Species profile

Name: the wolf (Canis lupus) – also known as the grey wolf – is the largest member of the dog family. There are 38 subspecies of wolf including Canis lupus familiarise – the domestic dog – which was domesticated from wild wolves.

Appearance: wolves have large heads and necks, with short ears and long tails. Their fur can be a white, brown, grey, or black colour. They have long legs which help them to move quickly through deep snow.

Size: wolves measure up to 1.6 metres long and stand around 0.8 metres tall. They typically weigh around 40 kg although have been recorded weighing up to twice as much – getting bigger and heavier the further north they live.

Diet: wolves are carnivores which feed on large hooved mammals such as moose, red deer, roe deer, and wild boar. They hunt their prey as a pack which allows them to take down much larger animals than would be possible alone.

Did you know: wolves have been a part of human folklore and storytelling for many thousands of years. One behaviour which stands out is their tendency to howl at the moon. In Tengrism this howling is thought to be praying to the gods – making wolves the only other creature aside from humans that worship a deity. In reality, wolves don’t actually howl at the moon. Instead, they howl to assemble their pack before and after a hunt, to raise the alarm, locate each other, or to communicate across long distances. Their incredible howls can be heard over an area of 130 km²!

Location: they were originally found across Europe, Asia, and North America. However, human persecution has meant their range has declined to a third of what it once was and they are now extinct in much of Western Europe, the US, Mexico, and Japan. After being hunted to extinction, wolves were reintroduced to the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone in 1995. The reintroduction has been a spectacular and much-heralded conservation success story. Transforming not just the fate of wolves in America, but also the behaviour of almost all of the other species in Yellowstone, and the very nature of the park itself. There’s an excellent video which tells the story of how the reintroduction of a top predator led to more trees, cleaner water, and ultimately more life!

Where to see wolves

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see wolves in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
United States
very low
very good
Tatra Mountains
very low
very good

Photo credit: christels under a Creative Commons license from Pixabay

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