Grey wolf

Scientiific Name: Canis Lupus
Irish Name: Faolchú liath
IUCN Status: Least concern

The grey wolf is the largest member of the wild dog family. They are mainly grey or brown in colour, but their colouring, along with their size, can vary depending on their geographic location.

Grey wolf

The grey wolf is the largest member of the wild dog family. They are mainly grey or brown in colour, but their colouring, along with their size, can vary depending on their geographic location.

General Information

The grey wolf is the largest member of the wild dog family. They are mainly grey or brown in colour, but their colouring, along with their size, can vary depending on their geographic location.

What is their natural habitat?

The grey wolf is a habitat generalist which means that they can occupy a wide range of habitats, including woodlands, forests, tundra, grasslands, steppe and even arid landscapes.

Geographically, they can be found throughout Europe, North America, Greenland and Asia, and were once the most widely ranging member of the dog family.

Grey wolves used to live in the wild in Ireland but unfortunately they went extinct due to habitat loss of their native forests. The last grey wolf sighting in Ireland was recorded in 1786.

How long do they live?

On average 6 - 8 years in the wild, up to maximum of 16 years in human care.

What do they eat?

Grey wolves are carnivorous and very opportunistic hunters who specialise in taking down vulnerable individuals of larger prey. They will generally eat what is available to them within their environment, which can include, but is not limited to, moose, reindeer, yak, bison, muskox and other medium to large ungulates. They will also hunt smaller mammals, such as rabbit, hare, badger and rodents. When conditions are difficult they have been known to eat lizards, snakes, frogs and even insects. They will subsititute their diet with fruit and vegetable matter, too.

Animal Class

Mammalia

Animal Order

Carnivora

Zoo Location

Wolves in the Woods habitat

Group Name

Pack

Closest Related Species/Sister Species

Ethiopian wolf, coyote and golden jackal

Fun Facts

Howl for the hunt

The grey wolf howls to assemble the pack for hunting, to pass on an alarm or warning, to locate each other during a storm and to communicate across great distances. Wolf howls are generally indistinguishable from those of large dogs.

Slow to their senses

Pups are born in spring and are deaf and blind, and won't develop their senses for a further 9-12 days after birth

The last wolf in Ireland

Grey wolves used to live in the wild in Ireland but unfortunately they went extinct due to habitat loss of their native forests. The last grey wolf sighting in Ireland was recorded in 1786.

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Family Life

The grey wolf is generally considered to be monogamous, with mating pairs usually remaining together for life. Commonly a pack will consist of approximately 8-12 wolves, within which will be an alpha pair and their off-spring. They are an organised group who hunt together, and pups are cared for by all members of the pack. Pups are born in spring and are deaf and blind, and won't develop their senses for a further 9 - 12 days after birth. They will leave the den within three weeks, and reach maturity at 2 - 3 years in the wild.

Baby Name

Pup

Gestation period/length of pregnancy

9 weeks

Number of young at birth

2-10 pups, with an average litter being 5-6 pups

Weight at birth

Approximately 300 - 500g

Age at maturity

2-3 years

Adult size

Male grey wolves have a body length between 1-1.5m, a tail-length of 30-51cm and they weigh on average between 36-38.5kg.

Females typically weigh 2.3- 4.5kg less than their male counterparts.

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Conservation

IUCN status

Globally, grey wolves are of least concern. However, the wolf was once one of the world’s most widely distributed mammals and it has now disappeared from some regions and in others is in need of protection.

Current population estimate

Although it is difficult to know with such a wide range, it is thought there is a healthy population of about 300,000 grey wolves globally

Threats

Wolf hunting and trapping as well as habitat loss for farming and other settlements.

What is Dublin Zoo doing?

Dublin Zoo are part of the European Zoo breeding programme for this species.

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Frequently asked questions

  • How big is a grey wolf?

    The grey wolf has a body length between 1 – 1.5m, a tail-length of 30 – 51cm and they weigh on average between 36 – 38.5kg, though weights of over 50kgs have been recorded in Alaska, Canada and the forests of western Russia.

  • What does a grey wolf habitat look like?

    Grey wolves are ‘habitat generalists’, they can adapt to many different environments, including, but not limited to woodlands, forests, tundra, grasslands, steppe and even arid landscapes.

  • What is another name for the grey wolf?

    The grey wolf is also known as the timber wolf or tundra wolf.

  • Is a grey wolf a herbivore carnivore or omnivore?

    The grey wolf is predominantly carnivorous, but they have been known to supplement their diet with fruit, vegetables and insects.

  • What is the lifespan of a grey wolf?

    In the wild, the grey wolf can live up to 6 – 8 years, but longer in human care.

  • How big can a grey wolf get?

    The grey wolf has a body length between 1 – 1.5m, a tail-length of 30 – 51cm and they weigh on average between 36 – 38.5kg, though weights of over 50kgs have been recorded in Alaska, Canada and the forests of western Russia.

  • How fast can a grey wolf run?

    Wolves can reach a maximum speed of approximately 50-60km/h out in the open.

  • How is the grey wolf endangered?

    Even though its territory and range has decreased to a third of what it once was due to human interference, the grey wolf is not currently considered to be endangered. As per the last census, there are estimated to be up to 300,000 individual grey wolves in the wild. The grey’s cousin, the Ehtiopian wolf, however, are endangered, with only 197 individuals left in the wild and further decreasing.

  • Is a grey wolf a mammal?

    The grey wolf is a mammal. They have live pups, like all other members of the canis family.

  • Is a timber wolf a grey wolf?

    The grey wolf is also known as the timber wolf or tundra wolf.

  • What is being done to save the grey wolf?

    The grey wolf is subject to a systematic monitoring scheme, they are subject to international and trade controls and the have a presence in many protected areas. Grey wolf packs were also successfully reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in the USA in 1995.

  • What is the ecological niche of a grey wolf?

    The grey wolf is a top, apex predator, with no natural predators of their own. Their ecological niche, or role within their environs, is to keep the prey animals (deer, elk, rabbits, rodentia) from becoming over-populated.

  • Why should we save the grey wolf?

    We should save the grey wolf because they help to keep our ecosystems healthy. As apex predators, they help to keep populations of prey animals at a manageable level (deer, elk, moose, rabbits, rodentia, for example). The carcasses of their kills also release needed nutrients back into the soil, and provide food for other scavengers species, like foxes and bears.

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