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Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) Fact Sheet: Summary

Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) Fact Sheet

 Grey wolf

Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Genus: Canis

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

Subspecies: C. l. arabs (Arabian peninsula)
Subspecies: C. l. arctos (Arctic wolf, North America)
Subspecies: C. l. baileyi (Mexican wolf, North America)
Subspecies: C. l. chanco (Himalayan range)
Subspecies: C. l. italicus (Italy, France, Switzerland)
Subspecies: C. l. lycaon (Eastern wolf, North America)
Subspecies: C. l. nubilus (Plains wolf, North America)
Subspecies: C. l. occidentalis (Northwestern wolf or Northern Timber wolf, North America)
Subspecies: C. l. pallipes (most of Asian range: Israel to China)
Subspecies: C. l. signatus (Iberia)

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 (3-5.2 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 & Status Behavior & 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 (2018 assessment); broadly
distributed, though eliminated from many former

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 approximately 200,000-250,000 individuals; 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.

Diet: 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 & Development Species 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.

Gestation: 60-65 days.

Litter Size: Range 5-7, typically.

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

Age at Weaning: c. 5-9 weeks.

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

Feature Facts

  • Highly adaptable carnivores
  • Widely distributed across the northern hemisphere
  • Live 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
  • 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

© 2014-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Updated October 2014. IUCN assessment updated Mar 2019. Taxonomy and population estimates updated Apr 2019.

How to cite: Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) Fact Sheet. c2014-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. graywolf.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2014 Sep 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance 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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