Fun Wolf Facts: Gray and Red Wolves

gray wolf in wild
The gray wolf (Canis lupus lycaon), also known as the timber wolf, is the largest wild member of the dog family. Found in parts of North America, gray wolves are making a comeback in the Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Southwestern United States.
Credit: Kramer, Gary | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Known for its bone-chilling howl, a wolf is the largest member of the dog or canid family. Wolves live in the remote wilderness of North America, Eurasia, and North Africa. They are usually shy and cautious around humans but unlike the dog, have not been domesticated at all.

The most common type of wolf is the gray wolf. These animals are about 36 to 63 in (91 to 160 cm) long and weigh about 40 to 175 lbs (18 to 79 kg). Just like its name, the gray wolf typically has thick gray fur although pure white or all black variations exist.

All wolves are carnivores that hunt in packs usually consisting of a male and female with their pups. The average pack has about 10 animals but larger packs of 30 have been recorded. Wolves always follow the leaders, called alphas, and are highly territorial. They may even kill other lone wolves they encounter. Wolves hunt by corralling a young, weak or sick animal away from its herd. Their diet consists of goats, sheep, deer, moose and other prey.

pack of gray wolves
Wolves are social animals and usually live in packs consisting of eight to 12. Here, the "Gibbons" wolf pack, named after its territory in the Gibbon Meadows of Yellowstone National Park, takes a rest in the snowy landscape. Despite the "gray wolf" name, the wolves' coats range in color from black and gray to nearly white.
Credit: National Park Service

Other facts about wolves

In a wolf pack, only the alpha female is allowed to breed.

While only the alphas breed, all wolves help in raising the young by bringing a pup food and taking care of it if the mother is away.

A wolf howl is how the animal communicates.  Researchers believe the howl is to let other wolves know where they are or to start a hunt. Some wolves may even howl for fun.

Wolves also communicate by leaving scent marking such as urine or feces on a trail.

When they are able to catch prey, wolves don’t save leftovers. A single animal can consume 20 pounds (9 kilograms) of meat in one meal.

Wolves are very similar to dogs in behavior. They love to play, chew on bones but will growl or snarl when threatened.

While they resemble and are related to dogs, wolves are still wild animals and cannot be kept as pets. There are no wolf-dog hybrids that have been successfully domesticated.

The Arctic wolf grows a second layer of fur for protection during the harsh winters in North America and Greenland.

The red wolf is an endangered species living mainly in the Southeastern U.S. Loss of habitat and killings drove this wolf to extinction in the 1980s but scientists were able to reintroduce it to the wild. Today, about 100 survive.

Other resources:

National Geographic- Wolf

San Diego Zoo - Wolf

World Wildlife Federation - Artic Wolf

World Wildlife Federation - Gray Wolf

BBC Nature - Wolf

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