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Gray Wolf

Updated on February 24, 2016

Scientific Name: Canis lupus


 Who is the Common Wolf? You may know it by the more frequently used name of the Gray Wolf. This is a medium or small sized wolf – they can range in size depending on their habitat location. Some of them are about 55 pounds and some of them are 90 pounds. Stories of huge Common Wolves used to be parts of legend, but it has been confirmed a handful of them can be several hundred pounds.

They can also be about 6 feet long but most of them are about 4 ½ feet in length. The males are longer than the females so that is one way you can tell them apart when you are observing a wolf pack. They can vary in colors quite a bit too. Most of them are gray or brown in color. Others have shades of black, white, and even some yellow in them. They are absolutely amazing animals that don’t get the credit they deserve.


 If you aren’t sure what type of wolf you are looking at, examine the face. The Common wolf has a head that is smaller than other species. It also has a muzzle that is long and thin instead of wide like other species. The body of this wolf is built to endure – which is why it may be slower than other wolves but it can go the distance for a longer period of time. In the end this is a better trait to have when it comes to ultimate survival.

The paws of the Common Wolf are quite interesting. They have pads at the bottom of them to keep them warm. They also have webbing between the toes that allow them to move very easily. They can do well on any type of terrain which contributes to their diverse locations around the Northern Hemisphere.

The teeth and jaws of the Common Wolf are believed to be three times stronger than any other canine in the world. This means that they have the ability to really grasp hold of what they want to eat. They also consume every single part of it – bones and all. It isn’t a myth that the saliva from such a wolf can prevent infections and help healthy tissue to grow. Some thought that was only legend but it has been scientifically proven as fact.


 No one knows for sure what took place in regards to the evolution process of the Common Wolf. It is known through DNA analysis that they derived from canines more than 300,000 years ago. It is speculated all of that occurred so that they would be able to survive. They are highly adaptable animals and as a result of that there are many subspecies out there as well.


 The Common Wolf has a reputation that is aggressive and mean. However, this isn’t one that really shows how they behave. When it comes to their pack they are loyal and they do plenty of interacting both verbally and through the language of their bodies. They are protective of their young as well as of their territory.

In order to show that they have claimed a given area, they will use scent markers. This includes urine and scents that they produce through body glands. They can rub on trees or roll around on the ground to get that scent out there.

Arctic Wolf Information - Subspecies of the gray wolf


As I mentioned, they body of the Common Wolf is designed to give it the best chance of survival. They are able to thrive in various areas including the mountains, the open plains, in grasslands, and even in the desert. They have two basic needs – habitat and food. As long as those are met they can live just about anywhere.

The problem though is that in many instances the habitat they used to cover has been continually taken away from them. Humans are moving into those same areas and these two entities aren’t living in harmony. As a result of the reduced territory more aggressive behaviors against other packs of wolves have been noted. There is also the issue of not enough food for the various packs to survive.

As a result of that many of the Common Wolves have moved on to territory where they can survive. Researchers have started to try to bring these wolves back to their natural habitat. So far they have had some success in the different areas of doing so. The studies relating to them will take years to complete. Only then will we know for sure if these programs are going to work for the long term.

Photo Courtesy of Amphibol
Photo Courtesy of Amphibol

Diet/Feeding Habits

 The Common Wolf does consume a large amount of food on a regular basis. In addition to hunting as a group for large prey they will also take smaller ones as they come along. A group effort is necessary for a meal of deer, elk, or bison. However, they are able to get rodents, raccoons, and rabbits on their own.

When the pups are about three months old they will start to be fed meat from these kills. It comes to them in the form of regurgitated foods that the other pack members have already consumed. It is important that the pack has enough food so that they can feed the offspring. Otherwise they may die from malnutrition.


 The elevation where the Common Wolf resides will also determine when it takes part in mating. Those at lower elevations will do so in January. Those at the higher elevations may not do so until April. Regardless, it will be about two months down the road when the offspring are born.
Most of the time it is only the alpha male and the beta female that do create the pups. Sometimes the male will mate with another female in the pack as well. The other members won’t get to mate and that is why many of them, especially the young, will decide to go out there and create their own wolf pack.

The young are born in a den where they need the attention of their mother desperately. They are small and vulnerable at birth. They will need time for their eyes to open and their hearing to develop. She will only leave the den during the first three months of their lives to get food.

The responsibility that the entire pack takes on in regards to the care of the young is very interesting to observe. These young can be a handful, especially when it is a large litter. On average, six pups are born into each pack annually.

Common Wolf Video


 Due to the reduction of natural habitat, there seems to be more conflicts between Common Wolf packs than in the past. Sometimes they end up being physical and that can result in the injury or death of members. Other packs often try to kill the young of other packs too so that they can reduce competition.

Humans though are the main predator of the Common Wolf. They have been heavily hunted for their fur, to keep them away from livestock, and because people fear them. In spite of that though this particular species of wolf seems to be holding its own.


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  • CrisKat profile image

    CrisKat 7 years ago

    It is the first time I've seen someone using the term 'common' when talking about the gray wolf.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you for your interesting information.