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Gray Wolf Habitat

Shrinivas Kanade
The gray wolf habitat, in the past, included areas as varied as the deserts of Egypt and the bone chilling, icy tundras of the Arctic. The gray wolf is almost as adaptable as man; It is no wonder that its habitat is spread all over the world.
The gray wolf or 'The Wolf', as it is commonly referred to, is one of those animals, which successfully survived the last ice age. Its physical characteristics helped it to adjust to the adverse conditions of that era. Gray wolves belong to kingdom 'Animalia', 'family', 'Canidae', 'subfamily' 'Caninae' and species 'C. lupus'.
He is the largest member of the 'Canidae' family, and is considered to be the wolf from which most the wolf subspecies have evolved.

Wolf Habitat

Gray Wolf

The gray wolf has longer legs and bigger paws than coyotes and dogs. These features help him to distribute his weight more evenly, especially when he is walking or trotting on treacherous ice.
These hunters have large and slightly webbed paws which prove useful while walking in mud or on loose or powdery snow. In such conditions, the webbed paws enable these predators to move faster than their prey and provide food for themselves and their pack. This might be their secret of surviving the ice age.
At the end of ice age, with the retreating ice, the gray wolves and the rest of the subspecies spread throughout the world, choosing temperate forests, hot deserts, mountains, freezing tundra, and green grasslands for their habitats. Habitat of gray wolves in general, can be found in places such as Mexico, Ethiopia, the Arabian peninsula, Europe, Asia, etc.

Great Plains Wolf

The Great Plains Wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, is a native to North America. It is also known as the buffalo wolf or the Eastern Timber Wolf.
These wolves, once, dominated and claimed the vast stretches of continental U.S.A., especially, the western United States and southern Canada as their habitat. Today, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin serve as their habitat. Occasionally, these wolves have been reported in the states of Dakota and Nebraska.

Russian Wolf

North-central Russia is also a gray wolf habitat. One of the largest species, the Russian wolf, which is considered as a great hunter, resides in this region.
A subspecies of the gray wolf, the Arctic wolf has chosen the islands of the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, as their habitat. These are extremely isolated gray wolves and not much is known about them.

Gray Wolf Facts

The gray wolf is a carnivore and hunts in packs. A pack may have 2-20 members in it. These wolves hunt medium to large animals, such as elk, caribou, deer, and smaller animals such as beavers and hare.
They are also known to attack bison. When there is scarcity of food, they may turn cannibal. In Canada, wolf packs have been seen feeding on salmon fish.
  • The gray wolf is a mammal. A wolf pack, most often, has only one breeding pair. The female gives birth to pups after a gestation period of 60-63 days.
  • The pups may arrive between the month of March to June.
  • The average size of the litter is 5-6 pups. On two occasions, in Russia, the litter size was recorded as 17.
  • At the time of birth, a pup which averagely weighs 1 lbs (0.5 kg), is completely dependent on its mother as it cannot see or hear.
  • Wolf saliva has antibacterial action and helps in healing wounds, as it promotes regeneration of body cells.
  • The height varies, depending on the species, from 0.6 meter to 0.95 meter.
  • The length is between 1.3 meters to 2 meters or 4.2 to 6.5 feet. The length of its tail is a quarter of the body length.
  • A wolf can weigh between 55 to 88 lbs (25 to 40 kg). The North American wolf weighs almost 80 lbs or approximately, 36 kg.
  • In Alaska, Canada and Russia, gray wolves weighing 169 lbs (77 kg) have been reported. In 1939, a gray wolf was recorded as the heaviest at 179 lbs (79 kg); however, in Ukraine, Russia, a wolf weighed 189 lbs (86 kg).
  • A female gray wolf weighs 20 percent less than the male.
  • The wolf is known to attain a speed of 40 miles/hr (65 km/hr), when chasing its prey.
  • The paws and pads of the wolf are kept warm by special blood vessels, a fact which helps it survive the harsh winter conditions.
  • Scent glands present between the toes leave chemical marks in the footprints and guide it back home.
  • Wolves have a coat made up of two layers. The outer layer has bristles and the inner layer is waterproof and acts as an insulating layer to conserve the body heat.
  • The color of its fur ranges from gray to gray-brown and they are found in white, red, black and brown colors.
  • Although, the gray wolf in the wild, is known to live for approximately 6-8 years, there are records of some living up to 13 years. In captivity, the gray wolf may live up to 17 years.
  • These predators are prone to diseases such as brucella, deerfly fever, leptospirosis, and foot-and-mouth disease. Some species of wolves are carriers of rabies. A rabid wolf is far more dangerous than a rabid dog.
  • As compared to dogs, wolves have larger heads, powerful teeth and a stronger bite.
  • According to DNA dating technique, Southern wolves (South Asia and North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula) are believed to inhabit the earth for the last 800,000 years as opposed to the Northern wolves (North America, Europe and northern Asia) who are populating the earth for the last 150,000 years.
• Brains of the northern wolves are 5-10% larger than the southern wolves.
• Southern wolf is believed to be the ancestor of dogs. Studies show that a wolf has 20% larger skull and 10% bigger brain than the same sized dog.
• As a hunting pack they are not as effective as lions. However, a single gray wolf is fully capable of bringing down a large prey such as bison or a moose.
• These hunters prefer to give a chase, rather than go for a frontal attack when their quarry is large in size.
• In addition to humans, wolves are preyed upon by tigers.
•  When it comes to attacking humans, wolves are more likely to attack children and women than men.
• According to mythology, ancient Norse and Japanese gave this animal a god-like status. Romans believed that Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome were nursed by a she-wolf.
Turks, Mongols, and Ainu considered themselves to be the descendants of wolves. Navajo and Avesta cultures considered them as the witches in disguise and a creation of evil spirit, respectively.
The gray wolf, which survived the ice age, was considered a threat to livestock and was nearly hunted to extinction for bounty. It was as if we had forgotten that as a predator, the gray wolf maintains a balance in the ecosystem.
He not only keeps a tab on the number of herbivores in an area but he also, from time to time, forces them to move to different areas which provides a respite for the vegetation. The effect of Yellowstone losing its resident gray wolves in 1930s was apparent in 1996.
It was found that most of the aspens in the Yellowstone have stopped regenerating and a majority of them were at least 70-years old. Scientists found that in absence of wolves, elks were feeding on young aspens.
Today, like every other animal on this planet, the wolf, in different parts of the world, is at the receiving end due to different types of human activities. In certain parts of the world, they are still hunted for sport.