Gray Wolf

Canis lupus


  • Domain Eukarya: This domain has organisms who have a nucleus, and are either multicellular or single-celled.
  • Kingdom Animalia: The members in this kingdom are not prokaryotes, and they don't have a cell wall. They are heterotrophs, and have organized tissues.
  • Phylum Chordata: The organisms in this Phylum have bilateral symmetry, segmented body and muscles, three germ layers and a well developed coelom (a body cavity between the body wall and the intestine.). The organisms also have a complete digestive system with a nerve cord that most likely has a brain at the end.
  • Subphylum Vertebrata: A organism that is in this Subphylum has a vertebral column, has two skin layers (an outer layer and an inner dense layer.), and the skin is usually changed so it produces hair, feathers, glands, etc.
  • Class Mamalia: All mammals contain middle ear bones, hair (hair is present at some time in the mammal's life) , and the production of milk that is modified by sweet glands other wise known as mammary glands
  • Order Carnivora: Most members of Carnivora usually have different styles of eating or general styles in particular, but they are mainly carnivorous. Members of the Carnivora class usually have special teeth that are a good method for cutting the meat and tendons of their prey. Also, most members also have a skull that varied in form.
  • Family Canidae: Members of this family are primarily medium-sized flesh eaters, while being the more omnivorous than other carnivores. Many members have a special way of hunting their prey.
  • Genus Canis: This genus has dogs, jackals, and wolves in it.
  • Species: Canis lupis

General Description

  • Height: The height for most wolves ranges from 60-90 cm. Height is measured from base paws to shoulders.
  • Length: The length for most male wolves is 1000-1300 mm for gray wolves, while the weight for females is generally 870-1170 mm. Length for the tail is generally 350-520 mm.
  • Weight: The general weight for a male gray wolf is 30-80 kg, but the average is weight is 55 kg. On the other hand, females generally weigh from 23-55 kg, while the average is 45 kg.
  • Color: Color varies a lot with gray wolves. It mostly varies geographically. At birth all of the cubs have sooty brown fur. In arctic populations the fur can be pure white with gray, brown, cinnamon, and black. It can also sometimes be uniform black in different phases. The North American gray wolf has three color phases. In the normal phase it has some different types of white, containing shades of black, gray, and cinnamon. On the upper part of the animal the color is usually brown. The black phase includes the colors brown and black with white specks. The underparts are still usually pale. There is also a pure white spot in the middle of the gray wolf's chest. In the third phase the wolves drab-gray and overlaid with brownish-black. The underparts also become more pale.
  • Natural Range: The gray wolf is frequently and commonly populated in lightly settled portions of Canada, Labrador, British Columbia, Yukon territory, and Northwest territories.
  • Diet: The gray wolf's diet usually consist of large mammals such as deer, moose, caribou, elk, bison, and muskox. A small part of the gray wolf's diet is small mammals and birds.
  • Habitat Description: Gray wolves are able to adapt to habitats very well. Some habitats it can adapt to are arctic tundras, forests, prairies, and landscapes. Some terrestrial biomes that the gray wolf can live in is the tundra, taiga, chaparral, forest, scrub forest, and mountains.
  • Predators: The main predators for gray wolves is humans. Although other wolves from different packs will attack other wolves is they are either alone or young, or both.

Physical Adaptations

The gray wolf has two long and thick layers of fur (the undercoat and the guard coat). The undercoat is thick while providing insulation beneath the guard coat. This allows the gray wolf to be warm, while not being too warm at the same time. The guard coat also protects the undercoat from getting wet. Gray wolves are also equipped with long muzzles and strong jaws. This helps the gray wolf with everyday life. It could help it cut or tear meat, move objects, etc. Wolves also have a well-developed carnassial (a carnassial is teeth adapted to tearing flesh.). Wolves can use this for tearing their prey's flesh easier. The gray wolf also has long and slender limbs with four toes on the hind foot and five toes on the forefoot. This allows the gray wolf to grip the ground easier in all weather conditions, bury food caches, and dig burrows easier. The gray wolves' ears are erect. This characteristic can be used to hear better from a different angle. The gray wolf also has a large nose pad. This can be used for a better sense of smell. The gray wolf is equipped with 42 strong teeth and a powerful jaw. This characteristic allows the gray wolf to hold their prey, cut tendons, and crush bones better.

Behavioral Adaptations

Wolves are territorial. Each pack will pick an area and defend against intruders. This is very useful because it shows how loyal the wolf or wolves are and it also keeps the pack safe. When wolves are forced out of a pack, they will usually go find a mate and then attempt to start a new pack. This is important because it allows the wolf to keep itself out of danger, and to let the wolf get back on its feet and be ready to start again. When wolves howl, it is a form of communication. This allows the wolves to make everyday life and tasks easier to do. Wolves surprisingly are very good swimmer. This can let the wolf pursue its prey into the water. For example, when a deer enters the water, the wolf is able to go into the water to continue the chase. Wolves make shortcuts or pathways along and through their territory. This allows it to travel faster overall. Wolves also make "latrines" along their territories. This also serves as a scent post that can function for various needs. Both parents of the cub or cubs teach them how to hunt and kill prey. This makes it so that the cubs already have a head start at hunting and killing prey. This will make it easier for them later on. Cubs tend to leave the pack in which they were born in before at least, 20 months of age. Cubs will sometimes do this to reach alpha (alpha means breeding or dominant) status. When wolves are angry, they will erect long hair on the back of their necks to acquire the look of a mane. This could make the wolf seem bigger to scare off predators. Wolves usually travel in packs. This is important to them because it makes hunting and protecting them easier. The packs are usually primarily focused on a single, or dominant breeding pair. This could makes it so that the wolves know their place, and to not get greedy for power


Burton, M., & Burton, R. (2002). Gray wolf. In International wildlife encyclopedia v.1 (AAR-BAR) (3rd ed., Vol. 8, pp. 1054-1057). New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish.

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Smith, J. 2002. "Canis lupus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 11, 2015 at


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