There are 2 or 3 species of Wolf depending whom you ask—Red, Gray and the Ethiopian or Abyssinian Wolf. Some consider the latter a jackal. It resembles a very large fox. The Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) has 5 subspecies of the gray wolf in North America and 7 to 12 in Eurasia. The North American subspecies are: the Mexican Wolf or Lobo, the Great Plains or Buffalo Wolf, the Rocky Mountain Wolf or Mackenzie Valley Wolf, the Eastern Timber Wolf and the Arctic Wolf.
Wolves usually live in packs. Generally, a Gray Wolf pack has from 6 to 8 wolves, but in Alaska and northwestern Canada some packs have over 30 members. Red Wolf packs are generally smaller with 2 to 8 members. A red or gray wolf pack normally has only one litter of 4 to 6 pups each spring. In the wild red wolves live an average of 8 to 9 years and gray wolves live 6 to 8 years.
Gray Wolves range in weight from 50 to 115 pounds depending on the region and sex of the wolf. Female red wolves weigh 40 to 75 pounds, with males weighing from 50 to 85 pounds. Ethiopian wolves only weigh 24 - 42 pounds. The average length from the tip of the nose to tail tip of a gray wolf is 4.5 to 6.5 feet (males at the longer end of the range); average shoulder height is 26 to 32 inches. Red wolves average 4.5 to 5.5 feet in length and are about 26 inches high.
Wolves prey on large, hoofed mammals (white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, Dall sheep, musk oxen, and mountain goat), medium sized mammals (beaver, snowshoe hare, raccoons), and birds or small mammals (rabbits, rodents). Rodents make up more than 90% of the Ethiopian wolf’s diet. In contrast to other wolves, they don’t normally hunt in packs.
Fun Wolf Facts
- Wolves are the largest members of the canid family.
- Wild herds of hoofed mammals are healthier when wolves keep the numbers down by preying on the weak, sick, old and unlucky.
- Wolves died out in Britain in the 1700s.
- Wolves may use the same dens to raise their cubs year after year.
- The Ethiopian wolf lives above 10,000 feet elevation. There are an estimated 400-500 Ethiopian wolves left in the wild.
International Wolf Center