About Wolves
Other Animal Information
About Wolves

What are the subspecies of the gray wolf?
The gray wolf, Canis lupus, lives in the northern latitudes around the world. There are five subspecies of the gray wolf in North America and seven to 12 in Eurasia. The currently recognized subspecies in North America are:

  • Canis lupus baileyi, commonly referred to as the Mexican wolf or lobo.
  • Canis lupus nubilus, referred to as the Great Plains or buffalo wolf.
  • Canis lupus occidentalis, known as the Rocky Mountain wolf or Mackenzie Valley wolf.
  • Canis lupus lycaon, commonly referred to as the eastern timber wolf.
  • Canis lupus arctos, known as the arctic wolf.
Subspecies are often difficult to distinguish from one another. This is because they interbreed where their ranges overlap so that their populations tend to blend together rather than form distinctive boundaries. The different traits we see in subspecies are likely the result of geographic range, available habitat, and prey base. Skull dimensions, overall size, fur color, and the length of appendages are some of the characteristics that differ between subspecies of gray wolf.

In addition to gray wolves there are two other species of wolf in the world. The red wolf, Canis rufus, inhabits the southeastern United States and the newly recognized Abyssinian wolf, Canis simensis, lives on the highlands of Ethiopia.

How much do wolves weigh?
Adult female wolves in northern Minnesota weigh between 50 and 85 pounds, and adult males between 70 and 110 pounds. Wolves are larger in the northwestern United States, Canada, and Alaska where adult males weigh 85 to 115 pounds and occasionally reach 130 pounds. Females are usually 10 to 15 pounds lighter than males.

What do wolves eat?
Wild wolves prey primarily on large, hoofed mammals such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, Dall sheep, musk oxen, and mountain goat. Medium sized mammals, such as beaver and snowshoe hare, can be an important secondary food source. Occasional wolves will prey on birds or small mammals. At Big Run we feed our wolves a mix of raw chicken, beef and (during the winter months) road-kill deer.

How much do wolves eat?
Wolves can survive on about two and a half pounds of food per wolf per day, but they require about five pounds per wolf per day to reproduce successfully. The most a wolf can eat in one sitting is about 22.5 pounds.

How long do wolves live?
Wolves in the wild have an average life span of six to eight years, but wolves have been known to live up to 13 years in the wild and 16 years in captivity.

What do wolves die from?
The natural causes of wolf mortality are primarily starvation, which kills mostly pups, and death from other wolves because of territory fights. While not usually a big problem, disease such as mange and canine parvovirus can be a concern in small and recovering populations. Injuries caused by prey results in some deaths. Human-caused mortality including legal, illegal, and accidental causes, can be high in some populations.

How strong are wolves jaws?
The massive molars and powerful jaws of a wolf are used to crush the bones of its prey. The biting capacity of a wolf is 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch. The strength of a wolf's jaws makes it possible to bite through a moose femur in six to eight bites. In comparison, a German shepherd has a biting pressure of 750 pounds per square inch. A human has a much lower biting pressure of 300 pounds per square inch.

How fast can wolves run?
Wolves will travel for long distances by trotting at about five miles per hour. They can run at speeds of 25 to 35 miles per hour for short bursts while chasing prey.

How far can wolves travel?
Wolves may travel 10 to 30 miles each day in search of food. Dispersing wolves, those leaving packs in search of their own mate, have been known to travel distances of 550 miles away form their home territory.

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