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FAQ

How many species of wolves are there in North America?
There are two species of wolves in North America: the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the red wolf (Canis rufus).

How many species of wolves are there in the world?
There are three species of wolves in the world: the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the red wolf (Canis rufus), and the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) sometimes referred to as the Abyssinian wolf.  Scientists debate whether the Ethiopian wolf is a true or a member of the jackal family ((Canis aureus).

What are the difference between red wolves and gray wolves?
The red wolf and gray wolf are two different species of wolf.  The red wolf is smaller than most gray wolves.  Red wolves range in size from 45 pounds to 80 pounds.  Red wolves are mostly brown and tan with black along their backs and red behind the ears while gray wolves can be entirely black, white and any natural combination in between.  Red wolves have pointier facial features than gray wolves.  Red wolf howls are higher in pitch and more screechy than those of gray wolves.  The red wolf diet is made up of a combination of white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits and other rodents such as mice and nutria.  The gray wolf diet includes elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, bison, caribou, mountain goats, beaver, rabbits and musk oxen from the arctic.  Both red wolves and gray wolves are shy and elusive and stay away from humans.  Wild red wolves live only in the United States where gray wolf populations occupy diverse lands in the earth’s northern hemisphere.  The red wolf is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  Only certain populations of gray wolves share this same status.

What are the subspecies of the gray wolf in North America?
There are five subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in North America. -   Canis lupus baileyi - the Mexican wolf or lobo. -   Canis lupus nubilus - the Great Plains or buffalo wolf. -   Canis lupus occidentalis - the Canadian or Rocky Mountain wolf. -   Canis lupus lycaon - the eastern or Algonquin wolf. Some scientists believe this wolf is a separate species, Canis lycaon. -   Canis lupus arctos- the arctic wolf

What is the legal status of the red wolf?
The red wolf is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  Killing or harming a red wolf on purpose is a federal crime.  However, landowners are allowed to kill a wolf if it is attacking livestock or pets.  Historically, red wolves once numbered in thousands.  They ranged from Pennsylvania to Florida and Texas.  By 1970 there were less than one hundred red wolves living in a small area of coastal Texas and Louisiana.  To save the species from extinction, all the remaining red wolves were brought into captivity.  Only 14 of these animals were considered true red wolves and they became a part of the captive breeding program.  In 1987, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife released four pair of red wolves into the wild at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina.  Today there are over 180 red wolves living in captivity and there are about 130 wild red wolves living in northeastern North Carolina.

 

What is the legal status of the gray wolf in the United States?
Gray Wolves were once the most widely distributed wild mammals. They inhabited most of the available land in the northern hemisphere. Due to the destruction of their habitat and persecution by humans, they now occupy only about two-thirds of their former range worldwide, and only about 3 percent of the continental 48 United States. The Mexican gray wolves in southwest and limited parts of the northern Rocky Mountain states have federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves of Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah are managed on the state level.

What do wolves eat?
Both red wolves and gray wolves are meat eaters (carnivores).  The red wolf diet is made up of a combination of white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits and other rodents such as mice and nutria.  The gray wolf diet includes elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, bison, caribou, mountain goats, beaver, rabbits and musk oxen from the arctic.

How many teeth do wolves have?
Adult wolves have 42 teeth, the same amount of teeth a dog has.  A wolf’s teeth are highly specialized to hunt and cut through meat.  The smaller front teeth, the incisors, are used to nibble meat off the bone.  The longer canine teeth are used to grasp and hold their prey.  The black teeth, the carnassials, are extremely sharp and used to cut through meat like a knife.

How strong is the bite of a gray wolf?
The jaw pressure of a gray wolf is about 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch, twice the biting pressure of an adult German Shepherd.  Muscles above the skull control the powerful jaw and enables wolves to crush the large bones of their prey.

How much do wolves weigh in North America?
The size of a wolf varies depending on what subspecies of gray wolf they belong.  In general, male wolves of a given subspecies will be larger than their female counterparts.  Male gray wolves of the western Great Lake states average between 70 and 110 pounds and females in that population between 50 and 90 pounds. Male wolves in parts of Canada and the northern Rocky Mountain states average 85 to 115 pounds and those females between 70 and 95 pounds.  Mexican gray wolves are smaller, the adult males usually weigh in between 60 and 80 pounds and females between 50 and 70 pounds.  Red wolves range in size from 45 pounds to 80 pounds.  The average adult female red wolf weighs 52 pounds, and the average adult male weighs 61 pounds.

How big was the largest wolf in the world?
The largest wolf ever recorded was shot dead in northwestern Bulgaria 2007 and weighed in at 176.4 lbs.  The largest wolf recorded in Yellowstone National Park (2011) weighed in at 147.  Both of these large gray wolves were male.

How much do wolves eat?
All wolves are meat eaters - carnivores.  Wolves are gorging animals meaning they can eat great amounts of meat in a single sitting (for gray wolves - about 20 pounds) and then go for days and even weeks without food at all.  Adult gray thrive on an average of 7 pounds of food per day but can survive on an average as little as 2 pounds per day.  Red wolves thrive on an average of  2-5 pounds of food per day.

How fast can a wolf run?
Wolves are not known for their speed but they can achieve top speed around 35mph in short bursts in pursuit of prey.  Wolves do have great endurance.  They can travel very long distances at a lope around 5mph.

What is a Wolf Pack?
Wolves live in family units called packs.  Wolf packs usually consist of the breeding pair or parents and their offspring of varying ages.  It is not uncommon for unrelated wolves to join a family or pack.

What does Alpha wolf mean?
The parent wolves in a pack are often referred to as the “alpha pair,” consisting of an alpha male and alpha female.  While “alpha” is still widely used, most scientists prefer to identify the parents of the pack as the breeding pair or simply as the pack parents.

Is there such thing as a lone wolf?
Wolves are social animals that live in family units called packs.  Every pack will be unique but most consist of a breeding pair and their offspring of different ages.  Between the ages of 2 and 3 yrs old, most males and some female offspring will leave the pack in order to start a pack of their own. During this period, wolves often live alone for days, weeks or longer until they find a mate or join an existing pack.

When are wolf pups born?
Wolves in North America are born during the months of April, May and the first week of June in the far north.

What is the gestation period for wolves?
The gestation period (length of pregnancy) for wolves and dogs is 63 days.

How many pups are born in a wolf litter?
For gray wolves the average litter size is 4 – 6 pups.  Different environmental pressures can determine the litter size.  In areas where the prey density is low, the average litter size is smaller.

How often do wolves breed?
Wolves are “mom-estrus” breeding just once a year between the months of January and March.

Why do wolves howl?
Wolves howl to communicate with one another over long distances.  Wolves can hear one another howl up to 10 miles away in open terrain.  Wolves can howl to locate other wolves, advertize the size of their pack or territory, and to warn other packmates of danger.  Each wolf has a unique howl and when every member of the pack joins in, the individual howls and their harmonies give the listener the impression that pack is larger than it actually is.

Why do some wolves have alphanumeric names?
Wild wolves and wolves associated with a recovery program are often identified with alphanumeric names. The Mexican gray wolves and red wolves are both a part of federally run recovery programs.  These two kinds of wolves are given an identification number recorded in an official studbook that tracks their history.  Capital letters (M = Male, F = Female) preceding the number indicate adult animals 24 months or older.  Lower case letters (m = male, f = female) indicate wolves younger than 24 months or pups.  The capital letter “A” preceding the letter and number indicate breeding wolves.

What does SSP stand for?
SSP stands for Species Survival Plan.  The SSP program was developed in 1981 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to manage and conserve a select and typically threatened or endangered species population with the cooperation of AZA-accredited Zoos and Aquariums, Certified Related Facilities, and Approved Non-Member Participants.  The Wolf Conservation Center is a participant in 2 separate SSPs, One of the Mexican gray wolf and the other for the red wolf.

What is an ambassador wolf?
An ambassador wolf is an exhibit wolf tasked with inspiring adult and children to understand the importance of wild wolves.  At the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC), the ambassadors are raised by a dedicated group of staff and volunteers from early in their puppyhood.  Because the WCC’s ambassadors will never live free in the wild, staff and volunteers strive to thank them every day for helping people better understand their wild “brothers and sisters.”  Gratitude can be in the form of enrichment items and challenges to keep the ambassadors happy and healthy inside and out.

What is the scientific classification of wolves?

Kingdom Animalia (all animals)
Phylum Chordata (animals with notochords)
Subphylum Vertebrata (animals with a skeleton of bone or cartilage)
Class Mammalia (mammals)
Subclass Eutheria (placental mammals)
Order Carnivora (carnivores)
Family Canidae (dog family)
Genus Canis (dogs)
Species lupus (gray wolves) rufus (red wolves) simensis (Abyssinian or Ethiopian wolf, which some scientists think is a jackal)
Other Canid Species latrans (coyote) aureus (golden jackal) mesomelas (black-backed jackal) adustus (side-striped jackal) dingo (dingo) familiaris (domestic dog)

 

live-cam-wildearth2Keep an eye on our critically endangered wolves as well as Ambassador wolves Atka, Alawa, Zephyr and Nikai. Enjoy - and please let us know if you see anything interesting.

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