Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)

Description
gray wolf

Size

  • The gray wolf is the largest member of the wild dog family.
  • An adult may weigh up to 60 kilograms (130 pounds).

Appearance

  • Fur is commonly gray with dark shading, but may vary in colour from near black to almost white.
  • Coats are long and dense.
  • Face is broad with a muzzle that is less pointed than a coyote's.
  • Ears are thickly furred.
  • Large feet aid in travelling over snow.
Distribution
  • In North America, wolves once ranged from Mexico to the high Arctic. As the continent was settled, their range was greatly restricted and numbers declined substantially.
  • In Alberta, wolves are found in mountain, foothill and boreal regions. Wolves are not considered rare or endangered in the province.
Natural History

Habitat

  • Historically, the gray wolf once included grasslands in Alberta, but its current habitat is restricted to forested areas.
  • Wolves are social animals found in packs numbering from 2 to over 20. Pack size tends to be largest in winter.
  • The wolf pack, a cohesive family-group, travels, hunts and rests together. Packs commonly include a pair of breeding adults and their pups, as well as yearlings or extra adults.
  • Each pack lives and hunts in an exclusive territory established primarily by scent markings. Aggressive encounters with other packs are used to maintain territorial boundaries, if necessary.
  • Gray wolf territories can range from 250 to 750 square kilometres (97 to 282 square miles). The wolf's howl helps wolves communicate across long distances and also helps to establish pack territories.

Food

  • Moose, deer, elk and caribou are the main food of wolves, but their diet may include beaver, hare, fish and some plant material.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • In Alberta, mating usually occurs in February or March.
  • In May, the female retires to a well-hidden den and gives birth to a litter of five to seven pups.

Growth Process

  • Both parents, as well as other members of the pack, bring food to the young until they are about 4 months old and are ready to participate in hunts.
Conservation and Management

Status

The gray wolf is classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management

Hunting

Specific season information is provided in the current Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations. To view the guide online or to order a printed copy, visit the My Wild Alberta website at:

Trapping

Specific season information is provided in the current Alberta Guide to Trapping Regulations. To view the guide online or to order a printed copy, visit the My Wild Alberta website at:

Similar Species
  • Coyote
    The wolf is distinguished from the coyote by its larger size, broader face, and less-pointed muzzle.

 

Page Information

Updated: May 22, 2009