NatureMapping Animal Facts for Kids

Gray Wolf

Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
Also know as Wolf, Timber Wolf, Tundra Wolf, Lobo, and Prairie Wolf.

distribution map What they look like: Gray wolves, are the largest wild members of the dog family. Males are usually larger than females. They have silvery gray-brown backs, light tan and cream underparts, and long bushy tails. The fur can be any shade of gray, brown, black, white, or tan. In winter, their fur becomes darker on the neck, shoulders, and rump (see photo below).

Male: 80-110 lbs. Female: 60-80 lbs.

Height: 26 to 32 inches

Male: 5-6.5 feet (nose to tip of tail) Female: 4.5 to 6 feet

Gray Wolf photo by Tim Knight

Where they live:
Gray wolves are one of the most wide ranging land animals. They occupy a wide variety of habitats, from arctic tundra to forest, prairie, and arid landscapes. Hunting and habitat destruction have caused a steep decline in populations. Gray wolves are now found only in a few areas of Canada and the United States. Wild wolves live in these states: Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Click the range map to learn more about the distribution of Gray wolves in Washington.

What they eat: Gray wolves are carnivorous -- they primarily eat meat. Wolves often hunt in packs for large prey such as deer, moose, sheep, goats, caribou, elk, bison, and muskox. Wolves also prey on rodents, beavers, fish, and birds.

Gray Wolf photo by Tim Knight

Behavior: Gray wolves are territorial and live in packs lead by the alpha pair. A pack of 6 to 8 wolves includes some of the alpha pair's offspring and may include some unrelated wolves.

Gray wolves communicate with each other through howling, body language and scent. Howling is used to assemble the pack, communicate with other packs, and assert territorial boundaries.

Reproduction: Gray wolves mate between late January and March. Once the female chooses a partner, the animals may remain paired for a number of years. Litter size ranges from 4-6 pups. They usually breed once each year.

How long they live: Gray wolves have been known to live a maximum of thirteen years in the wild, though the average lifespan is about 5 to 9 years. They can live 14-15 years in captivity.

Did you know?

  • A wolf pack has been recently discovered in Washington state
  • Wolf tracks can be difficult to distinguish from those of large dogs.
  • Howling is used as a form of communication among wolf packs
  • Wolves can reach speeds of 40 mph during a chase
Gray Wolf photo by Natures Pics
Wolf in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada (courtesy of Natures Pics)

Animal silhouettes available to purchase »

More information:
Canid Identification    
Gray wolf - Defenders of Wildlife    
Gray Wolf - Wikipedia    

Gray Wolf Conservation and Management - Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)
Wolf pair confirmed in Okanogan County - WDFW (July 23, 2008)

More photos: Wolf Photos by Tim Knight

Photo Credits: Tim Knight (top), Natures Pics (bottom)

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