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Wolves of the Rockies in Canada

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Wolves of the Rockies

Wolf Size and Fur Colour

The wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the gray wolf or grey wolf, is a large canine native to Eurasia and North America. Thirty subspecies of Canis lupus(wolves) have been recognized, and gray wolves, as popularly understood, comprise non-domestic/feral subspecies. The wolf is the largest extant member of the family Canidae.

The wolf being the largest member of the canid (dog) family, can be many colours, from white to black, but is most often grey. Wolves have short, soft under-fur that is covered by coarse outer guard hairs. The under-fur is dense and insulates the wolf against the cold.

Wolves in Canada are quite large, with the largest wolf found being 175lbs, but they are leaner than many others in the canine family. Wolves have large feet, long legs and long, bushy tails. Females in any given wolf population typically weigh 2.3–4.5 kg (5–10 lb) less than males.

Up until about 200 years ago, wolves lived all over North America, Europe and Asia. Today, wolves range is much smaller due to hunting and habitat loss. Wolves can still be found in less settled parts of Canada, from Labrador to British Columbia, in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Wolves of the Rockies Description

It is also distinguished from other Canis species by its less pointed ears and muzzle, as well as a shorter torso and a longer tail. The wolf is nonetheless related closely enough to smaller Canis species, such as the coyote and the golden jackal, to produce fertile hybrids with them. The banded fur of a wolf is usually mottled white, brown, gray, and black, although subspecies in the arctic region may be nearly all white.

Wolves being the largest extant member of the Canidae family, is further distinguished from coyotes and jackals by a broader snout, shorter ears, a shorter torso and a longer tail. Wolves of the rockies are slender and powerfully built, with a large, deeply descending rib cage, a sloping back, and a heavily muscled neck. Wolves legs are moderately longer than those of other canids, which enables the animal to move swiftly, and to travel in deep snow that covers most of its geographical range in winter.

Wolves ears are relatively small and triangular. Wolves heads are large and heavy, with a wide forehead, strong jaws and a long, blunt muzzle. Skulls are 230–280 mm (9–11 in) in length and 130–150 mm (5–6 in) in width. Wolves teeth are heavy and large, making them better suited to crushing bone than those of other canids. Wolves molars have a flat chewing surface, but not to the same extent as the coyote, whose diet contains more vegetable matter. Female wolves tend to have narrower muzzles and foreheads, thinner necks, slightly shorter legs, and less massive shoulders than males.

Wolves of the Rockies Packs

Wolves usually live in packs, with each wolf having its place in the group. Wolves have many ways of showing where they stand in the group’s hierarchy. The top wolf, or alpha male, will show its dominance by standing tall with its ears up and forward. When an alpha male makes such displays, lesser-ranked wolves will crouch, tucking their tails between their legs and lowering their ears. Because every wolf pack member understands these gestures, there is little fighting within the group. Wolves outside of a pack may be dealt with harshly, however.

Packs normally occupy a set home range and travel the same paths. When hunting, the pack works together, taking turns chasing an animal to tire it out or splitting up to chase it into an ambush.

Wolf Hunting and Territory

Of all members of the genus Canis, wolves are the most specialized for cooperative game hunting as demonstrated by its physical adaptations to tackling large prey, its more social nature, and its highly advanced expressive behaviour. Wolves travel in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair accompanied by their offspring. Offspring may leave to form their own packs on the onset of sexual maturity and in response to competition for food within the pack. Wolves are also territorial and fights over territory are among the principal causes of wolf mortality. Wolves are mainly carnivores, feeding on large wild hooved mammals as well as smaller animals, livestock, carrion, and garbage. Single wolves or mated pairs typically have higher success rates in hunting than do large packs. Pathogens and parasites, notably rabies virus, may infect wolves.

Fast Facts on Wolves

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Average weight
20 kilograms to 75 kilograms

Average Wolf height
60 centimetres to 90 centimetres

Average lifespan of Wolves
Six to eight years in the wild; up to 17 years in captivity.

Eating - Hunting
Wolves can go a week or more without eating. When a hunt is successful a single wolf can consume up to nine kilograms of meat in a sitting.

Pup Protectors
Usually only the male and female alpha of a pack mate. The rest of the pack helps protect and feed the alpha female while she is nursing the pups.

Wolf Howling
Wolves howl to rally the pack or let other wolves know their location, and the sound can carry up to 10 kilometres even in dense forest.

Did you know?
Most experts believe the domestic dog descended from the wolf.. the two are genetically identical and are capable of interbreeding.