45 Grey Wolf Facts for Kids
The Grey Wolf is probably the first kind of wolf that everyone thinks about when they, well, think about wolves. That’s because they’re one of the most widespread wolf species on the planet, and have lived in many wildernesses in North America, Europe, Asia and several parts of Africa.
Since they used to live in so many places around the world, Grey Wolves have become one of the world’s best known animals. They even have more books than any other wildlife species on the planet. Humans practically know everything about this kind of wolf—we’ve lived with them, hunted alongside them and even have hunted each other throughout our storied history.
How They Look
1. Grey wolves are considered the largest wild dogs in the world. Grey wolves who live in the northern hemisphere are said to be larger than those who live in the southern part of the world.
2. Male grey wolves are larger than females. They can grow as big as 3 to 5 feet long. Their tails are usually as long as 1 to 2 feet. Females weigh as much as 60 to 100 pounds, while males are heavier—they weigh 70 to 145 pounds.
3. Grey wolf fur comes in different colors. Their fur color changes depending on where they live. Arctic grey wolves have fur that’s as white as the snow there, while populations who live in warmer climates have warmer shades of fur. Grey wolves range in color from grey-white, brown, cinnamon and different shades of black.
4. Grey wolves have a darker upper coat, while their lighter fur is found on their underside—or, the bottom part of their bodies. Their tails are usually tipped with black fur.
5. Grey wolves have thick underfur, which helps protect them against colder environments.
6. The grey wolf actually resembles German Shepherds and Alaskan sled dogs. In fact, grey wolves are considered the ancestor of many domestic dog breeds. Early humans who bred grey wolves for their special genetic traits ended up producing many of the dog breeds we love today—whether large or small.
Where They Live
7. Grey wolves used to live everywhere in North America, but were sadly nearly wiped out by 1930. Today, their range in North America extends throughout Canada, Alaska, the northern Rockies, the Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest.
8. Grey wolves also live in parts of Mexico and Eurasia.
9. Many people enjoy visiting Yellowstone National Park to see grey wolves in their natural habitat. Yellowstone National Park introduced grey wolves to the park back in 1995.
10. Grey wolves populations were reduced to their current habitats due to factors like humans, changes in their environment and destruction to their habitats.
11. As much as 7,000 gray wolves live in Alaska alone. The entirety of Canada is home to as much as 52,000 to 60,000 grey wolves.
12. Grey wolves live in a wide variety of habitats. They have lived anywhere from arctic tundras to prairies to forests and various wilderness filled environments.
13. Grey wolves like living in larger habitats like forests and mountainous terrain. Others can live in desert-like habitats in the southwest.
14. The idea habitat for a grey wolf contains protection from threats like humans, areas for building a den and access to prey for feeding.
15. As carnivores, grey wolves prey on large-hoofed animals like moose, caribou, deer and elk. They also feast on smaller prey like rabbits and beavers.
16. Grey wolves are also scavengers—they eat animals that died from other causes. They also steal prey from other predators.
17. In packs, grey wolves track down large prey by scent or if they stumble upon their target. They work together to quickly dispatch prey and consume their spoils together.
18. Wolves are known to eat as much as 20 pounds of meat in one meal. They usually eat most of the carcass, including hair and bones.
19. Grey wolves have few natural predators—other grey wolves or coyotes may attack each other if provoked.
How They Live Together
20. Grey wolves live in a pack—their pack usually contain as much as 7 to 8 wolves. Some wolf packs have over 30 individuals at one time.
21. Grey wolf packs are made up of the alpha wolves – the mother and father – and their pups, in addition to older offspring.
22. The alpha female and male are the pack leaders, and usually track and hunt prey for the group. They also select sites for their den and establish the territory for the entire pack.
23. Wolves are known to develop strong social bonds within their pack.
24. Grey wolves have a complex communication system—they talk by barking, whining, growling, howling and making other distinctive noises.
25. Grey wolves do howl more when the moon’s full. They typically howl just before nighttime arrives and before the day starts.
26. A pack’s territory can extend as far as 5,020 square miles. A pack always defends their territory if intruders invade.
27. Wolf packs establish their ranks through facial expressions and body language. Grey wolves are known to crouch, touch chins and roll over with other pack members.
28. Only the alpha male marks his scent—he does this to communicate with other wolf packs.
29. Wolf packs usually stay in one area during the spring and summer, when pups are born. During fall and winter, they start moving between areas in search of food and other resources.
30. Wolf packs typically travel more during night, trekking long distances of as much as 5 miles per hour. They can also run as fast as 43 miles per hour.
31. The alpha male and female breed once a year. Their breeding season starts in late January and continues to April.
32. Northern grey wolves breed later than those who live in the southern part of the world.
33. The alpha pair mate for life.
34. After the alpha male and female mate, the female builds her den to raise their young. The den is usually well protected against flooding and other threats, built with a sloping entrance that conceals the inside.
35. The alpha female carries her pups as long as 60 to 63 days. She can bear anywhere from five to 14 pups at a time. The average litter size is seven pups.
36. Pups born in the den remain there for several weeks. They’re born deaf and blind, weighing about 30 ounces. After 10 days, their eyes open and they’re able to crawl around on their front legs.
37. When they’re about 20 days old, grey wolf pups can stand, walk and even talk.
38. Grey wolf pups are old enough to start freely leaving the den to hunt by the time they reach 10 months old.
39. Female grey wolf pups fully mature at two years old. Males fully mature at about three years old.
40. Grey wolves can live as long as 13 years in the wild. Their average lifespan usually lasts as long as 5 to 6 years.
41. Adults typically die from old age or injuries sustained from fights with other wolves, hunting or their natural enemies.
42. Grey wolves in captivity, like those in zoos, may live as long as 15 years.
43. Grey wolves have unique howls—they’re like fingerprints to them. Other members of their pack, and even humans, use their howls to tell them apart.
44. Grey wolves play a large role in keeping our natural ecosystems in good shape. They help maintain elk and deer populations, which in turn benefit various other plant and animal species. Carcasses from their prey also redistribute nutrients back into the ecosystem and may act as food for other animals.
45. Although grey wolves were considered a pest, their declining populations and importance to our ecosystems have made them a protected species.