So what makes the world’s largest canid so special?
Once the most widely distributed land mammal, the wolf was found throughout North America and most of Eurasia. Sadly a long history of persecution means that this range has reduced by almost a third and the wolf is now extinct in parts of Western Europe, Mexico and the USA.
Wolves can be found alone or in pairs, but most commonly they are found in packs of 5 to 12 related animals. The breeding pair, known as alpha male and alpha female, are at the top of a strict dominance hierarchy. Although only the one pair breeds, all of the pack members help raise the cubs. Wolves are efficient predators and a pack is able to work together to bring down prey ten times the size of an individual wolf.
The eerie howl of the wolf perhaps accounts for much of the folklore surrounding this species. It can be heard by other wolves over six miles away and is used to bring a pack together, particularly before a hunt, or to send territorial messages from one pack to another. Check out this video of grey wolves howling.
The grey wolf has suffered a long history of hunting, poisoning and trapping for its fur. Much of this occurred in Europe and the US. Legal protection and land use changes means that many areas are now being re-colonised, although the grey wolf remains absent from the UK.
Wolves are incredibly intelligent animals with a complex and fascinating social structure, and definitely deserve a week of recognition. Happy Wolf Awareness Week!
Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Media Researcher