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Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) Fact Sheet, 2014   Tags: animals, carnivores, fact sheets, mammals, san diego zoo, sdzg, wildlife, wolves  

Last Updated: Dec 2, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) Fact Sheet, 2014

Image credit: San Diego Zoo Global. All Rights Reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Genus: Canis

Species: Canis lupus (Linnaeus, 1758) - gray wolf

Subspecies: C. l. albus - tundra wolf
Subspecies: C. l. arabs - Arabian wolf
Subspecies: C. l. arctos - Arctic wolf
Subspecies: C. l. baileyi - Mexican wolf
Subspecies: C. l. communis - Russian wolf
Subspecies: C. l. cubanensis - Caspain Sea wolf
Subspecies: C. l. hattai - extinct
Subspecies: C. l. hodophilax - extinct
Subspecies: C. l. italicus - Italian wolf
Subspecies: C. l. lupaster - Egyptian wolf
Subspecies: C. l. lupus - Eurasian wolf
Subspecies: C. l. lycaon - eastern/timber wolf
Subspecies: C. l. nubilus - plains wolf
Subspecies: C. l. occidentalis - northwestern wolf
Subspecies: C. l. pallipes - Indian/desert wolf

Body Weight:
Male: c. 41 kg (90 lb)
Female: c. 31 kg (68 lb)
Highly variable: adult weight 13-78 kg; larger subspecies inhabit northern tundra; smallest subspecies found in Israel

Body Length:
100-160 cm (3.3-5.2 ft)

Tail Length:
35-56 cm (1.1-1.8 ft)

Pelage: Hair color variable even within populations;
litter mates often express great variety. White,
cream-colored, buff, tawny, reddish, gray, black,
and mottled combinations thereof. All black wolves
possible due to early hybridization with domestic
dogs. Graying with age.

Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Range: Widest geographic range of all land
mammals. Circumpolar distribution; extant in nearly
70 countries, 2 subspecies extinct from Japan.

Habitat: Generalists, found living in forest, prairie,
tundra, desert, and swamp; even living near or with-
in large cities. Adapted to live across an extreme
range of temperatures, -56 to +50oC (-70 to 120oF)

IUCN Status: Least Concern (version 3.1); broadly
distributed, though eliminated from many former
ranges. Assessed 2008.

CITES Appendix:
Appendix II, except for
populations from Bhutan, India, Nepal, and
Pakistan where listed on Appendix I.

Population in Wild:
World population estimate of
nearly 180,000; unknown numbers in some
countries. Most live in the northern regions of
Canada and Russia. c. 65,000 in North America,
85% in Canada; c. 81,500 across Asia, 61% in
regions encompassed by the former U.S.S.R.
Locomotion: Walk, trot or run on toes. Endure long
distance travel, over 72 km/day (43 mi/day).
Capable of reaching speeds of 56-64 km/hr
(35-40 mi/hr). Strong swimmers.

Activity Cycle: Active day and night; remain with
young pups during daylight hours. Travel alone late
spring to summer; pack members form nomadic
hunting groups late summer to early spring. Hunt
within a cooperatively defended territory.

Social Groups:
Extremely social, forming packs
represented by a breeding pair and their offspring.
Breeding pair dominates most social interactions
and leads pack activities. All pack members
participate in territorial defense and help care for
young pups.

Carnivores, feeding mainly on large mammals
such as deer, moose, caribou, and reindeer. Diet
often supplemented with smaller mammals, fruits,
and scavenged food.

Predators: Humans and other wolves.
Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights
Sexual Maturity: Males and females capable of
reproduction as early as 10-22 months; social
interactions delay many from reproducing until
5-6 yrs. Regularly reproducing until age 9.

60-65 days.

Litter Size:
Range 5-7, typically.

Birth weight:
300-500 g (11-18 oz), in captivity.

Age at Weaning:
c. 5-9 weeks.

>13 years, some wild individuals
from Alaska and Minnesota.

Feature Facts: Highly adaptable carnivores. Widely
distributed across the northern hemisphere, living
in forests, prairies, deserts, swamps, and tundra.
Extremely social animals, they live in family packs
whose members cooperatively raise pups, defend
territory, and hunt for food. Broadly variable in size
and body color. The largest individuals, tundra
inhabitants, may reach 172 lb; small, residents of
Israeli deserts may weigh only 29 lb, little more
than a coyote.


About This Fact Sheet

© 2014 San Diego Zoo Global. Updated October 2014.

How to cite: Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) Fact Sheet, 2014. c2014. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2014 Sep 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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