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Gray wolf

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Gray Wolf
Canis lupus laying.jpg
Scientific Classification
Scientific Name

Canis lupus

Alaskan Tundra Wolf howling.jpg
A Gray wolf howling.

Gray Wolf is the common name for the wolf species known by the scientific name Canis lupus. Also known as the Timber Wolf, it is the largest canine and is the species from which the domestic dog was bred. They inhabit most of North America, Europe and Asia. Though the gray wolf often appears in folklore and fairy tales as the antagonist, many scientists believe they may be the answer to wiping out some incurable animal diseases and an unprovoked fatal wolf attack has never been recorded in America. The gray wolf inhabits many places; from deserts to tundra, grasslands, forests, mountains, and are often spotted in housing areas that have been built over their old homes.


An adult grey wolf showing the typical coloring; darker fur on the back and lighter on the lower body and face

An adult gray wolf usually weighs between 50 and 175 pounds and is 35 to 51 inches long. The fur of a gray wolf can be more than just gray, in fact, it can be white, brown, black or even red, although the red wolf is a separate species. The back of a wolf is usually black while the face, chest and limbs take on lighter coloring. [1] The fur that coats the body of a gray wolf is made up of two parts, an under layer and an outer layer. The outer layer is coarse, made to deter water and dirt. The under layer is softer, for insulation. Wolves have two separate pelts, one made for winter and the other for summer. Males lose their thick winter coats faster than females. [2]

The eyes of wolves are usually yellow. The wolves body is made to travel exceptionally well; it's chest is very narrow and has long legs with large paws. The toes allow the wolf to grasp things like rocks are sticks, to help climb. The top and bottom jaws of a wolf both have 6 incisors, 2 canines, and 8 premolars. The top jaw has 4 molars while the bottom has 6. A wolves' jaw is said to exert as much pressure as 1,500 pounds per square inch. A wolves' sense of smell is 100 times better than the average humans. They can smell prey from a mile away and can even smell if an animal was at a location three days after it has left. After scent, hearing is a wolf’s most powerful sense. They can hear both higher sounds and sounds from further away. [3]

Digestion The digestive system of a gray wolf is capable of eating very large quantities of meat in a very short period of time and then not eating for the next few days, but just laying around digesting it. The can eat over twenty pounds of meat in the than a half hour and then return to its cubs and regurgitate it for them. [4]


In wolf packs only the male and female alpha dogs mate, they often must separate other wolves in the pack to keep them from mating as well. The alpha dogs mate anywhere from January to April, depending on the latitude. Once the two wolves have mated they will almost never leave one another to mate with a different wolf. The entire wolf pack takes part in raising the cubs. The female wolves’ gestation period is about 52 days and her liter can range anywhere from 1 to 13 pups, usually averaging around 5. The male wolves are infertile outside the fecundity period, which aligns very closely to the female’s estrus periods. [5]During the periods of estrus and fecundity, the wolves will leave the rest of the pack to spend a long time together isolated from other wolves. Many times, young wolves leave the pack they were born into to search for mates, hence building a new pack. The mating wolves are linked together for 10 to 30 minutes while the male's bulbus glandis swells to ensure fertilization. [6]


The Gray Wolf is a carnivorous creature, feeding mainly on deer, beavers, hares and rodents. They are known for targeting the weak, young or disabled in a pack of prey. This has shown to greatly improve other animal’s herds, helping them become healthier and stronger. Scientists have shown that they have helped stop the spread of 'chronic wasting disease' in deer. Wolves also make animals such as elk and caribou move around often, which helps the plant life regroup and not become extinct. Timber wolves are found in almost all of North America and much of Europe. [7] The average wolf lifespan is 13 years and the oldest known wolf lived to be 20. The life of a wolf can be cut short by many things; hunting, poisons, predators and their shrinking habitat. [8] In some places gray wolves are becoming extinct very quickly, such as Egypt where only 30-50 gray wolves remain. In America the wolves are under federal protection, while in Egypt they are not. [9]

The Wolf's affect on Chronic Wasting Disease

In 1967 an outbreak of chronic wasting disease took over Colorado and the herds of deer living there. The disease immediately begins eating holes out of the diseased deer or elk's brain, causing the animal to behave oddly and dissimilar to the rest of the herd. Wolves have always been known to hunt for the weak, slow and disabled members and a deer with CWD falls into all three of these categories. This disease has recently hit one of America's beloved and famous Nation parks, Yellowstone. Several plans of how to control the spread of this sickness were discussed, but all were heavily flawed. There is no cure for CWD, so all biologists can do is test each animal and kill the CWD positive ones, this plan is expensive and time consuming. Reintroducing wolves to Colorado would not eliminate, but definitely decrease, the number of infected animals and remove their carcasses to diminish the spreading of the disease. [10]



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