Wolves are the subject of a lot of discussions in the world of humans. There are many references and stories about these creatures in movies, songs, and novels that have helped form several opinions about them. However, there are many scientific facts about these magnificent creatures that we have no idea about. Therefore, we have compiled 10 incredible wolf facts that will fascinate you.
1. The term “Alpha Wolf” refers to parents
Usually, when the term “alpha wolf” is used, many people get the picture of a wolf fighting for dominance and becoming the “top dog.” This idea is further reinforced by what is seen in movies and novels. However, experts have pointed out that this view is mistaken, and that “alpha wolves” are in truth just parents to their children and young ones. Wolves typically live in family units, and the “Alphas” are usually the breeding male and female that give birth to the others at different breeding seasons. The fact that wolves usually mate for life also helps this. In fact, many experts no longer use the term “Alpha” and just refer to these wolfs as “breeding males” or “breeding females.” Of course, the term may apply in the rare case where a pack contains more than one breeder, and there is a dominant breeder.
2. Wolves fall in love and build nuclear families
Wolves may experience true love since partners usually mate for life. Furthermore, most wolf packs are nuclear families made up of parents and children. Wolf pups are born blind and deaf and are heavily reliant on their mothers until they fully develop all their senses. Another interesting fact about wolf packs is that wolf pups are taken care of by every member of the family, which would include their older siblings. At ten months, wolves are mature, though they may remain with their parents for a few more years, before moving out for independence.
3. Wolves are excellent communicators
Wolves communicate well with each other, and one of their major methods of communication is howling. Everybody knows that wolves howl, however, unlike most movies suggest, howling has nothing to do with a full moon. Rather, it is a strategy to inform pack members to gather or ready defenses against an attack. It also helps them to find a missing pack member.
Apart from howling, wolves communicate via body language, whines, barks, whimpers, eye contact, postures, and facial expressions. They use different methods for different circumstances. For instance, it is more profitable to use silent methods of communication when hunting so as not to alert prey.
4. Wolves are crucial for the ecosystem
Like most apex predators, wolves are very important in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. One prime example of this happened in the 1920s in Yellowstone National Park which was home to gray wolves. The wolves were eliminated, and while it was initially thought to be great, it turned out not to be. With the absence of wolves, the park’s elk population multiplied and they fed at an unsustainable rate; devouring the aspen trees and other food sources that were needed by other animals. They even caused erosions because they ate up vegetation along the banks of wetlands and streams.
All these led to the reintroduction of wolves. The wolves soon cleared up the elks, reducing their number from over 20,000 to less than 5,000. The trees and vegetation also began to recover, and other species like songbirds started vising the park again.
5. Several wolf subspecies have gone extinct
The world was home to far more species of wolves than it is now. However, many have become extinct including the famous dire wolf. Some of these species were lost by natural extinction in pre-historic times. However, others, like the gray wolf, have faced human persecution. The gray wolf was once the most widely distributed terrestrial mammal in the world, but humans have severely cut down that distribution. Some subspecies that we have lost completely include the Mississippi Valley wolf and the Florida black wolf.
6. The largest wolf is the Northwestern wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis)
This wolf is the largest one in the world with an average male weighing 137 lb (2192 oz) and the average female weighing 101 lb (1616 oz). Some of the exceptionally large specimens have weighed up to 175lb (2800 oz). These wolves are predominantly found in Canada, but they range into the northwest regions of the United States. They prey on elk and have been observed stampeding herds to separate young elk from their parents. They also attack bison, particularly the young and weak.
Among the many names for the Northwestern wolf are Mackenzie Valley wolf, Canadian timber wolf, and Alaskan timber wolf.
7. Wolves can sprint at top speed over short distances
Wolves can move as fast as 36 to 38 miles per hour over short distances, such as when they rush in to capture prey. However, they typically move at 5 miles per hour when they wander as a pack.
8. Wolves have a mouth that is full of teeth
The average wolf will typically have a total of 42 teeth in its mouth made up of 12 incisors, four canines, ten molars, and 16 premolars. The canines are the most prominent and can grow up to 2.5 inches long. They are used to hold their prey.
9. There are more than 30 subspecies of wolves
When the word “wolf” is mentioned, the gray wolf is usually the first picture that comes to mind. However, there are several other kinds of wolves (about 30 subspecies) that can be found across the northern hemisphere. Some examples of other subspecies of wolves include; the red wolf, Eurasian wolf, Arctic wolf, Tundra wolf, and Steppe wolf.
10. Wolves may live longer in captivity than in the wild
The average life expectancy of wolves in the wild is between six and eight years. However, sometimes they live as long as 14 years. Interestingly, in captivity, they may live even longer, sometimes up to 16 years.
More from A-Z Animals
The Featured Image
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.