The gray wolf is one of approximately 38 species belonging to the family Canidae, which includes the coyote, jackal, fox, and dog. This family is believed to have originated in North America 54 to 40 million years ago during the Eocene epoch. The gray wolf, also called the timber wolf, is distributed across northern America and Eurasia.It can be found in a variety of habitats including mountains, deserts, forests, tundra, and taiga.
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The Gray Wolf is an ancestor of all domestic dogs. The relationship to the domestic dog is so close that it is not uncommon for the wolf and the domestic dog to mate and produce fertile offspring. It looks similar to the German sheperd, but stockier with a heavier head. The colors range from gray or tawny, to black and white. The male weight is approximately 100 pounds and the female 80 pounds.
The wolf mates for life and lives in packs of family members and relatives. The strongest male is the leader of the pack in which all the family members help to care for the young. Known for its howl, the wolf's whines, yelps, growls and barks help to keep the pack together. A lone wolf will give a beautiful and haunting howl when seperated from its pack.
The breeding season of the Gray Wolf comes in late winter. In early spring, approximately 63 days after mating, 5 to 7 pups are born. The nursery is an underground burrow prepared by the female with the help of the male. The pups are blind and covered with soot-colored fur at birth. They learn to hunt and care for themselves by watching their parents.
The Gray Wolf used to have one of the widest ranges of all mammals. It has roamed over most of Europe, northern Asia and North America. When settlers arrived wolves slowly disappeared from vast areas, with survivors being driven into unsettled territory. In 1989, the public supported a congressional bill that called for full implementation of the Endangered Species Act that would pave the way for restoration of the wolf.
They have a complex form of communication. Its facial expressions are used to exhibit its emotional state. The light patches of fur around the eyes, muzzle aand inside the ears will heighten the effect of its facial expressions. It will also use body language to communicate with its pack members.
The Gray Wolf has strong family ties where one male is thought to be faithful to his mate for life. A pack consists of a mated pair and one or more generations of offspring. The mated pair are the only members of the pack to reproduce. Both the males and females share in taking care of the home and raising the young.
They will rarely den up in winter. It will sometimes follow men or dog teams in order to take advntage of a tamped trail. It will curl its tail over its paws and nose during a blizzard, and when covered with snow it becomes insulated from the cold.
The Mexican Gray Wolf, a sub-species of the gray wolf may be extinct in the wild. There are approximately 24 - 30 held in captivity for breeding. These captive wolves are a promise that their offspring may once again run wild in the Southwest.
An individual Gray Wolf may leave its pack and become a lone wolf. This departure occurs in autumn and during mating season in January. The lone wolf will wander over an area that is several times larger than a territory of a pack. It will search for a mate and if successful will establish its own territory and begin a pack of its own.
For the first few weeks of their lives, Gray Wolf pups remain in the den. Once they are one month old, they begin to crawl out of the den and romp outside. During the summer, the pups will accompany the parents on the hunt and by autumn have become fairly good hunters. At 2 to 3 years old, they are fully grown and take a mate of their own.
Gray Wolves run with a bounding gait with their tails held horizontally. The pack works together on a hunt by chasing the victim or driving it to circle back to the other pack members.
They can gallop and bound at speeds of more than 30 mph. It will abandon its attempt to capture running prey after approximately 1,000 yards. The wolf attempts to surprise its prey by cutting off its retreat or ambushing it.
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