Known for their piercing howl and pack life, wolves are one of the mightest creature and revered hunters on planet Earth. History’s greatest pack animal is a small, but mighty creature, motivated by loyalty of the pack hierarchy and hunger of the wilderness. The Canis Lupus has long been relevant in the world of man as food and friend, and has had been a symbol to great societies all around the world, including Scotland, England, and the United States of America. Since their discovery, the most common wolf has been the grey wolf, but has broken off into other subspecies, like the red wolf and arctic wolf. Each having their own characteristic and territories and some in more danger than others.
The modern grey wolf originated from, what is now known as, India and slowly spread across the northern hemisphere of Europe and Asia. Known as “one of animal world’s most fearsome natural villains,” wolves have a long history of being fierce predators by attacking livestock that would travel with traders across the lands. They eventually crossed over from Europe about 20,000 years ago by the Bering Land Bridge into North America, “a popular route for many expanding species” during the time, which explains how many animals were found by linkage after the Atlantic Ocean separates the two tectonic plates. Once across, grey wolves ran into an old ancestor, the dire wolves, or Canis dirus, and the grey wolves increased their extinction by taking their food supply. The dire wolf went extinct about 8,000 years ago due to not being able to hunt enough game. The wolves continued to spread across North America, with specialized species going further than others, furthest being Alaska, but most wolves continued to stay in colder climates and close to the Canadian border.
The name of Wolf has origins of many languages, but the most common being the old English name of wulf, which meant devil or angry and hot headed person. In the early years of Scotland, the common term, wolf, became to mean a sexually active or aggressive person and was often used in place of words like whore and tramp. Although the negative connotation got outdated, the name of wolf continued to stand for a fierce and fearless predator. The grey wolf was later adapted as the common name for all wolves, and other wolves across different regions adapted more specialized names, such as the red wolf or arctic wolf. In North America, the grey wolf is known as the Timber Wolf in most regions.
The anatomy of a wolf is similar to that of a dog with a coat of fur, 4 legs, and a tail, but wolves tend to be larger and stronger than the average dog. Their lifespan is consistent to other dog breeds, being six to eight years in the wild and can go up to 18 years in captivity, without the use of modern medicine. Measuring up to about 30 inches high, about 50 inches long, and being able to weigh up to almost a 100 pounds, they are powerful creatures that are built for hunting.
One outstanding feature of the wolf is it’s fur. It is very dense it survive the temperatures of the outdoor and creates an undercoat during the winter to keep warm, then shedding it in the warmer months to shed moisture from sweat. The fur is also used to differentiate between other subspecies of wolves, like how red wolves have a red tint and mexican grey wolves have a rustic tint. Most wolves tend to have black and grey fur, with the next most common being white, in the Arctic wolf subspecies.
Wolves are known to be found across North America, Europe, and Asia in cold climates such as along the Canadian border. Wolves were first recorded found in India and migrated across Asia and into North America. In North America most subspecies spread out into other regions and evolved to survive in their environments. In North America they are spread out from the tundras of Canada, where red wolves live, to down in central america, where mexican grey wolves and coyotes live.
Wolves do not follow any seasonal migration pattern in packs and tend to stay in the same location for extended periods of time. If they are migrating, it is usually to follow packs of prey, like elk, moose, and caribou, if they are the wolves primary food source. Wolves also move based on the development of large cities and how much food is abliviable in that city, such as the food in dumpsters. Since global warming has been coming on faster, many wolves that live in the arctic have been forced to migrate south so that there is more animals to hunt. Wolves have also been forced out of territory due to deforestation and the development of new cities.
Wolves are known to travel in pack of six to ten and share strong familial ties with each other. As the largest of the canine family tree, much of their behavior is similar to that of an average house dog. Their most admirable attribute is their howl, which is used to communicate with other wolves, ethier to warn them of danger or to call their back together after being seperated. Wolves are also known as great hunters, hunting in pack for large prey like elk and deer, while also managing to survive on their own by eating small mammals, like birds and lizards, and eating berries and other vegetation in their area.
History is filled with great monarchies, placed by the hierarchy of society, but no society is as strict as the wolves. The wolves hierarchy begins with the alpha male and his mate. The alpha makes all the decision for the packs and leads them on hunts. He also has the job of being the guard for the pack, as he was chosen for his strength and fearless in a fight. The alpha male and female with be the only wolves allowed to breed in the pack because of their superior genes. While on hunts, other wolves will take care of the pups and raise them as their own.
Red wolves, Canis lupus rufus, are a subspecies of the grey wolf and are usually smaller and thinner than their close cousins. They were nicknamed red wolves for a tint of red in their fur, although most of their fur is grey-black, just like the grey wolf. Unlike the grey wolves, red wolves tend to be lone hunters or hunt in small packs. Despite this, they do form packs based off of the size population of the prey they are hunting and follow a “hierarchy of dominant and subordinate animals within the pack helps it to function as a unit”. Just like any other wolf pack, the alpha male and female breed for the pack and all pairs mate for life.
This subspecies was first recorded in Philadelphia and has since roomed across the south east of the United States, making landmarks in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina. After almost being hunted to extinction, the red wolves have lost most of their land and find the most shelter on reserves in the South. Right now there are less than 50 red wolves living in the wild due to about 20 being brought into captivity to be breed in 1980 after being said to be extinct in the wild, but recovery efforts failed during the reintroduction process. Their lifespans are six to seven years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity. As of modern times, the red wolf continued to be on the endangered species list and is one of the most endangered canis.
Arctic Wolves, canis lupus arctos, are the most distinct of the grey wolf subspecies and also go by polar wolves and white wolves. They tend to live in colder climates, such as the Canadian and Greenland arctics and are one of the only species that still covers almost all of its original territory since crossing into North America. Arctic wolves are usually smaller than the common grey wolf, but tend to be bulkier, weighing in between 100 and 175 pounds. Arctic wolves “usually have small ears, which help the wolf maintain body heat,” giving them a unique feature that helps them to survive in the cold arctic. Despite being commonly seen as only having white fur, their most distinct characteristic, they are also able to have black and grey fur. They also have smaller ears than other wolves, so that it is easier to maintain body heat during the cold winters of the arctic.
Since the Arctic wolf makes their home in colder climates, they often hunt and roam in bigger packs. They have less need for smaller game, but still hunting them when other animals are not in season, and often hunt for moose, musk oxen, and caribou. When packs live closer to rivers and oceans, they are also able to hunt for seals, fish, and other sea life. A unique factor of their pack hierarchy is that the alpha male and female are not the only ones breeding for the pack. Other mates are allowed to breed, but often breed in smaller litters than other subspecies of wolf. The average grey wolf has litters of about four to five pups and arctic wolves have about two to three pups per litter. In arctic wolf packs the alpha male is chosen for his strength and will continue to grow, even when all other males have stopped. When an arctic wolf is still a pup, they are born with “darker fur and their eyes have blue irises that will change to a yellow-gold or orange colour when the pups are between 8 and 16 weeks old” and very early with a white wolf live with blue eyes.
The Mexican Grey Wolf, canis lupus baileyi, is smaller than the average grey wolf that resides in the United States and the smallest of North American subspecies of the wolf. The el lobo are typical five feet long and about 70 pounds. They have small faces with thick muzzles and are usually grey and rustic in color. In the wild, mexican grey wolves can live between six to eight years. They tend to hunt and feed on elk, mule, deer, and other small mammals in the region. Mexican grey wolves are binocturnal and mostly hunt small prey during the night and migrate and sleep during the day. They tend to travel in packs less than ten and the alpha male will breed with the alpha female, typically in late winter, and other mates will adopt for the pack. Like most pack, the females will raise the pups while the males hunt game.
The Mexican grey wolves no longer exist in the United States because for “several decades the government maintained a hunter on the border to kill wolves migrating north from Mexico” and prevented the smaller wolf from coming in. They use to roam between southern Texas and central Mexico, but now are mostly located in western New Mexico. They tend to live in two main areas, mountain woodlands and deserts. Once they have established territory they will range out as far as possible, up to several hundred miles, to keep the territory from being invaded by another pack. The worst threat to these wolves are the human activities that surround them, such as trapping and hunting in their territories. There are about 300 Mexican Grey wolves that live in captivity for breeding purposes because their population level is so low.
Coyotes, canis latrans, are the closest canidae to the wolf and one of the smallest in the family. They share similar traits to wolves, dogs, and foxes, such as yellow eyes and thick fur. They are about the same size as a medium sized dog, about 50 inches in length and about 40 pounds in weight. Females can have litters of three to 12 pups that are raised by both parents. Coyotes, also known as the prairie wolves, are known to be solitary creature, marking territory with urine, but will work in teams to hunt packs of deer where they “may drive the prey toward a hidden member of the pack”. These animals are nocturnal and do their hunting at night.
Coyotes live all cross North America, from the harsh cold in Canada to the tropical climates in Central America. The color of their fur is dependent on where they live, with darker coats in the mountains and lighter coats in the desert. They have started to migrate more into cities where they can find food in trash cans rather than hunt in the wild. A coyote’s diet is mostly meat, but they are omnivores and also eat berries and grass if they cannot find other small mammals to snack on while they wait to hunt at night.
National parks in the United States have made a huge impact on how wolves live and how they migrate across the land. Due to the rise of national parks and ongoing hunting laws, wolves are constantly being threatened by hunters who seek to exploit the meat and fur of these magnificent creatures. In the past decade the government has created new laws that will help protect animals in these national parks.
The most known story of wolves living in national parks, is that of the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Yellowstone was established in 1872 as a national park with no limits or boundaries on hunting the animals that lived in that environment. Many hunters began to target the wolves because they wanted to hunt more elk in the area. Over time the wolf population began to slowly die off and many vegetarian species began to grow. This growth lead to vegetation dying across Yellowstone and was unable to accommodate for the growing population of elk and other grazing species. In 1995 they were able to start reintroducing the wolves into Yellowstone and they quickly began to thin “the elk and thus helped to bring about an ecological phenomenon known as a trophic cascade”. The wolves helped to stabilize the ecosystem and rangers put a hunting ban on wolves to keep it that way.
Many other national parks are following Yellowstone’s lead and trying to bring up the falling population of wolves in their environment. The Isle Royale National Park near Lake Superior had only two reported wolves left at the beginning of 2018. Over the past year they have gotten paperwork back to reintroduce “20-30 wolves over a three-to-five-year period” so that they can repopulate the area and bring the population of other wildlife back down. They are planning on releasing more females than males in efforts to repopulate the pack without many fights for alpha male.
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