Grey wolves were once the world’s most widely-distributed mammals, living throughout the northern hemisphere. Today they are extirpated (extinct in the wild) in much of Western Europe, Mexico and the U.S.
Wolves use their spine-tingling howls to communicate. A lone wolf attracts his pack’s attention, while howls from the group may send territorial messages from one pack to another.
We are family
Groups of wolves, called packs, usually include between five and nine individuals, but can have up to 36 members. Packs have a strong hierarchy – the dominant male, called the alpha male, is top dog while the alpha female is next in line. Rank within the pack determines which animals mate and which eat first.
Wolves and people have a long history as enemies, but wolves almost never attack humans. They do attack domestic animals and have been shot, trapped and poisoned throughout history as a result. Closer to home, highways are a big problem for wolves. Obeying the speed limit can prevent collisions with these beautiful animals continue and help make sure they continue to call the Rocky Mountains home.
Packs and pups
After mating, wolf moms make dens under cliffs, fallen trees and in caves where they raise their litters of up to 14 pups. Moms stay in the dens with their tiny pups, who are born blind and deaf, for the first three weeks. The whole pack takes care of the pups, feeding them regurgitated meat until they are about 45 days old. Litters stay with the pack they were born into until they are between one and three years old, when they leave to search for a new pack of their own.
Babies are called pups and groups are called packs.
At a Glance
23 – 80 kg (51 – 176 lb)
87 – 130 cm (2.8 – 4.3 ft) [length]
Arctic tundra, forest, prairie and arid landscapes in Canada and northern United States, Europe and Asia
Carnivore. Grey wolves are carnivores (meat-eaters) that hunt prey on their own, in packs or even steal the prey of other animals. Their diet changes depending on where they live, but they often hunt moose, elk, bison, muskox and caribou.