Wolves inhabit the forests, mountains, Arctic tundra, prairies and arid regions of North America, and parts of Europe and Asia. They prey on large mammals, such as elk, moose and bison, as well as on smaller mammals, including rabbits and beavers. Wolves typically live to be between 6 to 8 years old in the wild.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Carnivora
Suborder - Caniformia
Family - Canidae
Genus - Canis
Species - C. lupus
Common Names - Gray Wolf, Tundra Wolf, Timber Wolf, Arctic Wolf, Common Wolf, Mexican Wolf. There are also other wolf species, including Canis rufus (red wolf), Canis simensis (Ethiopian wolf) and Chrysocyon brachyurus (maned wolf).
Gray wolves actually have coats that range in color from white in Arctic regions to gray, red, black or brown in other areas. They have a dense undercoat that helps keep them warm. Gray wolves are the largest type of wolf, with adults measuring between 49 and 83 inches in length from head to tail and weighing between 40 and 175 pounds.
Gray wolves typically breed between January and April. Females select a mate, and the pair usually remains together for the rest of their lives. Female wolves give birth to litters of five to 14 pups following a gestation period of 63 days, on average. All pack members help take care of the pups, which reach maturity when they are around 2 or 3 years old.
Gray wolves form packs of two to 36 members. The packs typically consist of an alpha male and female, their offspring and unrelated wolves that become pack members. Wolves are very social animals and communicate through howling and other vocalizations, facial expressions and body language. Gray wolves hunt alone or with other pack members. They also feed on carrion at times or steal the kills of other predators.
The historic range of wolves included most of North America, as well as parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. Their current range is much smaller due to habitat destruction and hunting.
Gray wolves are currently listed as "least concern" due to an increase in their numbers, but they were once an endangered species. They have been successfully reintroduced in parts of the United States. Red wolves are listed as critically endangered, Ethiopian wolves are listed as endangered, and maned wolves are listed as near threatened.