A Research Paper On Wolves And Their Characteristics

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The strong sound of a howl in the night during a full moon as a lone wolf calls for his pack. A wolf is a wild animal that our dogs today are descended from. Unlike dogs wolves grow larger, they own and protect territory, and they fight to survive in the wild. From birth wolves mature separate from their pack and find a new one, they hunt, mate, claim and defend their territory.

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There are many different races of wolves in the world now and in the past. According to the text, “Gray wolf: Black wolves are commonest, and northern regions generally”. Gray wolves are the most common and largest of the wolf species today. The author states, “Red wolf: The second wolf species, midway between the gray wolf and coyote in size, with gray to reddish pelage” The red wolf doesn’t strike people as a wolf due to its coyote-like appearance.. Landau argues that, “The red wolf is the second most well known wolf that well resembles a coyote”. It is known as a red wolf because it’s pelt is a reddish color. In the article it states, “Mexican wolf: Canis lupus baileyi. Strongly contrasting face markings distinguish the handsome, medium-sized wolf”. They are not as large but they have light or dark brown fur across their backs. The author wrote, “Asian wolf: These are the smallest wolves; several subspecies, including arabs pallipes, and campestris”. These wolves are not small compared to other animals but they aren’t as large as the Gray wolf either. Anyonage claims, “Even though the Gray wolf is the largest today it wasn’t 100,00 years ago, the largest wolf in recorded history was the Dire Wolf”. The author wrote, “The craniofacial morphology of the extinct late Pleistocene dire wolf Canis dirus was compared with that of the living gray wolf Canis lupus, the spotted hyaena Crocuta crocutaand the extinct late Miocene bone‐cracking canid Borophagus secundus”. This wolf had a similar appearance to the Gray wolf it’s just slightly larger, and bulky.

Large canines varying in colors, sizes, shapes, and species/subspecies. Wolves have a bushy tail resembling that of a Huskies and according to the article, “canines with long bushy tails that are often black-tipped”. A wolf’s tail is used to show different expressions. The text states, “Wolves in the north are usually larger than those in the south” (National Wildlife Federation). The wolves in the north have a thicker more rugged looking coat which gives them a larger appearance. They also have larger prey and they are very adaptive to the ecosystem which then allows them to grow larger. The pattern upon the wolves pelts according to N.W.F., “buffy facial markings and undersides, but the color can vary from solid white to brown or black”. The marking colors can help to identify what kind of wolf it is. It states in the article, “The average size of a wolf’s body is three to five feet long”. The Gray wolf averages three feet as the smallest and five feet as the longest in length. The tail according to the text is, “tails are usually one to two feet long”. The average of the smallest wolf would be four feet long and the largest would be seven feet long. The only exception for this would be the dire wolf but they are not significantly larger according to the text, “the dire wolf was characterized by a relatively larger temporalis muscle that was capable of generating more force than that in the gray wolf”.

This difference gave them a different advantage over prey as it states in the text “the dire wolf did not differ significantly from the gray wolf in the relative length of resistance arms to various tooth positions in the lower jaw or in the relative size, mechanical advantage and moment arm of the masseter muscle”. These wolves will obtain all of their skills from how they were raised and trained growing up.

The young wolf pups that grow up to be adults come from a litter that is raised by the mother/alpha female. The text states that, “almost always, only the male and female alphas of the pack will mate”. In the text it states that, “Wolf packs typically have one litter of pups per year”. Since the female alpha wolf is the only wolf to have pups, they also have a mating season like most animals happens over a few months. In the article it states, “Mating typically occurs between January and March”. Wolves will mate during the middle of winter to the end of spring when wolves travel less and prey is more plentiful. The text argues that, “Wolves begin breeding between 2 and 3 years of age and are believed to mate for life”. They mate at this age because they are adults at the age of two. When wolves are born they don’t travel with their packs because they are too young and cannot make the long trip. The author claims, “Wolf pups are born blind and deaf in an underground den after a 63-day gestation period”. Since the pups can’t see or hear the mother stays with them “the mother usually stays with her young in the den, eating food brought to her by other members of the pack”. According to the article, “Dispersing wolves roam 40 to 70 miles on average, and sometimes more than 100 miles, depending on gender, available habitat, and presence of other packs”. They will then join another pack or start their own and have pups and hunt for their own.

Wolves are carnivores which implies that they eat meat, they use the pack mainly to hunt food. The site claims that, “Grey wolves hunt mostly large, hoofed animals including different kinds of deer, mountain goats, moose, elk, and bison”. Wolves need plenty of food to continue hunting and protecting their territory, but when big game prey becomes scarce they will hunt smaller animals. According to the article, “They will also hunt hares, beavers, birds and fish”, the text states, “…muskoxen, dall sheep or even salmon” (Living with Wolves 1). They will kill multiple smaller animals as where if there were a larger animal they would kill one animal. In the article it states, “An axiom of natural selection is that predators improve the gene pool of prey species by taking the weak, the old, the sick, and the too-numerous young…”. Wolves don’t take the young, old, sick, and too-numerous for the good of the animal kingdom. They take it because they are the easiest and least dangerous to take down. The only exception to this statement is the dire wolf in the text it states, “…differed in killing technique, where it held longer to its struggling prey”. The article states, “Many have noticed that, at a certain point in the encounter between predator and prey, there is a moment of eye contact, a look that seems to pass between them” (Landau 106). In the text, “Barry Lopez calls this the “conversation of death” and compares it with the Native American concept of an animal “giving” itself to the hunter…”. When the prey senses the wolf they will look up to see the great snarling beast for a fraction of a second then try and escape. Wolves will hunt within their territory so as not to anger any neighboring wolf packs, and even then they take a large area of land for a single pack of wolves.

Icy landscapes to the lush green forest where the canis or wolves live. The author claims that, “Wolves can survive in a variety of habitats, including forests, tundra, mountains, swamps and deserts”. The canius species have learned to adapt to new environments and new challenges to survive. The text argues, “Today gray wolves have populations in Alaska, northern Michigan, northern Wisconsin, western Montana, northern Idaho, northeast Oregon, and the Yellowstone area of Wyoming”. The species diverse inhabitant is shown through the gray wolf and how they live in a multitude of different areas.

In the text it claims, “Wolf territories usually vary in size from 200 to 500 square miles, but may range from as little as 18 square miles to as much as 1,000 square miles”. The author argues, “One wolf per every 10 square miles is considered ideal for wolf health”. Wolves need a large area to roam and hunt in. According to the text, “Territory size is typically based on the density of prey but is also influenced by pack size, presence of neighboring packs, and human land use”.

The adult wolves will come back to the den where the pups live until they can join them in the hunt. In the text it states, “Wolf dens are usually located near water and dug into well-drained soil on a south-facing slope” (Western Wildlife Outreach 1). According to the author, “They can be dug under a boulder, among tree roots, or in cut banks, hollow logs or other sturdy natural structures”. They will find areas within their territory and make the den for the female wolf to stay in and raise the young. In the text the author claims, “Wolf den entrances measure about 18 inches in diameter”. They are not usually very large so that if another animal that is known to be just as dangerous as the wolf they will have a harder time getting in and finding the den itself. It states in the article, “The passageway, which may be straight, forked or hooked, is 4 to 18 feet long with a chamber measuring about 20 inches high by 50 inches wide by 40 inches deep”.

The den must be made large enough to sustain a female wolf and her litter of pups for several months. According to the text, “If the den has been used in past years, bones will be scattered about and well-defined trails should radiate from the den”. Wolves will not add anything to the den, because normally they will reuse dens to save time and energy of the wolf pack. When people think about this they assume they communicate and they do for everything except hunting.

Wolves don’t need to communicate during the hunt because they know what each of their roles are, but outside of hunting they communicate in a variety of different ways. In the text it states, “Urination is the most common form of scent marking for wolves”. They use this to mark territory. The article argues, “Scents are used to clearly mark the boundaries of territories, to claim and defend that territory from other packs, to mark food ownership, and to act as a sort of road map for the pack itself”. Wolves use their own scent to claim something and no others can claim it unless they are willing to fight for it. It is claimed in the article, “Scent is a way for a pack to make its presence known long after it has moved to another part of its territory”. As good as a scent is it isn’t the only way to communicate. The author states, “Vocal communication among wolves consists of a panoply of howls, whines, growls, and barks”. This is the more common communication when wolves are speaking with each other. The article argues, “Although all the functions of howling are not known, scientists believe that wolves may howl to assemble their pack, to claim territory, to warn intruders away from a home site or kill, or to identify other wolves” (Western Wildlife Outreach 1). With all these different kinds of communication methods and wolves using scent to determine what it is they can also tell what it’s from.

As wolves mature they leave their original pack, find a new one, hunt, mate, and claim territory of their own. The author states, “The dire wolf was not alone in the Ice Age world. The modern gray wolf and dire wolf coexisted during the Ice Age”. The world of wolves is vast and we still don’t know everything about them, and currently, they are barely above endangered so we may never know. National parks are trying to decrease the odds for the wolf population going extinct by reintroducing them into the national parks. Wolves are considered savage, ruthless, creatures but they live and survive like all other species.

Works Cited

  • Anyonge, W., and A. Baker. “Craniofacial Morphology and Feeding Behavior in Canis Dirus, the Extinct Pleistocene Dire Wolf” ZSL, Journal of Zoology, 2006, https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00043.
  • “Dire Wolves” National Park Services, White Sands National Park Service, 2018, https://www.nps.gov/whsa/learn/nature/dire-wolves.h. Landau , D. Wolf. New York: Sterling Pub. Co., 2000.
  • “Gray Wolf.” National Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, n.d., https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Gray-W.
  • “How Wolves Hunt.” Living with Wolves, n.d., https://www.livingwithwolves.org/how-wolves-hunt.
  • Paul, Wilson J., et al. Genetic Characterization of Hybrid Wolves across Ontario. Journal of Heredity, 2009, https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esp03.
  • “Wolf Ecology and Behavior.” Western Wildlife Outreach, n.d., http://westernwildlife.org/gray-wolf-outreach-project/biology-behavior-4/.    
16 August 2021

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