Wolves are, without a doubt, the most controversial animals of our time. Wolves have many character traits of human beings namely: lonesomeness or companionship, nobility or meanness, spinelessness or determined bravery. The wolf in the role of a man’s faithful companion periodically appears in folklore, as well as the villain, inspiring fear and horror in children’s fairy tales. Below we will discuss facts about wolves.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the most common wolf species?
Answer: Gray wolf, common wolf or simplywolf (Latin Canis lupus) – a species of carnivorous mammal belonging to the genus Canis (Wolves), along with species such as coyote ( Canis latrans ), common jackal ( Canis aureus ), striped jackal ( Canis adustus ), black-headed jackal (Canis mesomelas), Ethiopian jackal ( Canis simensis), eastern wolf ( Canis lycaon , recently considered a hybrid of the wolf and coyote), large jackal ( Canis anthus ).
2. How many subspecies of wolves are there?
Answer: The wolf species includes several subspecies, among which: dingo ( Canis lupus dingo ), red wolf ( Canis lupus rufus ; recently, scientists are inclined to believe that the red wolf, like the eastern wolf, is a natural hybrid of the wolf and coyote), tundra wolf ( Canis lupus albus ) and, as scientists decided in 1993, a dog ( Canis lupus familiaris ).
3. How many fingers does a wolf have?
Answer: Wolves have five fingers (fifth, rudimentary, located higher on the paw) on the front legs and four on the hind legs. The claws are powerful, but rather blunt, as they are constantly worn down when walking, therefore they are not used often when hunting.
4. How many teeth does a wolf have?
Answer: Wolves have 42 teeth. On the upper jaw there are 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars and 4 molars. The lower jaw contains 2 molars more. Wolves, as a rule, bite off small pieces of meat from their prey and swallow without chewing. Powerful jaws also allow bone splitting to reach the bone marrow. Interestingly, the teeth of a modern gray wolf have better support in the jaw than the teeth of fossil species of the genus Canis and extinct subspecies of the wolf, they fall out and break less often and allow modern wolves to better manage bones than their ancient relatives did.
5. How long is a wolf pregnancy?
Answer: Wolves bear cubs for about 65 days. Puppies are born deaf and blind and weigh only about 500 grams.
6. What’s the average lifespan of a wolf?
Answer: The average lifespan of a wolf in the wild is 6-8 years. In captivity – twice as much, up to 16 years.
7. Why do ravens follow wolves?
Answer: A wolf pack is often followed by a flock of ravens who hope to join the feast of the wolves in the event of a successful hunt.
8. How long can wolves go without food?
Answer: According to some reports, wolves can live 12 days without food, despite the fact that they can eat up to 7 kilograms per day. Most of their diets are meat, both freshly killed animals and carrion, but wolves also eat plant foods: berries, fruits, mushrooms, and so on.
9. Whats the average weight of a wolf?
Answer: The average weight of an adult wolf ranges from 32 to 65 kilograms. Males are usually about a quarter larger than females. In Siberia and Alaska, males weighing up to 77 kilograms are occasionally found.
10. How do wolves communicate?
Answer: Wolves have developed facial expressions, with the help of which they communicate with each other.
11. When did dire wolves go extinct?
Answer: Nine thousand years ago in North America, the Dire wolves ( Latin Canis dirus ) that prevailed there for 115,000 years became extinct, named so because they were the largest of the Canis genus (the mass of the average individual is 60-68 kilograms, the largest individuals are up to 110 kg; for comparison, the average weight of individuals of the Alaskan subspecies of the gray wolf is 43 kg for males and 37 kg for females), and also had a massive skull and huge bite force, which allowed them to hunt for representatives of megafauna: giant sloths, horses, bison, mastodons and western camels. It was the Dire wolves that became the prototype of the ” Direwolves”) in the series of George Martin’s novels “A Song of Ice and Fire” and, accordingly, in the series “Game of Thrones”.
12. Where are painted wolves found?
Answer: One of the oldest images of the wolf is a cave painting in the cave of Font de Gom, dating back to the Madeleine era (15,000–11,000 BC).
13. Why are wolves protected?
Answer: The wolf occupies the position of a superpredator in modern ecosystems, and its removal from them does not lead to anything good. Thus, the population of wolves in the Yellowstone National Park in the United States was completely exterminated at the beginning of the last century. Because of this, the number of moose increased, which adversely affected the trees growing in the park and led to a general deterioration of the ecological situation. Also, due to the lack of competition, the number of coyotes has increased, which put local Pronghorns at risk. In 1995, after 30 years of trying to fix the situation with the help of hunters, it was decided to return the wolves to the park.
14. How many wolves are left in the world?
Answer: In the world there are only about 300 thousand wolves. About 30 thousand of them are in Russia.
15. Do wolves mate for life?
Answer: As a rule, wolves are monogamous and form pairs for life.
16.What is the wolf pack hierarchy?
Answer: According to recent studies, the concepts of “alpha” and “omega” for describing the wolf hierarchy are outdated, since the dominant positions are occupied by parent wolves, and the whole pack, as a rule, consists of their cubs from different litters.
17. Do wolves howl at the moon?
Answer: Wolves do not howl at the moon. Such a way of vocalization is a way of communication between group members at large distances, for example, for gathering before the hunt. Wolves also howl to inform potential rivals from neighboring flocks about their presence or to attract a partner. As a rule, if one wolf begins to howl, then his relatives immediately join him.
18. Do wolves have different howls?
Answer: Yes. Different populations of wolves and coyotes have different howling dialects, which is why representatives of some populations better understand each other and are more likely to interbreed, while others are considered strangers and try to exterminate.
19. Do wolves respond to human howls?
Answer: Yes, there is ample evidence that wolves respond to human howls.
Different Types Of Wolves
Some of the most emblematic and striking wolf races that we can find in different parts of the world.
Iberian Wolf Facts
The gray wolf subspecies, known as the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus), was first identified in 1907 by the Spanish zoologist Ángel Cabrera. The genetic work carried out by the biologist Robert Wayne of UCLA, has allowed us to suggest that it is a true subspecies within the genus.
Spain is one of the last refuges of the Iberian wolves in the European Union. The population of the Iberian wolf is recovering slowly from the losses caused in the 1970s, approximately 400-500 individuals remained, reaching today (2003) to 2000-3000, almost 30% of the European wolves.
Distribution of the Iberian wolf
It is said that this animal is distinguished by black markings along its tail, on its back, and on its front legs. More than 50% of these animals are found in the north of Castilla y León (approximately 1000-1,500 Iberian wolves), and less than 35% in Galicia (approximately 500-700 Iberian wolves), and the highest population density is found in the northeast of Zamora (5-7 wolves / 100km 2 ).
Once wolves were present throughout the Iberian Peninsula, but now they are exiled to the Northeast (Asturias, León, Norte de Castilla, Galicia), and some populations are in the Sierra Morena (Jaén and Cuenca). However, recently, they have managed to cross the barrier again, what is now the Douro River and have begun to extend south and east: two groups have been detected near Guadalajara and have begun to move in Teruel, in the south of Aragón.
In general the Iberian wolf in Spain is no longer considered in danger of extinction, the most vulnerable are those in the Sierra Morena that if they are in danger of extinction, these wolves live on private hunting farms, where they are illegally persecuted, that conflict with the hunting practices of millionaires.
Iberian Wolf Anatomy
Iberian wolves are of a medium size, with a constitution generally thinner than the Eurasian wolf. The males can weigh up to 40 kg (90 pounds), and the females usually have between 75 or 80 percent of the size of the males.
Its fur can vary in colors from a light gray or ocher in the summer months to a dark reddish brown during the winter. The word signatus that accompanies its scientific name, and whose translation can be understood as “mark”, has its origin in a series of white features present in the upper lips of the Iberian wolf, and dark in the tail and its front limbs.
What Does The Iberian Wolf Eat?
The diet of the Iberian wolf will vary greatly depending on the place or area where they live . The wolves of the Cantabrian area, for example, can feed on deer, roe deer and wild boar, while the wolves of Galicia will feed in part on the remains of poultry and pig farms.
On the other hand, the wolves native to Castilla y León will base their diet mainly on rabbits. In general, the main source of food for these canids comes from livestock, especially in the form of carrion. However, after the ban on leaving animal carcasses in the countryside for fear of mad cow disease, wolves have begun to feed mostly on live sheep and cattle.
Reproduction of the Iberian wolf
Wolves are social animals; they live in packs essentially composed of related individuals. Only the dominant pair (female and alpha male ) reproduce in the group, except in rare cases; the rest cooperates in the hunting and care of young pups. This monogamous system controls the structure of the group and regulates the size of the population.
The breeding season of the wolves begins in winter or early spring, depending on the latitude. The gestation lasts from 61 to 63 days; The wolves in Iberia stop between April and June. The size of litter is very variable among populations, and ranges from 1 to 11 puppies. The puppies open their eyes at 10-15 days, and they wean around a month and a half, when they begin to feed on meat regurgitated by the members of the group. At 3 weeks the puppies make the first exits from the lair, and from 2 months they remain with the rest of the pack in the “meeting places” (rendez-vous). The age of sexual maturation varies, and is also conditioned by the social structure of the groups.
The Iberian Wolf – This breed lives in the Iberian Peninsula, mostly north of the Douro River, and it should be noted that the Iberian wolf is currently in danger of extinction.
Artic Wolf Facts
Introduction to the Arctic Wolf Species
The Arctic wolf, also called white wolf or polar wolf, is characterized by having a unique hair color, which we can not see in any other type of wolf. This animal can be considered as a race, subspecies or geographical variant of the gray wolf (Canis Lupus), a species that originally lived throughout the northern hemisphere.
The Arctic wolf lives in places where the cold is extreme, and because of this it has two thick layers of skin that protect it from low temperatures. The outer layer of skin becomes thicker when winter time approaches. This layer helps to form a waterproof barrier on the skin, helping them maintain body temperature even when it is quite cold.
Alaska is where most of the wild Arctic wolves live. They can walk on frozen ground due to the way their paws are designed, allowing the arctic wolf to change its weight and maintain a good grip. Not only do they withstand low temperatures, but also do not seem to care about the time of year they are in or if it is day or night.
They are distributed throughout North America, reaching the north of Greenland and maintaining large numbers through the Canadian Arctic archipelago. It lives in cold terrains and with hostile temperatures of up to -30 degrees Celsius. Its thick and abundant coat works as insulation from wind and snow. They have a shorter length than gray wolves, as do shorter legs, muzzle and ears; this helps them retain body heat.
What Do Arctic Wolves Eat?
The location of arctic wolves is limited when it comes to food supply. They usually feed on caribou and musk oxen. As these animals are much larger than the wolves, they will hunt them in groups. Wolves are great hunters and their prey when they are attacking them from all places can not flee.
The arctic wolf has very sharp teeth and very powerful jaws. They can tear flesh and crunch the bones of the animals they catch. They can eat more than 9 kg of meat at a time. They often know that they can spend a lot of time for the next meal, so they will consume everything they can when the opportunity presents itself.
For puppies that are not big enough to hunt but need meat to get strong, the other members of the pack will offer them the regurgitated meat they have partially consumed. Read more on what wolves eat.
Arctic Wolf Reproduction
They are monogamous animals that only change partners when one of them dies. Matings are carried out generally in the month of March and at the end of May, females have their puppies after a period of 53 to 61 days of gestation. The litters can contain up to five of them.
The mother and all the members of the pack are very protective of the newborns and care for them with dedication. When she can not dig dens in the snow, she carries her little ones to cavities she finds on the road to protect them from predators. If they do not suffer any alteration, the dens are used year after year. To keep them nourished, they regurgitate the food they previously ingested and at one month of age, the young begin to have contact with the meat.
Artic Wolf Threats
The arctic wolf lives in isolated areas, and this means they do not have problems with predators. Sometimes young wolves can be consumed by other animals, because when they are hunting away from the pack, they can become victims. Occasionally battles may occur between the packs by territory, by food, or by mating.
Life expectancy is not many years; It is seven in its natural state and 10 years in captivity. Although they do not have many predators, bears and other wolves are the cause of some battles.
Undoubtedly the human occupies the number one place in predation to the Arctic wolf. The invasion of its habitat and climate change are its greatest threats. Illegal hunting has not been much of a problem for them due to the remoteness they have with human communities, so it could be said that it is the subspecies of wolf that has less risk of extinction.
Artic Wolf Behavior
Some believe that the arctic wolf is solitary by nature, but it is not true. Those who see themselves in nature far from the herds are because they are looking for food or looking to make their own herd. The size of these groups can be from two to twenty wolves, generally, the size of a pack of arctic wolves will depend on the amount of food they have available.
Arctic wolves turn out to be very territorial. However, most of these animals need hundreds of kilometers that they cover within their habitat, this has resulted in different groups overlapping, this case the wolves of both groups mark their territories with urine and with the odors that come from their bodies.
Artic Wolf – Its fur is completely white to camouflage itself in the snow. It feeds on caribou and musk oxen, and lives mainly in the frigid areas of Alaska, Greenland and Canada
Red Wolf Facts
The red wolf gets its name because of the reddish color of its fur, although some of them are brown so they are sometimes mistaken for wolves of other species. Another distinctive feature of red wolves is a white color around the snout area, they also have very large head and ears.
Location Of Red Wolves
Regarding its location, it is known that in the past red wolves lived near Texas and Florida, however today many of these animals do not remain in these regions. Thanks to the reintroduction projects by professionals, now in North Carolina and South Carolina live red wolves, and they are very good in these areas.
Characteristics of the Red Wolf
This mammal has a coat of fur in which colors such as gray, black, white and, in many areas, red tones can be observed. The fur of these wolves will be changing according to the time of the year in which they are.
In addition, the red wolf has long, pointed ears. Its tail is spongy, long and thick, has abundant hair, its nose is painted by a white stripe and is elongated, while its tail is black.
As far as its weight is, approximately, 35 kilos, while they have advanced ages whereas the females will always weigh much less. They tend to be quite sociable among them, although sometimes when the female is in heat they fight with each other.
What does the Red Wolf feed on?
It is believed that the red wolf is a solitary hunter, because generally, it does not count on the efforts of the other members of the pack to carry out a killing, and this results in the capture of small prey. Some prey on mice, rabbits and raccoons. When they hunt in a pack, they are able to successfully confront larger prey like deer and cattle.
Reproduction of the Red Wolf
The red wolf is considered an adult between 22 and 24 months of age. Normally, only the male and female leader of the pack are reproduced. The breeding season takes place between January and March, the puppies being born a couple of months later. A single female can give birth to a litter of up to twelve puppies.
The puppies are born in a den next to their mother. However, they will not be in the same den all the time, as the mother will take them from one hideout to another for several months. This helps prevent the odor from becoming too strong and attract other packs of wolves that feed on puppies of other wolves.
Before the age of two, it is common for young wolves to leave the group in which they were born. For females, being accepted in another group or pack is much easier than for the male, who will often have to find their own territory and look for a single female with whom they can start their own herd.
Red Wolf Conservation
Of the three subspecies that have been documented, that of Florida ( C. r. Floridanus ) became extinct in 1930 and that of the Gulf of Mexico ( C. rufus ), diffused by the coastal areas from Texas to Louisiana, in 1970 The third ( C. r.gregoryi ) was extinct in the wild in 1980, but luckily there were still some specimens in captivity that gave rise to new packs with which to initiate a reintroduction project in the wild.
The first of these occurred in North Carolina in 1987, where 100 successful individuals were released. According to the 1997 census, the population of North Carolina and Tennessee, where it extended after reintroduction, plus individuals in captivity currently round the 550 individuals. Some experts believe that if it is confirmed that Canis lycaon is con-specific with Canis rufus (Red Wolf) wolves from southeastern Canada could be used in reintroduction programs in the United States. Also, if this were the case, the conservation status of the species would have to be revised, which would not be so critical. Further Reading.
Gray Wolf Facts
Gray Wolf – It weighs around 55 kilos and, although the adjective ‘gray’ is due to its fur, there are also blacks, whites and reds. They have a narrow snout and head in relation to other species.
Gray Wolf Anatomy
Gray Wolf – It weighs around 55 kilos and, although the adjective ‘gray’ is due to its fur, there are also blacks, whites and reds. They have a narrow snout and head in relation to other species.
Gray wolves are slim, have a powerful physique with a large, deep-set chest and a sloping back. The belly of a gray wolf is retracted, the neck is muscular. Their limbs are long and robust, with relatively small legs. On each front paw, there are five fingers, on the back – four. Females, as a rule, have a narrow snout and forehead, thin neck, female paws are slightly shorter than those of males, and less massive shoulders. Wolves are powerful for their size; they have enough strength to turn a horse or frozen moose carcasses.
In general, gray wolves are the largest of the animals in the Canidae family, not counting some the larger breeds of domestic dogs.
The length of the adult gray wolf is 105 cm to 160 cm, the vertical height of the animal from the shoulder is 80-85 cm. The weight of the wolf varies in different geographic areas; On average, a European wolf can weigh 38.7 kg, a North American wolf – 36 kg, and an Indian and Arab wolf – 25 kg. Females of the wolf, as a rule, weigh 5-10 kilograms less than the males. Wolves weighing more than 54 kilograms are rare, but extremely large breeds have been sighted in Canada, Alaska and in the former USSR.
How Fast Can Gray Wolves Run?
Gray wolves can run at a speed of 56-64 km/h and can run without stopping for more than 20 minutes, although not necessarily at the same rate. In coldder climates, wolves can reduce blood flow to maintain body heat. The heat of the lower parts of the paws is maintained separately of the rest of the body and kept at a level just above where the paws are in contact with snow and ice. The head of a gray wolf is large and heavy. Ears are relatively small and triangular. As a rule, in physical form, they resemble German shepherds and huskies.
In winter, gray wolves have a very dense and fluffy coat, with a short undercoat and long protective hairs. Most of the undercoat falls out in the spring and grows back in the fall. Winter wool is very resistant to cold; wolves in northern countries can safely be in open areas at -40 °, placing the muzzle between their hind legs and covering it with the tail. Wolf’s hair provides better insulation than the dog’s coat; ice can’t accumulate on it.
Their sense of smell is poorly developed compared to some breeds of hunting dogs. Because of this, they rarely catch hidden hares and birds, although they can easily track down prey on fresh tracks.
Ethiopian Wolf Facts
The Ethiopian wolf, is limited to the high mountains, on both sides of the Great Rift Valley, at altitudes between 3000 and 4500 meters. They are sometimes mistaken for a jackal because of the small size of these wolves. They are medium in size, have very long legs and a mouth more pointed and elongated than other species. They measure approximately 90 and 100 centimeters long and about 25-34 cm in height.
Location of the Ethiopian wolf
It is located in Ethiopia, Africa and already in areas such as Menz and Arsi were left without this animal, there are still some small populations of these but it is not sure they can live for much longer. There are only seven locations where Ethiopian wolves live. Most of them reside in the mountains, although they have also been identified in the plains.
Ethiopian wolf behavior
They live in small and very united family herds that share and defend an exclusive territory. These groups gather to patrol the territorial borders at dawn, at noon and at night, and they rest together outside in the early morning hours. The hierarchies within these herds are well established with frequent signs of domination and subordination.
Their behavior is less aggressive than that of other species of wolves and also less territorial, even trying to get along with other wolf packs that are in their territory.
What does the Ethiopian wolf eat?
Its diet is based mainly on small animals such as rodents. But, if they hunt in manadas they can get to hunt larger prey such as small antelopes or lambs. In general, these wolves do not hunt together, so they must be able to obtain their own food in order to survive.
Himalyan Wolf Facts
Himalayan Wolves – mainly inhabit specific areas of India such as Jammu and Kashmir, Nepal, China, Mongolia.
The Himalayan wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf. It is considered a fairly recent species and initially thought to be linked to the Tibetan wolf. These wolves are brown and gray, and have black and white colors in the areas of the face and along the chest.
Location of the Himalayan Wolf
It is found in some specific areas of India, specifically the areas of Jammu, Kashmir, Nepal and the Himalayas, as well as in China and Mongolia. When they were originally named, it was believed that they only lived in the Himalayas. It was not until much later when some packs that also lived in these other regions were found.
These animals are usually found in coniferous forests and it is believed that when this species developed, the area where they lived was bordered by glaciers, resulting in the fact that these wolves were not dispersed around the world as if they were achieved by other animals.
What does the Himalayan Wolf eat?
The diet for these wolves is based mainly on small and medium sized animals. Rodents and rabbits make up the majority of their prey. That does not mean that sometimes they decide to go for broods of larger prey. Sometimes, they look for young specimens of larger prey, which they can hunt thanks to their excellent skills as hunters. Read more about wolves eat.
Behavior of the Himalayan Wolf
Due to the small amount that exists of the Himalayan wolf, they tend to live in smaller packs. These packs may have between six or eight members. This type of wolf lives in an area of considerable dimensions, on the order of several hundred kilometers long. Like other wolf races, the wolves of the Himalayas are not very aggressive when it comes to protecting their territory.
The Himalayan wolf matures sexually at 2 years of age, stage in which they begin to mark their territory and are more independent. From there they start mating, which will occur at least once a year, (the wolf is the only canine that mates annually). Usually the wolves are monogamous.
Due to the fact that the Himalayan wolves live so close to the Indian wolves, many experts thought that at some point they could cross, however, to date there is no evidence that this has really happened, perhaps in the future evidence can be seen of this type.
Conservation of the Himalayan wolf
Today, there are less than 350 wolves in the Himalayas released. We can also find another 21 living in zoos in India. With such a low population, it is very difficult to increase their number. However, many of the people who are passionate about these wolves are not willing to give them up so easily.
So they continue to do everything possible to ensure that these animals have a place to live and can feed. However, there are many farmers and ranchers in these areas who are favored by a low number of Himalayan wolves, as they continue to see their animals being attacked again and again by them.
Many people believe that the wolf of India is a fox, since they are small in stature and when they become adults they weigh between 40 and 60 pounds.
The Tibetan wolf, also known as Mongolian wolf or Chinese wolf, was identified as a subspecies of the gray wolf in 1863.
Distribution of Wolves
Previously, wolves were present throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom, where they became extinct more than three hundred years ago. Currently, the largest number of wolves outside of Russia is found in the Carpathian region of Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania.
Smaller populations can be found in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Belarus, in the mountains of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria; Slovenia and Greece; the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and Italy. In recent years, the wolves have returned to eastern Germany, Switzerland and France. The recovery has been natural, there have been no reintroduction of wolves in Europe.
Wolves are extremely adaptable and live in diverse habitats, from tundra to thick forests, mountainous regions and Mediterranean scrub and plains. They can also tolerate human proximity and, in some areas, are known to enter towns and cities, generally in search of food.
Such wide distribution has allowed the appearance of different subspecies, which differ in size, color and length of the coat or proportions of the nose or ears. More than 50 subspecies of wolves have been described, but a true consensus has not been found, and the list has also been condensed, reducing the subspecies between 13 and 15.
Unfortunately, as a result of the persecution, wolves are found mainly in remote mountainous and forested areas.
Wolf Feeding Habits
Wolves are carnivores and feed mainly on large ungulates (ungulate mammals) such as elk, deer, roe deer and wild boar, but also hares, beavers and domestic livestock. A wolf eats around 2-6 kg of meat per day.
As they can not always find food every day (in Bialowieza Primeval Forest, in Poland, it is estimated that a herd of average size of four to five wolves that feed mainly on deer and wild boar, kill once every two days) can eat up 10 kg at a time. They also eat birds, small mammals, reptiles, insects, plants and berries. In some areas of Europe, such as northern Portugal, where wild prey is scarce, wolves depend almost entirely on domestic livestock. For further reading see our post on: What do wolves eat?
The Wolf Pack
When you come to understand how a pack of wolves work internally, the idea that man is the only animal capable of living in a perfectly defined social structure becomes somewhat pretentious. If we get rid of the connotations of “dangerous group” that carries the word “pack”, we can see that, in reality, the pack is a group of individuals united in favor of the protection of each other. Each wolf accepts his individual position in the pack, in the same way that members of a family do.
Structure and leadership in the pack
A pack of wolves usually consists of the following elements:
- An alpha or dominant pair
- A beta pair, which in addition to occupying the second place in importance, will most likely be the substitutes of the alpha pair,
- Middle-range individuals;
- Lower-range individuals, also called omega.
The alpha pair leads the entire group, while the beta pair is in charge of the mid-range wolves. The other adults are responsible for directing the other members of the pack in the middle and lower ranks. Both ends of the pack hierarchy, except in cases of injury by accident or death, tend to remain unchanged; instead,intermediate grades are subject to frequent changes in social equilibrium. While they do not reach the age of their sexual maturity, wolf pups remain outside this complex hierarchical system. The females play the role of subaltern with respect to the males of the same hierarchy.
The Alpha Wolf
A wolf pack is organized in a hierarchy and the highest are the alpha wolf and beta she-wolf. On the contrary, the lowest are the omega wolves. This type of social structure helps to promote unity and social order in the pack, it also helps reduce conflicts and the likelihood of aggressive behaviors that can occur among members of the pack.
In spite of everything, an omega wolf can become an alpha wolf, although the top of the hierarchy does not change very often. All the members of the pack have a task to fulfill and this understanding makes pack hunting more effective.
All this organization allows wolves to hunt large animals, something that a lone wolf could never achieve individually. Therefore, wolves usually respect this order, except in the mating season in which some wolves can get to fight with the alpha wolf to try to mate with the beta wolf.
Alpha Wolf behavior
It shows a pose and attitude corresponding to its status – erect body, head and tail raised, erect ears. The alpha animal also demands important privileges – such as the right to devour prey before the other members of the pack. The rest of the wolves, less dominant, will have a submissive attitude towards the alpha animal: lick the leader’s muzzle, shrink their bodies and place their heads, tails and ears lower than the upper limbs.
What is also interesting is that there are two separate hierarchies within any wolf pack, one for the males and one for the females. In addition, it is becoming less clear that the male is the one who makes all the decisions and, in many cases, one could speak of matriarchies where the alpha female decides where to go, when to hunt or when to rest.
How is the alpha wolf established?
Rank order is established and maintained throughout a series of ritualized fights and postures best described as ritual intimidation. Wolves prefer a psychological war to real combat and high rank is based more on personality or attitude than on size or strength. How the range is maintained and enforced varies widely among packs and among individual animals. In large packs full of treatable animals, or in a group of young animals, the rank order may change occasionally or constantly, and may even be circular.
Loss of rank can occur gradually or suddenly. An older wolf can simply choose to step aside when an ambitious challenger shows up, changing the rank without spilling blood. Or the older animal may choose to fight with different degrees of intensity. While a high percentage of aggression do not cause damage and are rituals, some fights can cause injuries. The loser of such combat is often driven from the pack, or, rarely, can be killed. This type of occurrence is more common in the winter months, when it is the breeding season.
Wolf Body Language
As it fits a leader, the dominant wolf demonstrates a pose and attitude corresponding to its status – erect body, head and tail raised, erect ears. The alpha animal also demands important privileges – such as the right to devour prey before the other members of the pack. The rest of the wolves, less dominant, will have a submissive attitude towards the alpha animal: lick the leader’s muzzle, shrink their bodies and place their heads, tails and ears lower than the upper limbs. The existence of the omega wolf, on the other hand, is much harder. Their role is to act as a “social mediator”, offering an easy prey in the violent moments of game, and calming other superior individuals in hierarchy in moments of conflict. The omega wolf often plays the role of “black sheep”, being treated by the rest of the pack with little regard. Omega wolves are usually the last ones in order to eat.
The myth of the lone wolf
Conflicts often arise between the different ranks, and it can happen that sometimes a wolf is expelled from the pack and lives according to its own rules, becoming what is usually called “a lone wolf.” However, as the saying goes, “in the union is strength”, although wolves can hunt alone (and sometimes do), hunting is much more successful when carried out as a team, and the pack is directed by a single intelligence with the aim of knocking down its prey. The pack is also essential to give meaning to the existence of animals. As with the family, a pack of wolves are a social unit, and it is the lack of that feeling of belonging to a group and the corresponding social support, which the lone wolf is forced to endure. That is, his lonely life does not have the charm with which we usually imagine it. It is a hard and lonely existence, in constant struggle for survival.
The image of wolves hunting in a pack can evoke feelings of fear and anxiety. However, it is precisely this act of collaboration – a work in conjunction with self-preservation as an objective – the complexity of their social relationships, and the use of body language to transmit the rules of the pack, which makes us stop and reflect on of the magnitude of intelligence and depth of emotions in these animals.
The future of wolves depends mainly on the attitude of the people. As things are currently, there are sadly still many people who do not understand or appreciate the wolf and some of those people are doing everything they can to destroy them. They shoot, trap or poison every wolf they encounter.
Those who want to kill wolves give several reasons to explain it. Some farmers say that the wolves kill many sheep and other cattle. And some hunters say that wolves kill game animals that should be reserved for killing by the human hunter.
Scientists say that these things are not true. Many years ago, when there were many wolves in North America, they killed a lot of cattle and have meant serious competition for hunters. But currently, there are not so many wolves at all and therefore no longer a threat.
In the United States, wolves have been almost become totally extinct. During the last three hundred years, hunters, farmers and others have killed millions of wolves. And today, there are probably less than 1,000 surviving wolves in all of the United States, except Alaska.
Today, wolves are not very dangerous for man, but man can be dangerous to wolves. It is clear that the time has come for people to change their attitude towards wolves and begin to think of ways to save them before it is too late!
Thanks For Reading These Amazing Facts About Wolves!