Most wolves reach adult proportions by one year of age.
Males are about 15-20% larger than females on average.
Can be between 75-120 pounds commonly. Adult males averaging 95-105 and females 80-90. The heaviest wolves live in northern areas of North America and Eurasia, but males weighing over 125 are relatively rare, still a wolf weighing 175 has been recorded.
Average Length Male 60-78 inches, Female 54-72 (nose to tail)
Tails account for about 14-22 inches
Height at the shoulder usually averages 26-32 inches but can reach 35 inches.
Wolves may have coats that range from whit to cream-colored, tawny or reddish brown to steely gray, and salt-and-pepper to jet-black. Even a single individual may have white, black, brown, and grey hairs intermingled. In North America less than 2% of wolves are white. White wolves remain white throughout their adult lives, but this is not necessarily true for other colors of wolves. In particular black wolves sometimes change their color over their lifetimes to bluish-silver, silver, or even white. Grey colored wolves may also change to cream-colored or white over time. These changes may be due to advancing age, physiological stress, or inheritance of genes that tend to be expressed as white.
Pups are born around the time winter turns to spring. When a wolf gives birth or is about to, she will shed her belly hair to expose the teats. Gestation lasts about 63 days
When the pups are 3-4 four weeks old, the mother may choose to join the hunt, but one member of the pack always stays with the pups.
Pups grow at a rate of about 2.6-3.3 pounds a week. When it reaches about 6 months the growth will slow. When they are around 6-7 months they will be about ¾ the weight of the adults (or more) and from a distance will look to be a similar size. Wolves continue to grow on average for the first 12 to 14 months of age, and after they are a year old a wolf will continue to put on mass.
If they make it past their first year average life expectancy is 7 -10 years and they can get as old as 16 or 20 when really lucky. As they grow their personalities may change and as their roles in the pack change as well. For instance pack leaders are generally decisive, out-going, and self-confident. And most who step into such a role will acquire some or all of these traits even if they did not have them to start with.
Dens are generally situated near a trail frequented by the pack. Rock heaps, sandy knolls, old fox lairs that they enlarge or rearrange, abandoned beaver lodges, and even hollow trees will work. Potential dens must have two important qualities: a stream, river, lake nearby and a high location. One of the reasons for the water is the females’ daily need for water, while an elevated site permits a good view of the surrounding area to monitor the approach of possible danger. If the location remains secure, wolves will use the same den site for years. The dens often have many entrances and passage ways in addition to the main entrance, which is large enough to permit an adult to enter easily and also to allow quick access in case of danger. The entry tunnel can be two to eight meters long (6-26 feet), with the nest at the back of the subterranean gallery. Den openings tend to measure 14 -26 inches across.
Adults will sometimes give the puppies bones as toys.
When the pack hunts at least one wolf remains behind, acting as guardian while the pups sleep and play, when the adults come back pups get a high priority for being fed. By 7 months old pups look like slightly (just slightly) small adults.
Wolves move pups from dens to rendezvous sites after 8 weeks of age. The rendezvous site is an area where the whole pack headquarters, a sort of den above ground. The pups spend much of the time at the rendezvous site huddled together in a pile to keep warm, but they also venture for several hundred yards in various directions, giving the site a well-used look.
In Superior National forest of Minnesota, wolf rendezvous sites are often heavily shaded lowlands thick with dense vegetation. One such site includes and almost impenetrable alder swamp, interwoven with tall grass. In the arctic rendezvous sites still afford the pups protection by being located near rock crevasses, which the pups can hide in.
The function of rendezvous sites is to provide the pups with a safe headquarters at which all the adult pack members can rendezvous when they are not out hunting. Summer wolves move to a rendezvous site.
When two wolves meet they smell each other, starting with nose and face. During sniffing, the subordinate wolf holds its tail between its legs in an act of submission, while the dominant animal raises its tail. A more intimate behavior is snuffling, where one individual places its nose through the neck fur of another, gently touching the skin beneath.
When soliciting affection, grooming, or food, a wolf will instinctively lift its paw, perhaps companied by a high-pitched whining or whimpering. When insisting on affection, particularly in pups, wolves use a tactic known as a snout bunting – pushing upward with their snout against another wolfs chin.
Conflict within a pack is abnormal and deeply disturbing to wolves. On occasion a wolf will be so distressed when witnessing a fight as to yank one of the combatants back by their tail. A good deal of snapping and snarling is common within packs by serious aggression is not.
When involving an overtly dominant wolf conflict, behavior may be nothing more than a low intensity threat whereby the dominant animal simply draws itself to its full height, raises its tail and stares intently at the subordinate.
More tactile forms of low intensity threat behavior are standing across, where the dominant wolf straddles the back of the submissive animal, which may in turn lick the underbelly of the aggressor; and riding up, which involves the dominant wolf placing its front legs on the back of the lesser animal, possibly soft biting of the scruff of the neck simultaneously.
Low ranking wolves may show respect by licking the face of the dominant wolf.
In submission, a wolf may revert to active submission (as displayed during a friendly encounter) or, when seriously outranked or threatened by many wolves, it may adopt a more passive approach, rolling onto its back with its tail between its legs.
If attempts at submission fail to appease an aggressor or aggressors, a wolf may resort to defensive threats. The defending wolf will arch its back, hold its head and ears back and curve its tail down. Teeth will be bared, sometimes snapping, and the wolf will growl or bark. However, it averts its eyes in a submissive gesture.
Wolves tend to spend more time in play then aggression, and adult wolves love to play with pups.
Play is incredibly important and a key component of pack stability. Typically, a play session is preceded by play-invitation signals and takes the form of chasing, ambushing, and mock fighting.
Head held low, forelegs spread wide, rump held high topped with a wagging tail, it’s an invitation to play. Most wolves of any age are eager to accept, almost anything can spark play. Especially after a good hunt. Often low ranking wolves will start the games, bouncing up and down then ducking into a play bow enticing another wolf to chase them. Interestingly more dominant wolves will often turn around and let themselves be chased by the less dominate wolf. Beyond games of tag, wolves love to play with objects. Anything will do sticks, stones, bones, or pieces of hide. But unfamiliar objects hold special fascination. A wolf who gets a hold of a toy prances about, flipping the object into the air and then retrieving it, daring the others to try and steal it. Ice is a favorite toy, they will snap at air bubbles that move under the clear surface. Then they may seize the sheets of ice in their jaws and fling them down.
If a wolf becomes aggressive in play, the game will abruptly end.
Vocalizations of adults can generally be separated into two types, harmonic and noisy; both are used at short ranges where much of wolf vocalization takes place. Harmonic sounds include whines, whimpers, squeaks, and yelps, and are used in friendly and submissive situations. These sounds are high pitched and end up sounding like they come from a relatively small animal. Such sounds are used in greeting and when trying to appease another wolf. Pups squeak and other members of the pack will squeak back at them. Whines and whimpers indicate friendly interaction but also show frustration or anxiety
Noisy sounds, on the other hand, include growls, snarls, woofs, and barks that are used in aggressive and dominant contexts. These are lower sounds. Wolves growl and snarl during a threat or attack, or as a warning, also as a defense. Growls are common when wolves are trying to assert their dominance. Woofs and barks are also used as warnings, and barks in particular are rare can be used to draw attention to an animal.
Howling is an important part of their social systems and even pups howl. It is a communal activity that is greatly enjoyed. Each howling wolf sings a unique note, if their note is trespassed upon they will shift up or down in tone. Wolves singing two notes produce 3 tones, the two being sung and a harmonic. While fairly easy to tell between 1 wolf howling and 2, any more than two it becomes very difficult to tell how many are howling.
Wolves howl to call the pack together, to call for help on a chase and to keep in touch with each other. Wolves also howl when they go hunting and after a kill. For happiness at the birth of pups and sadness at the death of a pack mate. Wolves howl most frequently at dawn and dusk.
Wolves of the world, by Todd K. Fuller
The hidden life of wolves, by Jim and Jamie Dutcher
Return of the wolf, by Steve Grooms
The wolf: Ghost hunter, by Daniel Leboeuf
Wolves in the land of salmon, By David Moskowitz
Wolves, by Art Wolfe and Chris Weston
The way of the wolf, by L. David Mech
Wolf legend enemy icon, by Rebecca L. Grambo