Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- There are 27 types of wolves roaming the Earth, most of which belong to the species Canis lupus.
- Wolves are fast runners, able to sprint up to 38 mph.
- A wolf’s diet consists mainly of hoofed mammals, but they are opportunistic feeders.
- Wolves live in packs with complex social structures and are not generally dangerous to humans.
- The conservation status of wolves is complex, with some subspecies considered endangered while others are not.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to encounter one on the trail, you know that the wolf is one of the planet’s most majestic creatures.
But, have you ever wondered how many types of wolves there really are?
If so, we have all the information you seek. In fact, we put together this guide to walk you through everything you need to know about the wonderful world of wolves.
First, we’ll introduce you to our complete list of the 27 different types of wolves that currently wander the planet. Then, we’ll offer up some awesome facts about these canines to help you become a veritable wolf expert.
Here we go!
The 27 Types of Wolves: Your Complete Guide
Technically speaking, the vast majority of canines that we call wolves belong to a single species: Canis lupus. Within that species, there are dozens of different verified subspecies as well as a handful of disputed subspecies.
To make things easier for you, we’ve put together this list of the 27 types of wolves that currently roam the Earth. In this section, we’ll discuss the many different wolf subspecies and we’ll talk about some of the issues that scientists face when trying to classify this amazing species.
1. Tundra Wolf (Canis lupus albus)
First up on our list is the tundra wolf. These large wolves are mostly found in the northern regions of the world in the tundra and forests of Eurasia. For the most part, they’re found in Russia—particularly within the Kamchatka Peninsula—though they’re sometimes spotted in the northernmost reaches of Scandinavia.
When compared to other types of wolves, the tundra wolf is quite large. They can weigh upwards of 90 lbs (41 kg) and they have long, fluffy fur with a light grey color. However, like all wolves, their coat colors can vary widely, so identification of the tundra wolf is difficult in the field.
2. Arabian Wolf (Canis lupus arabs)
Considered to be one of the smallest types of wolves, the Arabian wolf, or desert wolf, is traditionally found throughout the Arabian Peninsula. However, it is now found only in small packs within parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and southern Israel.
These wolves are fairly unique among their species as they live in desert, rather than forested or tundra environments. As a result, they have very thin and short fur that tends to be lightly colored.
The Arabian wolf is normally less than 45 lbs (20 kg) in weight, which makes it just half the size of its larger cousins. It also has massive ears and other unique adaptations that help it thrive in a desert environment.
3. Steppe Wolf (Canis lupus campestris)
Found throughout the Caucasus, including in parts of southern Kazakhstan and northern Ukraine, the steppe wolf is a modestly-sized wolf that plays an important role in the region’s steppe ecosystem.
When compared to other wolf types, the steppe wolf is fairly average in size with coarse, brownish-grey fur. It plays a major role as a keystone species within the Caucasian steppe ecoregion, where it helps to regulate and manage local ecosystems.
However, while the steppe wolf’s population is currently somewhat stable, it is at a heightened risk of extinction due to increasing human-wolf conflicts over the years. They are still hunted throughout various parts of their range as they are not protected under most national laws.
- Get an intimate look at wild wolves through stunning photography and first-hand accounts from authors Jim and Jamie Dutcher, who spent six years living with a pack in Idaho's Sawtooth Wilderness.
- Learn about the complex social hierarchy of wolves, including the alpha pair, pups, and omega wolf.
- Understand the conservation issues surrounding the near-extinction and replenishment of the species in the wild.
- Explore myths and legends about wolves, including Native American spirit stories, European fairy tales, and modern ranching hearsay.
- Experience heartwarming moments of connection between the authors and the wolves.
4. Himalayan Wolf (Canis lupus chanco)
Sometimes called the Tibetan wolf, the Himalayan wolf is a debated subspecies that’s closely related to the Mongolian wolf. These wolves are found throughout the Indian subcontinent, including parts of the Himalaya. They can live in a variety of ecosystems, including in montane forests and alpine regions though they tend to prefer grasslands.
For the most part, these wolves feed on a variety of small to medium-sized mammals, but they have a preference for yak, sheep, and other domesticated livestock. This has caused some problems for the wolf in recent years as farmers look to protect their herds.
However, the taxonomic uncertainty surrounding the distinction between Himalayan and Mongolian wolves makes it difficult for local governments to formally protect these subspecies.
5. Mongolian Wolf (Canis lupus chanco)
The Mongolian wolf is a very close relative of the Himalayan wolf. In fact, there’s a bit of debate among scientists as to whether it should really be considered its own subspecies or if it’s best to include it with the Himalayan wolf.
Regardless, the Mongolian wolf is traditionally found throughout Mongolia and within parts of China, Russia, and the Korean Peninsula. At one point, the wolf population in Mongolia was estimated at about 30,000 individuals, but this number declined to about 10,000 individuals in the early 2000s as a result of regular wolf hunting.
These days, the Mongolian wolf is fairly protected in Mongolia, though the wolves are still at threat of extinction.
6. New Guinea Singing Dog (Canis lupus dingo)
While many people wouldn’t necessarily think of a New Guinea singing dog as a wolf, it is, indeed, a subspecies of Canis lupus. In fact, the New Guinea singing dog, which is commonly called a dingo is one of the smallest types of wolves on the planet.
These canines are found throughout New Guinea and Australia, though there are also small populations throughout Oceania and southeastern Asia. They are highly adaptable animals that can live anywhere from the mountains to the plains.
Most dingos are reddish or ginger in color but you can find the occasional individual with a black or white coat. Interestingly, dingos are known for interbreeding with domestic dogs, which has led to a large number of hybrid individuals, particularly in Australia where they are quite common.
7. Eurasian Wolf (Canis lupus lupus)
The Eurasian wolf is one of the largest and most widely distributed subspecies of wolves on the planet. Traditionally, the Eurasian wolf was found throughout Europe and even parts of western Asia.
However, during the Middle Ages, it was extensively hunted, which led to a drastic decline in the total population. These days, there are only a few remaining populations of Eurasian wolves found on the continent, many of which are still at threat of negative human interactions.
The Eurasian wolf is also one of the largest wolf subspecies with an average weight of about 86 lbs (39 kg). They naturally feed on species like reindeer, chamois, wild goats, and ibex, but they also occasionally prey on livestock, which is how they got such a bad reputation among humans.
8. Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes)
One of the less common wolf subspecies, the Indian wolf is found throughout the country of India. It can also sometimes be found in parts of Pakistan and Iran. On occasion, it’s even spotted as far away as Turkey.
For the most part, the Indian wolf lives in the Peninsular region of the country where it inhabits forested areas. However, it has also been found in parts of the Himalaya, which makes distinguishing it from the Himalayan wolf a bit tricky.
When compared to other wolves, the Indian wolf is known for being relatively small. It also has a somewhat unique fur coat with a reddish-grey upper body and a mostly white belly and legs.
9. Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos)
Arguably the most recognizable of the wolf subspecies, the Arctic wolf is a gorgeous canine that inhabits the northernmost regions of the world in Canada’s Queen Elizabeth Islands.
While many other wolves often have light grey fur, the Arctic wolf distinguishes itself by having a nearly completely white coloration. In photos, it can sometimes be confused with other lightly-colored subspecies, like the Hudson Bay wolf, but its mostly white coat and medium-size appearance usually set it apart.
In its Arctic environment, the Arctic wolf tends to eat mostly muskoxen and Arctic hares, though it has also been known to eat caribou and even Arctic foxes.
Thankfully, the Arctic wolf’s remote location means that it’s not at risk of widespread hunting by humans. However, rapidly changing climate conditions in the polar regions are a threat to the species’ long-term survival.
10. Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
Often considered to be the rarest wolf subspecies in North America, the Mexican wolf is a very small wolf with mostly dark-colored fur.
The Mexican wolf was once very common in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. However, wolf hunting decimated the population over the last few centuries driving the subspecies to near-extinction.
Thankfully, as a result of a dedicated breeding program, the Mexican wolf population is on the rise.
As part of a multi-agency effort, the Mexican wolf population has grown to a total of about 185 individuals as of late 2020. While the subspecies hasn’t yet recovered to its previous population levels, biologists are hopeful that it will make a strong recovery in the coming years.
11. British Columbian Wolf (Canis lupus columbianus)
Another highly-threatened subspecies, the British Columbian wolf is a relatively small canine that’s found throughout the coastal parts of British Columbia as well as some parts of southern Yukon in Canada.
It has a fairly unique diet among wolves as it prefers to feed on fish and relatively small deer, both of which are abundant in its natural habitat.
That being said, the British Columbian wolf is one of the few subspecies of wolves that is legally hunted in its home range. In an effort to help save the dwindling populations of southern mountain caribou in British Columbia, local authorities have culled local wolf populations since the early 2000s, a practice that remains highly controversial to this day.
12. Vancouver Island Wolf (Canis lupus crassodon)
Aptly named, the Vancouver Island wolf is a very rare subspecies of wolf that only lives on Canada’s Vancouver Island. These wolves are very similar in shape and coloration to the British Columbia wolf though they tend to be a little smaller and slightly lighter in color.
It’s estimated that there are less than about 200 Vancouver Island wolves left in the wild, most of which live in small to medium-sized packs.
Perhaps the most famous Vancouver Island wolf was Takaya, a lone wolf that lived on her own on a small island off the coast of Vancouver Island until she was killed by a hunter in 2020.
13. Hudson Bay Wolf (Canis lupus hudsonicus)
Found throughout the Hudson Bay region of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, the Hudson Bay wolf is a medium-sized and mostly white-colored wolf that roams the Canadian Arctic.
Due to its physical similarities to the Arctic wolf, the Hudson Bay wolf is sometimes misidentified in photos. However, the Hudson Bay wolf tends to have a flatter head which can help to differentiate some individuals.
The Hudson Bay wolf prefers to feed on species like elk and caribou, which are both abundant in its range. However, the remoteness of the wolf’s range means that it doesn’t frequently come into contact with humans.
14. Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf (Canis lupus irremotus)
The only remaining wolf species found in the Rocky Mountains, the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf is an endangered species that’s found in both the United States and Canada.
Historically, the wolf was found throughout southern Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho while its southern counterpart was found in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. However, years of hunting put the wolf on the brink of extinction until it was protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The wolf population has substantially increased since the Endangered Species Act was passed. However, the presence of the wolf in the western US remains controversial among ranchers.
Nevertheless, the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf’s current population is nowhere near its historic levels. So, consider yourself lucky if you see one of these majestic creatures during your travels.
15. Alexander Archipelago Wolf (Canis lupus ligoni)
A lesser-known wolf subspecies, the Alexander Archipelago wolf is a small, darkly-colored type of wolf found only on a number of islands in Southeastern Alaska. As the name suggests, this wolf is found on the Alexander Archipelago, which is a collection of islands in southeastern Alaska that stretches from the Dixon Entrance all the way to Yakutat Bay.
Most of the Alexander Archipelago wolves live in Tongass National Forest, but they are not formally protected from all hunting. It’s believed that there are less than 80 individuals left in the wild, though up to 30% of the population is culled each year.
However, other issues, such as declining Sitka black-tailed deer populations (the wolves’ preferred food source), also contribute to the subspecies’ decline.
16. Eastern Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon)
Sometimes called the timber wolf, the eastern wolf is a type of wolf that was traditionally found throughout the eastern part of North America. These days, it is only found in parts of Ontario and Quebec in Canada, though its historic range includes much of the continent’s eastern seaboard.
Depending on who you ask, though, you might be told that the eastern wolf is its own separate species (Canis lycaon). However, this is still a subject of some debate and it is often listed as a subspecies of Canis lupus.
In Ontario, the wolf is listed as threatened due to its declining population and continued hunting. It’s believed that there are less than 500 individuals in the wild, so spotting one on your travels is particularly exciting.
17. Mackenzie River Wolf (Canis lupus mackenzii)
The Mackenzie River wolf is a lesser-known wolf species that is mostly found within Nunavut, the Northwestern Territories, and Yukon.
Due to the remoteness of the subspecies’ range, relatively little is known about them in the scientific community. However, it is a recognized subspecies that lives in the northernmost reaches of mainland Canada.
In recent years, decent portions of the wolf’s habitat have been protected under various reserves. One of the largest reserves is the newly-designated Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve, which is situated on the eastern edge of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories.
18. Baffin Island Wolf (Canis lupus manningi)
One of the least-commonly sighted wolves in the world, the Baffin Island wolf is considered to be the smallest of the wolves found in the polar region.
This mostly white wolf is found exclusively on Baffin Island and its surrounding islands, including within Katannilik Territorial Park. Not too much is known about this elusive wolf besides the fact that it likes to eat barren-ground caribou, lemmings, and arctic hares.
Other than that, the remote habitat of these wolves makes encounters with them very rare. But, if you do find yourself in Baffin Island one day, consider it a truly special moment if you stumble across one of these wolves.
19. Northwestern Wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis)
Sometimes called the Mackenzie Valley wolf (not to be confused with the Mackenzie River wolf), the northwestern wolf is a subspecies of wolf found throughout western Canada and some parts of Alaska.
These wolves are believed to be one of the largest subspecies with males weighing an average of 124 lbs (56 kg). It is also considered to be one of the most widespread subspecies of grey wolf in North America, though this is a matter of some debate.
Interestingly, the northwestern wolf was the wolf subspecies used for the Yellowstone National Park wolf reintroduction program. A pack of northwestern wolves was relocated to the park in Wyoming in the hopes of helping to restore the natural wolf population and ecosystem balance in the region.
20. Greenland Wolf (Canis lupus orion)
Originally found throughout the Queen Elizabeth Islands and parts of Greenland, the Greenland wolf is now found primarily in northern Greenland.
Like other polar subspecies of wolf, the Greenland wolf is mostly white in color. It is fairly small for a wolf and it is known to eat everything from muskox to seals
Over the centuries, Greenland wolves were heavily hunted, which led to a steep decline in the subspecies’ population. However, they have been protected under Greenlandic law since the 1980s and the majority of the wolves’ current population is in the Northeast Greenland National Park. It’s estimated that there are about 200 individuals left in the wild.
21. Alaskan Interior Wolf (Canis lupus pambasileus)
The Alaska Interior wolf, or Yukon wolf, is the primary wolf subspecies found in Interior Alaska and Yukon. However, it has a large range and it can occasionally be found in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
These wolves are generally regarded as being average and size with a grey to tan color. Most Alaskan Interior wolves live in packs of about 8 individuals and they spend their time hunting for their preferred diet of barren-ground caribou, boreal caribou, moose, and Dall sheep.
For a wolf species, the Alaskan Interior wolf is doing quite well as it’s believed that there are a few thousand individuals roaming around. However, they are listed as potentially at-risk due to various factors like climate change and the reintroduction of aerial wolf hunting in Alaska.
22. Alaskan Tundra Wolf (Canis lupus tundrarum)
Closely related to the Alaskan Interior wolf, the Alaskan tundra wolf is a large, mostly white-colored wolf that lives in the northernmost parts of mainland North America. Although its name suggests that it’s only found in Alaska, the Alaska tundra wolf can be found as far east as the Hudson Bay.
These wolves prefer to live in tundra, boreal forests, and taiga near the Arctic coast. Here, their preferred prey of caribou, moose, bison, and muskoxen are abundant.
However, when compared to the much more broadly distributed Alaskan Interior wolf, sightings of the Alaskan tundra wolf are hard to come by. So, any encounters with these elusive predators are moments to remember.
23. Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus signatus)
In the world of wolves, the Iberian wolf is the source of quite a lot of controversy. Also known as the Spanish wolf, the Iberian wolf is usually considered to be a distinct subspecies from the Eurasian wolf.
These wolves roam throughout forests and mountain ecosystems in Western Europe, particularly in Portugal and Spain. Over the years, their population numbers have decreased drastically as a result of habitat fragmentation and hunting.
The Iberian wolf was freely hunted for centuries by farmers looking to protect their livestock. That being said, the Iberian wolf is also the only wolf species in Western Europe that can be legally hunted. While the number of hunting permits is limited, the Iberian wolf is considered to be a prized big-game trophy in the region.
24. Italian Wolf (Canis lupus italicus)
The Italian or Apennine wolf is a subspecies found throughout the Italian Peninsula, western Italy, and parts of southern France and Switzerland. Depending on who you ask, the Italian wolf may not be considered a distinct subspecies, though it does appear to be genetically distinct from other Eurasian wolves.
Currently, there are less than about 1,000 Italian wolves left in the wild. The wolf has been highly protected in Italy since the 1970s when the population was on the verge of extinction.
These days, the Italian wolf is still considered to be vulnerable due to illegal hunting, though its population is on the rise. However, sightings of these beautiful creatures are still rare, so spotting one while hiking in the region is a particularly special moment.
25. Labrador Wolf (Canis lupus labradorius)
The Labrador wolf is a very rare and elusive wolf that’s believed to inhabit Labrador as well as parts of northern Quebec in Canada. Scientists believe that it’s closely related to the now-extinct Newfoundland wolf.
The Labrador wolf was hunted extensively during the twentieth century, which caused a steep decline in the population. While they’re still vulnerable, however, the Labrador wolf population has increased substantially in recent years as caribou population numbers grow.
Furthermore, it’s possible that the Labrador wolf has made its way to the island of Newfoundland. A number of confirmed sightings on the island indicate that there are now wolves on Newfoundland. This marks the first time in over a century that wolves have roamed the island.
26. Red Wolf (Canis lupus rufus)
The red wolf is a bit of an oddball in the wolf world. Although it’s sometimes listed as a subspecies of the grey wolf (Canis lupus), the red wolf is also occasionally considered to be its own species (Canis rufus).
Regardless of how it’s classified, however, the red wolf is highly endangered. It was historically found throughout the southeastern and Midwestern United States. But, it was almost completely extirpated from the wild by the mid-1900s due to hunting and habitat fragmentation.
Thankfully, after the passage of the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s, a number of organizations started programs to reintroduce populations of red wolves to the wild. While the wolves are still considered to be endangered, there are a few small packs that roam throughout parts of North Carolina.
27. Domestic Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
Bet you didn’t expect to see an adorable golden retriever on this list, did you? Well, it turns out that your Fido, alongside all other domesticated pups, can be considered a highly domesticated type of wolf.
Of course, there is some debate over the taxonomy of domestic dogs here, and some scientists would list domestic dogs as their own species (Canis familiaris).
But, since domestic dogs and modern wolves share an ancestor, they are certainly related. In fact, domestic dogs and wolves can even interbreed to produce a hybrid that we aptly named a “wolfdog.”
However, as we humans have domesticated dogs for so long, some scientists argue that they’re a separate species. So, as much as your pup might like to howl at the moon, he’s probably not quite ready to join a local wolf pack.
14 Extinct Types Of Wolves
So far, we’ve discussed 27 different types of wolves that still roam our planet. However, wolves have historically been one of the most feared animal species in the northern hemisphere.
For generations, some cultures have hunted wolves in order to protect livestock, a practice that quickly led to the decimation of many wolf subspecies. In fact, wolves are arguably one of the most persecuted animals on the planet, a reality that has driven at least 14 distinct subspecies to extinction within the last few centuries.
Some of the many different types of extinct wolves include:
- Sicilian Wolf (Canis lupus cristaldii) – Once found throughout Sicily, the Sicilian wolf was a small, pale-colored canine that went extinct in the 1920s.
- Southern Rocky Mountain Wolf (Canis lupus youngi) – The southerly neighbor of the current Northern Rocky Mountain wolf, the Southern Rocky Mountain wolf was hunted to extinction in 1935.
- Great Plains Wolf (Canis lupus nubilus) – Similar in shape and size to the Southern Rocky Mountain wolf, the Great Plains wolf once roamed the entire North American Great Plains until its extinction in 1926.
- Texas Wolf (Canis lupus monstrabilis) – A darkly-colored wolf that once lived throughout southern and western Texas, the Texas wolf was hunted to extinction during the late 1800s.
- Mogollon Mountain Wolf (Canis lupus mogollonensis) – Although it once shared a range with the Texas and the Mexican wolf, the Mogollon mountain wolf was a small, darkly-colored wolf that once roamed western Texas and northern Mexico.
- Japanese Wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax) – Once found throughout the Japanese archipelago, the Japanese wolf was a small, brownish-colored wolf that was extirpated by 1905.
- Hokkaidō Wolf (Canis lupus hattai) – A type of wolf that lived throughout northeast Asiam the Hokkaidō wolf was declared extinct in 1889.
- Manitoba Wolf (Canis lupus griseoalbus) – The Manitoba wolf once lived throughout central Canada until it was hunted to extinction in the early 1900s as part of the fur trade.
- Mississippi Valley Wolf (Canis lupus gregoryi) – Sometimes called the Gregory’s wolf, the Mississippi Valley wolf lived throughout the Mississippi River Basin until it was extirpated by the 1980s.
- Cascade Mountains Wolf (Canis lupus fuscus) – The Cascade Mountains wolf was a moderate-sized cinnamon-colored wolf that once lived throughout the Pacific Northwest until it was hunted to extinction in the 1940s.
- Florida Black Wolf (Canis lupus floridanus) – Boasting a stunning black fur coat, the Florida black wolf lived throughout Florida until its extirpation in 1934.
- Banks Islands Wolf (Canis lupus bernardi) – Often called the Bernard’s wolf, the Banks Island wolf once lived in the Arctic regions of Canada until its disappearance in the early 1900s.
- Newfoundland Wolf (Canis lupus beothucus) – Closely related to the living Labrador wolf, the Newfoundland wolf once lived on the island of Newfoundland until it was extirpated in 1911.
- Kenai Peninsula Wolf (Canis lupus alces) – The Kenai Peninsula wolf lived in south-central Alaska until it was hunted to extinction by miners and trappers in the early 1900s.
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How Are Wolves Classified?
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Wolf classification is both simultaneously very straightforward and very complex.
All animals that we call wolves are part of the kingdom Animalia, the phylum Chordata, the class Mammalia, and the order Carnivora. Furthermore, all wolves are part of the family Canidae, which includes other familiar canines such as all types of foxes and dogs.
Within the family Canidae, wolves all belong to the genus Canis. This genus includes everything from jackals and coyotes to domestic dogs and (sometimes considered a wolf), as well as the animals that we normally refer to as wolves.
However, this is where it starts to get a little complicated.
Within the genus Canis, there are a number of species, including:
- Golden jackal (Canis aureus)
- Coyotes (Canis latrans)
- Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis)
- African golden wolf (Canis lupaster)
- Grey wolf (Canis lupus)
Golden jackals and coyotes are not considered to be wolves, so there’s little debate on that score. But, beyond that, depending on who you ask, the definition of a wolf can get a little murky.
It’s widely accepted that the grey wolf is a wolf. In fact, this is what most people would think of when they picture a wolf.
But, some people will controversially also consider African golden wolves and Ethiopian wolves to be wolves, too. This isn’t widely accepted by the scientific community, though, so we didn’t include these species in our list.
Then we get into the debate over whether the red wolf (Canis lupus rufus or Canis rufus) and the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) are each their own species. When you add in the debate over all the different subspecies of wolves, classifying wolves can quickly turn into a taxonomical mess.
The moral of the story?
You can consider every subspecies of Canis lupus to be a wolf. Most people will also happily say that red wolves (Canis lupus rufus) are wolves, too, even if they might be a separate species.
The majority of researchers, however, won’t consider Ethiopian wolves or African golden wolves to be wolves, though, even if the word “wolf” is in their common name. Additionally, while it’s fun to think of domestic dogs as wolves, many researchers argue that they ought to be their own species.
Essentially, all subspecies in Canis lupus are wolves. Everything else is potentially up for debate.
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Wolf Biology: Essential Wolf Facts
At this point, you know a whole lot about the different types of wolves that roam the Earth. But, how much do you know about their general behavior and activities? Up next, we’ll discuss some general facts about wolves so you can broaden your wolf knowledge.
These days, wolves live in parts of North America, Eurasia, and Oceania.
Within North America, the primary wolf populations are found in Canada and Alaska, though you can find some wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, in parts of the southwestern US, and in isolated groups in North Carolina.
Meanwhile, there are various wolf subspecies found throughout Eurasia as well as a few subspecies in the Arabian Peninsula, New Guinea, and Australia.
That being said, wolves used to be much more widespread than they are today. Historically, wolves were even more prevalent throughout nearly all of North America, Eurasia, and parts of Oceania. However, years of persecution have led more than a dozen wolf subspecies to extinction.
Wolves are very resilient animals that can survive in a wide range of different habitats. Depending on the subspecies, you can find wolves in forests, shrublands, grasslands, wetlands, tundra, pastures, alpine regions, and even in the desert.
Due to years of hunting, most wolf subspecies now live in much more northerly and remote locales, particularly in boreal forests and tundras. But, wolves can survive in a great variety of environmental conditions.
Wolf Diet & Eating Habits
While the diet and eating habits of wolves vary from subspecies to subspecies, all wolves are carnivores. They are considered to be pack hunters so they will work together to take down their prey.
For the most part, wolves prefer to eat hoofed mammals, like deer, moose, caribou, and the like. However, they will also prey on livestock, which is why they’ve gotten such a bad reputation over the centuries.
With that in mind, wolves are opportunistic feeders when food is in short supply. So, you may find them eating anything from rodents and hares to birds, eggs, and carrion. Furthermore, some coastal subspecies of wolves will eat fish (particularly in British Columbia) while many European wolves will eat fruits and grass if necessary for their survival.
Wolf Social Behavior
Wolves are pack animals. They mostly live in family packs with complex social structures. Within the pack, there is usually a mated pair and their offspring, who eventually will grow up and leave the pack to form their own pack later in life.
However, some wolves are lone wolves that don’t join a pack. This is usually just a temporary situation that occurs after they leave a pack to join a new one. Nevertheless, some older females will live on their own for years, though this is not common.
The conservation status of wolves is a subject of much debate. As a whole, some researchers will argue that the species Canis lupus is not endangered.
In some respects, this is true. Depending on where you look, it would be hard to argue that wolves are on the brink of extinction. For example, in places like interior Alaska, wolves exist in such large numbers, that it would be hard to argue that they’re endangered.
However, if you look at each individual subspecies of wolves, the situation becomes much more complicated.
Within the contiguous United States, it is undeniable that many subspecies of wolves are endangered. Habitat fragmentation and years of hunting have left wolf populations fragmented and scattered within just a small fraction of their original range.
Meanwhile, in Eurasia, the situation is equally as complex.
While the IUCN actually lists the wolf as a species of Least Concern in Europe, it is listed as either vulnerable or endangered in many countries. Although populations have rebounded quite a bit from their all-time lows in the mid-1900s, wolf populations are still highly fragmented throughout Europe, though they are in slightly better shape in Asia.
So, long story short? It depends. Globally, one could make a decent argument that wolves are not endangered. But there are many subspecies, like the red wolf and the Mexican wolf, that are on the brink of extinction.
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Wolf Fun Facts
If you love wolves, you ought to have some great wolf fun facts in your back pocket at all times for when you want to impress your friends. So, here are some great wolf fun facts that you should know:
1|Wolves Are Very Fast Runners
Although you won’t find a wolf running a marathon anytime soon, they are surprisingly fast runners. In fact, your average wolf can sprint as fast as 38 mph (62 km/h) when chasing down prey.
2|Wolves Can Eat Up To 30 lbs Of Meat At Once!
Wolves are voracious eaters. Depending on the subspecies, they can often eat up to 30 lbs (14 kg) of meat in a single sitting. What’s more, they can usually go up to 2 weeks without eating without any negative health issues whenever food is scarce.
3|There’s No Such Thing As An Alpha Wolf
Traditionally, we humans thought that wolves traveled in packs that were led by a single, dominant male—the alpha wolf. Researchers initially thought that wolves had to fight their way to the top of the pack, at which point they ran the show.
However, it turns out that this really isn’t the case. New research shows that wolves don’t necessarily compete with each other for the role of top dog.
Instead, they form their own packs by mating and producing pups. So, the two parents in the pack are both pack leaders, except in rare instances where there’s more than one breeding animal within the pack. Who knew?
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Here are our answers to some of your most common questions about wolves:
Can A Pack Of Wolves Kill A Human?
Theoretically, yes, a pack of wolves could kill or seriously injure a human. But, this doesn’t happen very often. In fact, while wolf attacks can happen, they are very rare.
Generally speaking, wolves are not dangerous to humans and most don’t want anything to do with us. In reality, if you see a wolf in the wild, it will probably run away from you before you even have a chance to snap a photo.
What Are Wolves Afraid of?
Wolves, like most wild animals, are afraid of humans. Since they don’t have any natural predators besides some bears, most wolves aren’t scared of other wildlife, but they tend to run away before we humans can even get close to them. In fact, most wolves will try to run away or hide if you get within about 500 yards (450 m) of them.
Do Wolves Bark?
Like other canines, wolves are very vocal creatures. Wolves can bark, though this is normally used as a warning to other wolves that danger is nearby or to signal aggression. In addition to barks, wolves will also growl, whimper, and howl to communicate.
Can Wolves Be A Pet?
While domestic dogs do make for excellent pets, wolves are not suitable pets. Although you will hear stories about people who have had wolves as pets, this is the exception, not the rule. Wolves naturally require a lot of outdoor space, activity, and socialization with other wolves, so they are not ideal as pets.
Furthermore, wolves are not domesticated, so they can be dangerous to humans if kept in captivity. So, while wolves can live in sanctuaries under the watchful eye of trained specialists, they are not ideal house pets.