hunting the same territory, and maintaining
certain behavior patterns, even after the founding members
have left or died.
The wolf's breeding period generally extends from February to
March. While often only one female in the pack becomes
pregnant ( usually the Alpha, or dominate female )
sometimes two or more females in the pack will breed. The
expectant female finds or constructs a suitable den,
usually by digging into hillsides or under large tree
trunks or boulders. Sometimes naturally occurring caves
are used as well. Wolves keep their dens extremely clean
and the mother or father often remains on guard outside.
The female gives birth in April, usually to four to six
pups, although the litter size will depend on the
availability of game and the density of the other wolves
in the territory. The fewer the wolves, the larger the
litters. During famines or other times of severe
environmental stress, a pack may not breed at all. This
probably increases it's chances of survival. The pups are
deaf and blind at birth. They can hear after a few days,
and see after about two weeks, and make their first howls
( which often startle them ) after one month. They are
weaned at five weeks, when they begin frisking at the dens
entrance. By eight weeks, pups are playing with one
another, licking, chewing, and climbing over adult pack
members, and huddling close to them when they lie down.
Chances of survival for wolf pups are less than fifty percent, because packs often have difficulty finding enough
food to keep all the pups healthy. Distemper and other
diseases kill some, while eagles, lynx, and bears are also
known to prey on wolf pups. Survivors grow quickly,
approaching their full adult weight at around eight
The North American gray wolf is a formidable physical
presence. It can grow to almost five feet in length, not
including the tail, and stands two to three feet at the
shoulder. A thick, fluffy coat makes it appear even larger
than it actually is. Many people who have observed wolves
in the wild, in fact, are surprised to discover how
relatively light they are. Weights range from 40 to 175
pounds, but average 60 to 100 pounds. In general, larger
wolves tend to come from more northerly regions. Wolves
resemble large dogs, but with longer legs are far bigger
feet. They have broad faces, yellow eyes, and thick coats
with an outer layer of long, moisture-repelling guard hairs and dense light-colored under-fur beneath. The
coloring varies widely, though most have a brownish-gray
coat. White wolves are most common in the far north. The
wolf is built for running. It's chest is narrower than a
dogs of a similar size, which enables it to push through
thick winter snows more easily. Huge feet, ( the paw print
is equal to or larger than a mans hand ) help it to stay
on top of deep snows while tracking game. Wolves spend a tremendous
amount of time on the move ( eight to ten hours
a day on average ) usually during the twilight hours. A
naturalist in Alaska once saw a pack cover forty miles in
a daily round of hunting. Arctic wolves, a subspecies of
the gray wolf, may pursue a caribou for five or six miles
at a steady run before launching their attack. The wolfs
jaw and teeth are superbly suited to predation, and
forty-two teeth have evolved to fulfill special functions.
The long canines can seize and hold meat or bones, the
sharp incisors can slice off the tail of a buffalo
cleanly. The premolars and molars at the back of the mouth
can exert enormous crushing pressure and crack open bones
so that the wolf can eat the nutritious marrow inside.
Article by: Wolf
Wolf Statistics & Interest