Dog Family (Canidae)
Measurement: Size: 160-190 cm Weight: 45-70 kg
Description: The gray wolf looks like no other wild dog. It is immense, perhaps its most telling feature weighing in between 45-70 kg. Colours vary between black and white. Little more in the way of description is generally necessary
The mournful howl of the wolf is occasionally heard on the mountain airwaves. Historically, people had fun howling back and forth with wolves. Today, biologists believe this can add stress as the wolves may conclude that a rival pack is in the area.
The gray wolf can be found across Canada, although the populations are struggling to survive in many locations. Wolf populations can also be found in isolated pockets in the US, in particular the northern US Rockies.
Wolves are very organized predators of large game animals. Primary prey includes mule and white-tail deer, elk, bighorn sheep and moose. Given the opportunity, they will also take mountain goats, bison and rarely domestic cattle. Small mammals and birds may supplement this diet.
They hunt cooperatively, often taking turns chasing down a single prey until they exhaust it. Since wolves do not have great endurance, this cooperative form of hunting is very effective.
While they have few natural predators, the pups may fall victim to bears, cougars, lynx and even eagles.
The social structure of the wolf pack generally restricts mating to the dominant or alpha male and female. During mating, the males penis actually locks into place within the female vagina, holding him until mating is complete, which may take as long as 30 minutes.
Actual mating takes place during the winter, with the pups arriving 63 days later. They will be nursed in the den for several weeks before slowly making its first foray to the outside world.
Notes: Wolves have a highly developed social structure, with intricate relationships between pack members. The pack is composed numerous individuals (averaging around 8 wolves) living within a cooperative social structure. The dominant (alpha) male and female take precedence within the pack. They are the first to feed, and often the only pair that will mate. The entire pack plays an active role in the raising of the pups. Dominance is temporary though, and in time, the alpha male and female will each have to face challenges from younger wolves.
The Central Rockies Wolf Project is working towards preserving the gray wolf populations within the Central Rockies. You can help their research by adopting at wolf.
Hinterland Who's Who - Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf sightings
a guide to help you spot some
All Material © Ward Cameron 2005