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Species Description

Gray Wolf

Canis lupus


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae

Description

The fur is long and variable in color, from pure white, mottled gray and brown, to black, but usually grizzled gray. There is a dark spot above the base of the tail. This is the largest of the wild dogs of North America. Length is up to 1.8 m (6 ft) from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. Weight is up to 72.6 kg (160 lbs). none

Life Cycle

Breeding takes place from January - April. Two months later, 1 - 11 pups are born. Pups are weaned in about 5 weeks. They reach sexual maturity in 2 years. Wolves will dig burrows, or use crevices, hollow logs, brush piles, or clumps of dense vegetation as den sites where the young are born and reared.

Natural History

Like most wild dog species, the Gray Wolf lives in groups of animals called packs. A pack works together to stalk and kill large prey such as White-tailed Deer. The Gray Wolf also feeds individually on rabbits and rodents. Packs range in size from 5 - 8 individuals, but packs of 36 have been recorded. A pack is based around a dominant breeding pair, their offspring, and subordinate breeding pairs. Gray wolves are important in maintaining healthy populations of hoofed mammals like deer and elk by feeding on the old and sick animals. Wild Gray Wolves have a lifespan of about 10 years.

Range

Gray Wolf Region Map This very adaptable animal once lived in forests and plains wherever suitable prey was available, ranging throughout North America. Now they are found only in wilderness areas of Canada and in a few northern states.

Conservation Status

Considered a pest because it preys on livestock, the Gray Wolf has been trapped, poisoned, and hunted out of most of its former range. It has been federally listed as a protected species in areas which still have populations.

Similar Species

The Coyote and the Red Wolf are much smaller than the Gray Wolf.