Gray Wolf

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Facts and Knowledge:

The gray wolf has been the notorious villain of fables and fairy tales for centuries, yet this highly intelligent and sociable animal is wary of humans and avoids them when ever possible.  The gray wolf lives in a variety of habitats, from the arctic tundra and open steppes of the Soviet Union to the mountainous regions and forests of North America.  Once found throughout the northern hemisphere, its numbers have been vastly reduced: man continues to hun it and its natural prey has become scarce.

Habits:   The gray wolf has a cooperative social structure for hunting, communicating, and defending its territory. The gray wolf lives in packs of 5 to 10 animals.  The pack has family units made up of a dominant male and female and offspring from several years.  The pack hierarchy is maintained through dominant or submissive body posturing and other behavior such as communal care of young. The pack's territory size depends on availability prey, but s it usually covers several hundred square miles.  The gray wolf makes scent marks boundaries and howls to other pack members. Rival packs may answer the calls.

Breeding: The gray wolf sexually matures at two years. Once a wolf pair is formed, it stays together for life. Wolves mate at the end of every winter, causing tension among the pack.  Since only dominant wolves mate, subordinate males and females compete for a higher place in the hierarchy. Many wolves do not mate; instead they help rear the young by hunting game for them.  The wolf pair mates one to two times a day for 14 days. The female gives birth nice weeks later to 3 - to 10 cubs in an underground den she has dug.  Sometimes she enlarges another animals unused den rather than digging her own.  The mother feeds the helpless, blind cubs for six to either weeks.  If she leaves, the father or another wolf guards the while she is away.

Gray Wolf & Man:  Humans have long feared and killed the gray wolf, buts its intelligence, cunning, and adaptability have saved it from extinction. Once widespread throughout North America, Europe and the Far East, the gray wolf is not found in large numbers only in the Soviet Union, North America, and eastern Europe.  The wolf has declined in number because of the reduction of its natural prey, which ws replaced by domestic animals.  Farmers protect their livestock from the gray with poison, traps, and guns.

Food & Hunting: Of all the members of the dog family (Canidae), only the gray hunts large animals such as moose, wolves hunt in packs.  Using its hearing and sense of smell to track prey, the wolf will follow its target all day and night if necessary. The wolf only runs at 28 miles per hour, but its remarkable endurance helps it to hunt. After the kill, each wolf, starting with the most dominant, eats as much as a fifth of its body weight.  Scavengers eat the leftovers. The wolf may have to wait 3 to 4 days before catching the next meal.  All pack members hunt, except for the very young. The young stay in the den and wait for food.

Key Facts: Sizes, Weight, breeding, lifestyle, related Species

Length:  Up to 5 ft. male slightly larger than the female.
Tail Length: 1 to 2 ft
Weight: 35 to 175 lbs

Sexual maturity: 2 to 3 years
Breeding Season: February to April. Those in warm climates mate first.
Gestation: 61 to 63 days
No of young: 4 to 7 cubs

Habit: Highly social. Lives in packs of up to 10 animals.
Diet: Moose, elk, small deer, wild sheep, and domestic livestock.
Life span: 10 years in the wild
Related Species: There are many subspecies of wolf, including the red wolf.
Distribution: Found mainly in Canada, the Eastern Soviet Union, and parts of the United States and Europe.  Small numbers occur in the Abbruzzi Mountains in Italy.
Conservation: Although protected by a number of organizations, the gray wolf is close to extinction. In Europe it is still shot despite legal protection.

Special features about the Gray Wolf:
Teeth: Grips prey with canines while the incisors scrape the flesh off the bone.
Hunting: The wolfs body is built for stamina rather than speed: it can cover 37 miles a day when hunting. It has large skull with extremely powerful jaws.
Senses: The gray wolf uses its excellent sense of smell and it efficient sight and hearing to track prey.
Coat: Thick coat varies in color from nearly white to almost black.
Tail: Holds its thick tail high when running.

Did you know:
A wolf that is driven from the pack or that has left on its own is called a lone wolf.  It avoids contact with packs and rarely howls.
Wary and shy, wolves generally avoid people. Most attacks have been made by rabid animals.
Wolf packs in the far north often follow migrating herds hundreds of miles each year.
Centuries ago, wolves were "tried" by people and burned at the stake.

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