The Grey Wolf ~ Canis lupus
For millennia the wolf has been the object of our fear and loathing, wolves
everywhere have suffered timeless persecution and sadly by 1927 the last of the
wolves in France were eradicated. In modern times with a greater understanding
of the environment and indeed the wolf, it has been allowed to return.
During the last 20 or so years they have been slowly increasing in numbers in the mountainous regions of the Alps notably the Mercantour national park where they have crossed the border from Italy. This has caused an ongoing battle between environmentalists and French sheep farmers who blame the wolf for loss of livestock. The estimated size of the wolf population in Mercantour is around twenty or so with the main pack comprising of eight wolves.
Contrary to popular belief wolves do not readily attack humans and are more
likely to shy away from people and areas of human occupation. Wolf attacks on
humans are extremely rare and you are more likely to be struck by lightning than
attacked by a wolf, those that do occur are likely to have been caused by the
animal defending its young or even more rarely by diseased animals.
Sharing it's ancestry with the domestic dog the Grey wolf belongs to the
family Canidae which includes the fox, coyote and jackal. Wolves are
extremely social animals, living in tight family groups or packs they have a
strict hierarchal system of ranking.
In a typical pack there will be an Alpha pair which are the pack leaders and the only wolves in the group which are allowed to mate, lower down the pecking order are the Beta pack members and lastly the Omega pack members.
An adult wolf weighs in at around 20 - 60 kg with males being larger than
the females. The wolf stands 60 - 80 cm high
at the shoulder and has a head and body length of 100 -150 cm. The colour of the wolf's fur can vary enormously but is usually
a gray to brown colour sometimes blending with its environment and much like humans
older wolves can have a spattering of grey in their coats.
The wolfs lifespan in the wild is up to 13 years, in captivity they have been known to live as long as 20 years. The wolf is very adaptable and can survive in a variety of terrains from forest to mountainous regions
Wolves are territorial animals and the pack will mark out it's territory with
with urine and faeces. Hunting in a group their diet usually consists of smaller
animals and birds although larger animals are sometimes preyed upon, they
usually select older or weaker animals which are easier to capture. Like the fox
the wolf will sometimes also eat wild berries.
Breeding occurs in the early spring and after a gestation period of 60 - 63
days a single litter of between 1 - 14 pups are born. The pups are born
deaf, blind and completely dependant on their mother. At birth the pups have
blue eyes which later change to a golden yellow colour. The pups are born in a den
which can be underground, in a cave or an old hollow tree. They are kept in the
den until they are old enough to join the rest of the group.
Wolves often communicate by
howling which can be heard as much as 16 km away. Howling can be a way of declaring the packs territory or used as a method of
communication between the pack or as a way to track down a lost member of the
Listen to wolves howling
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The Grey Wolf ~ Canis lupus For millennia the wolf has been the object of our fear and loathing, wolves everywhere have suffered timeless persecution and sadly by 1927 the last...