Spirit of the Wolf

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Canis Lupis

I live in Australia and there no wolves in this part of the world. To be
honest I did not know very much about the wolf apart from what's depicted
in the movies or on television. I began researching in books and on the net to
complete my Nature Hike assigment. I was amazed at the number of
sub species of wolves there are in the world. Rather than select one species to
feature in my project, I decided to dedicate it to the wolf in general.

I hope you have a java enabled browser so you can appreciate the wonderful snow
effect that I enhanced with the fantastic Anfy java applet maker.

About Wolves

The Wolf is considered to be the ancestor of the domestic dog and
can be found throughout temperate and coniferous forests and tundra of the
Northern Hemisphere. Different species for different countries and different
areas, there are 24 subspecies of wolf in North America alone.
The wolf is a large animal usually weighing 60-120 lbs (27-55 kg) and is built for
the harsh life it leads. Broad chest, small pointed ears and long legs. They may stand
up to 32 inches high at the shoulder, and are often 6 to 6 1/2 feet from
nose to tail. Males can be up to 25% larger than females. The life span is roughly
6 - 10 years in the wild. They can live up to 18 years in captivity.  Although the
majority are tawny with cream chest and black markings on the shoulders, tail
tip and near the base of the tail, there many variations in the colour including pure
white and black. White and light-colored wolves are found in the arctic, while
black and gray are common in the subarctic and boreal forest regions.
Gray phases prevail in the south. The wolves in north-western Montana are
predominantly gray or black. The coat consists of a dense layer of soft, fine fur topped
by long guard hairs, which give the coat its color. The longest hair in the coat is found
on the mane and this can be raised or lowered in cases of aggression or dominance.
Patterns of color in facial hair accentuate their expressive features. The coat in Winter is
thick to enable them to cope with the weather extremes. A wolf in summer looks lean in
comparison with it's Winter coat.

wolf in snow

Wolves are pack hunters although they can and do hunt individually. They hunt
in packs in order to take advantage of moose,deer and elk herds . Packs are large
during Winter with up to 20 members. In Summer,when there is many smaller
mammals available, the packs often split up into smaller groups of up to 8 animals.
Smaller packs also occur with the onset of the breeding season when there is
increased tension between the members of the pack .

Whatever the size of the pack, they usually have an established territory. The size
of it depends on the size of the pack and also the quantity of the prey available.
Maximum density is never more than one wolf per square mile (2.7km) and in fact
packs can hunt in territories of up to 600 square miles. Territories are staked out
by scent marks placed on conspicous trees, rocks and bushes along the wolve's trails.

Wolves have great endurance and will cover many miles in day with a jog like trot. It is
common for wolves to be moving eight to ten hours in a day and pack may cover distances
from 30-125 miles in a day.They can trot at five to ten miles per hour almost indefinitely.

Howling wolf animation
paw Click on the paw to hear the wolf

Wolves vocalise by howling, whimpering, and growling. Wolves very rarely bark but may when
their den is disturbed or if they are surprised at a kill. The bark is deep like that of a big
domestic dog. Howling also informs the wolves of each other's location. The howl of a wolf is
most described as deep and mournful. Theberge and Falls (1967:334) described it as follows:
"The howl is a continuous sound from about half a second to 11 seconds in length. Most of
the time, the pitch remains constant or varies smoothly, and may change direction as many as
four or five times. Total intensity does not greatly vary throughout."

A howling session by a single wolf lasts an average of 35 seconds, during which the
animal howls several times. A howling session by a pack lasts an average of 85 seconds.
It is initiated by one wolf, and after its first or second howl one or more others may join in.


7 week old pups - Julia and Jessica


Mating occurs between January and March An alpha pair, once formed, usually stay
together for life. Females come into season at the end of every winter; however
only the alpha pair have the privilege of mating and breeding. The alpha wolves actively
court each other, grooming and nuzzling each other with great affection. This courtship
can go on for a few weeks. Subordinate males and females often compete for a higher place in
the hierarchy at this time, causing tension among the pack. The mating couple often seek
out privacy to get away from the rest of the pack.

The gestation period is 63 days. The pups are born in a hole (den) dug by the mother, or
in an enlarged fox den. The den is located near water and are usually dug into
well-drained soil on a south-facing slope. Dens are normally re-used each season.
The average litter size is 4 to 7 pups each weighing about 1 pound.
Mortality rates for wolf pups can be as high as 50%.

The father and other adult wolves of both sexes from the pack help in the rearing of
the cubs by guarding them when the mother joins an evening hunt. They will also bring
back eat for the growing litter and when they are nipped on the snout by the pups, the hunters
regurgitate undigested meat for them.

As the pups grow, some of them will be very assertive in their play, while others
in the same litter will be weaker and more submissive. Like human children, the
more assertive wolf pups will grow up to be alphas while the more submissive pups
will most likely grow into subordinate wolves. The pups join the pack on hunts in the
early fall, although they do not fully participate until they are one year old.

Don't come near me


Wolves use their incredible sense of smell combined with excellent hearing
abilities to help them find vulnerable prey. Wolves look for the animals they
can kill easily, expending as little energy as possible and decreasing chances of
injury. Large ungulates like deer, moose, elk and caribou are a wolf's primary
food source. Wolves will also eat smaller animals like beaver, rabbit, mice and
ground squirrel.

When hunting large game, the wolf pack separates out and surrounds its prey.
Wolves usually bite the shoulders and flanks. While some pack members harry the
prey from the rear, other wolves seize the prey by the nose.

Wolves' jaws produce immense power - a crushing pressure of about 1,500 pounds
per square inch , compared with 750 pounds for average large domestic dogs .
Wolves have 42 teeth specialized for stabbing, shearing and crushing bones.
The first four teeth, front and bottom are called incisors and are used for nipping
and gnawing meat from the bone. Wolves use their canine teeth, which can grow
to be 2 inches in length, for gripping and holding itself to the prey animal. The premolars
are used for slicing and grinding. The specialized molars, called carnassials are used
for slicing and tearing. The last molars are used for pulverizing and grinding food.

The wolf's sense of smell is up to 100,000 times greater than a human's .
Under the right conditions a wolf can smell something up to 300 yards to 1 mile
away. Their hearing is excellent also. Wolves can hear a howl as far as six miles
away in the forest and ten miles away on the open tundra.

Hunting can be extremely dangerous for a wolf as the antlers and the hooves of a large
animal can injure or kill an attacking wolf. As hunters, wolves have a low success rate
when it comes to hunting large prey. One study shows that for every twelve moose
tracked, only one was caught. Wolves tend to seek out the most vulnerable of prey..the
sick, the old or the weak.


Within the wolf pack, there is a strict hierachy. There is an alpha male (sometimes a female).
The alpha and his/her mate comprise the alpha pair. The alpha leads the pack in the hunt
and makes important decisions concerning the welfare of the group. Just below the alpha pair
is the beta wolf (the second ranking male), then the subordinates (wolves of both sexes). At
the bottom of the hierarchy is the omega wolf. This wolf (male or female) is the scapegoat and
can bear the brunt of the pack's frustrations and harrassment. It will usually be the last to
feed, or may go without when food is scarce. The wolves depend on pack stability and
cooperation to successfully bring down large prey such as deer and moose . When
big game is scarce, large packs break down into smaller groups to hunt smaller prey.

When wolves become adolescents and have reached sexual
maturity, many will leave their home territory in order to search for a mate.
These wolves are called dispersers. The long, drawn-out howl of a 'lone wolf' will
hopefully attract another unattached wolf. The two new self-proclaimed alphas find
a suitable territory to start a family of their own.


Endangered wolves

The main threat to wolf population is loss of habitat due to human settlement as
well as legal and illegal hunting.

Status: Wolves are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act in the United
States except Alaska. The red wolf gray wolf are listed as endangered in the lower 48 states
except for Minnesota where the gray wolf is listed as threatened. Stable throughout Canada and Alaska.
Smaller populations exist in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Montana. Reintroduction has been considered
successful in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. The Mexican wolf is the most endangered as it
was the target of a deliberate trapping and poisoning campaign carried out in the early part of the
20th century by the federal government because they were considered pests. Even with
captive breeding programs in place, the numbers are very low . Efforts are currently underway
to restore Mexican gray wolves to public lands in Arizona and New Mexico but this is still under
review . Red wolf reintroduction efforts in The Great Smoky Mountains was called to a halt in
October of 1998 due to an insufficient prey base. A number of red wolves have been successfully
reintroduced into the Alligator River National Refuge in North Carolina and plans to find another site
comparable to the Rockies are underway.

Similar situations exist with the rest of the world's population of wolves.

Credits and Bibliography

Without the wonderful resources of the net and the fantastic wolf sites, this project would
have never been completed. There are literally hundreds of sites and too many to list
individually. However particular mention must be made to the following sites as I always
believe in giving credit to borrowed graphics and sounds . Thanks to these kind people
for making them freely available to others.

pawWolf Song of Alaska Group

pawThe searching Wolf- First two photos

paw animated wolf gif (c) Kitty Roach.

pawlast three wolf photos with special thanks to Monty of Wolf Park.

A special credit must go to the Wolf resource welfare organisations who gave me
great inspiration and a whole new outlook on the current state of the wolf in today's world.
Thank goodness there are people in the world so willing to help our friends in the
animal kingdom. Please visit their pages and support them too.

Wolf Park

Wolf Sanctuary


Wolf Recovery Foundation
Wolf Recovery Foundation
North American Wolf Association

North American Wolf Assoc.


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