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THE WOLF CLAN

The Wolf

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THE WOLF


 

The wolf is a large member of the canine family. It is not known for sure just when the divergence occurred that split the ancestors of our domestic dog, C. familiaris, from the grey wolf, C. lupis, but it us thought to have occurred about four million years ago

Wolves are legendary because of their spine-tingling howl, which they use to communicate. A lone wolf howls to attract the attention of his pack, while communal howls may send territorial messages from one pack to another. Some howls are confrontational. Much like barking domestic dogs, wolves may simply begin howling because a nearby wolf has already begun.

Wolves are the largest members of the dog family. Adaptable gray wolves are by far the most common and were once found all over the Northern Hemisphere. But wolves and humans have a long adversarial history. Though they almost never attack humans, wolves are considered one of the animal world's most fearsome natural villains. They do attack domestic animals, and countless wolves have been shot, trapped, and poisoned because of this tendency.

In the lower 48 states, gray wolves were hunted to near extinction, though some populations survived and others have since been reintroduced. Few gray wolves survive in Europe, though many live in Alaska, Canada, and Asia.

Red wolves live in the southeastern United States, where they are endangered. These animals actually became extinct in the wild in 1980. Scientists established a breeding program with a small number of captive red wolves and have reintroduced the animal to North Carolina. Today, perhaps 100 red wolves survive in the wild.

The maned wolf, a distant relative of the more familiar gray and red wolves, lives in South America. Physically, this animal resembles a large, red fox more than its wolf relatives.

Wolves live and hunt in packs of around six to ten animals. They are known to roam large distances, perhaps 12 miles (20 kilometers) in a single day. These social animals cooperate on their preferred prey—large animals such as deer, elk, and moose. When they are successful, wolves do not eat in moderation. A single animal can consume 20 pounds (9 kilograms) of meat at a sitting. Wolves also eat smaller mammals, birds, fish, lizards, snakes, and fruit.

Wolfpacks are established according to a strict hierarchy, with a dominant male at the top and his mate not far behind. Usually this male and female are the only animals of the pack to breed. All of a pack's adults help to care for young pups by bringing them food and watching them while others hunt.
 

Early man was probably followed by a wolf like creature that scavenged on the remains of his kills. In time, the creature sacrificed his freedom in exchange for those remnants. The dog, for so the creature turned out to be, was not the only one to gain from the exchange. In time the dog learned how to help the man in his hunting, guarding the herds of other animals that the man domesticated, was sometimes used as a beast of burden and, at times, even protected man from other animals.The Wolf has developed the capacity to survive in the most inhospitable of climates. The wolves in the high arctic endure several winter months of perpetual darkness. Even in February when sun returns to the north, temperatures of -40°C and bitter winds are common. Other wolves are at home in the desert and the dampness of a humid Gulf Coast swamp.

Although most wolves have basically grey coats, hence the common name, the coats usually have a lot of base yellow interspersed between the salt-and-pepper fey and black hair. Wolves anywhere can have coats that grade from almost pure white to jet black, although all of the arctic wolves are usually all White.
 

Wolves are very intelligent creatures whose upright ears, sharp, pointed muzzles, inquiring eyes, and other facial features instantly convey this quality. Their heads closely resemble that of a german shepherd dog, although the skull is broader and more massive. Wolves also have ruffs of long hair framing the sides of their faces like sideburns.

Most of the adult grey wolves weigh in the vicinity of 75 to 125 pounds (34 to 56 kilograms). Males are usually larger than females by as much as twenty-five percent. There are authenticated records of male wolves weighing as much as 175 pounds (79 kilograms).As large as wolves are, they usually appear to much larger because of their long hair. In the winter coat, the hair on their back and sides averages 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.3 centimeters) in length. Starting at the base of the neck, the wolf has a teardrop-shaped mane of hair that elongates into just a crest down the spine toward the tail. Over the shoulder, the mane is about 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) wide. The hairs in the mane are 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.7 centimeters) long and are attached to erectorpilli muscles, which allow the hairs to stand on end, making the wolf appear even larger.

            Extensive studies of the North American wolf species show between 50 to 70 inches (1.3 to 1.8 metres) in total nose-tip-to-tail-tip length. Of that length, one quarter is tail length.Wolves Stand between 27 to 31 inches (68 to 78 centimeters) high at the shoulder. Compared to dogs of the same size, wolves' chests are much narrower. Their legs are also longer in proportion to their body weight than are most dogs. Because of its narrower chest, the wolf's left and right foot tracks closer together than the dogs.Humans are plantigrade, walking upon our entire flat foot, sole to heel. All members of the canine family, and the feline family too, are digitigrade, walking upon just their toe tips. Unless a wolf is lying down, the heel of each foot does not come in contact with the ground. The front feet of a wolf are exceptionally large. This is of great advantage to the wolf when it runs upon snow, as it allows greater weight distribution and more support to prevent the animal from sinking in as deeply when the snow is soft.
 

The wolf has five toes on each forefoot, but only four are actually needed. The fifth toe, corresponding to our thumb, has regressed. It is found up on the middle of the foot and is known as the dew claw. There are just four toes on each of the hind feet. Each toe pad is surrounded by stiff, bristly hairs, which act as insulation and also provides a better grip on slippery ice surfaces. The claws are strong and blunt because the tips are worn off by constant contact with the ground. These are used for digging and in gripping the earth while running, not for seizing Prey.Wolves walk, trot, lope, or gallop. Their legs are long, and they walk at about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) per hour, but can reach speeds of 35 mph during a chase. Their usual mode of travel is to trot, which they do at various speeds, generally between 8 to 10 miles (12.8 to 16 kilometers) per hour.

Wolves do not run at full speed until they get close to their prey as possible. At that point, they make a high-speed chase to test the animal.Wolves can keep up this pace for hours on end and have been known to cover 60 miles (96 kilometers) in a single night. They have been clocked at speeds of over 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour for a distance of several miles.
 

Wolves have been known to wash mud from there coats in rivers and streams, wolves depend on thier thick coats in winter, so it is not surprising that they spend part of thier leisure time in grooming behavior. It is also likely that the grooming of other pack members helps reinforce the social bonds the tie the pack together. Two wolves will lick each others coats, nibbling gently with thier teeth to remove foreign matter. Reciprocal grooming is especially common during courtship. Injured wolves are intensely groomed by other pack members, providing both physical and mental comfort.

Wolves love to play, shouldering one another, bumping bodies together, flopping tails over each other's backs, and leaping up placing forepaws around other' necks. Play especially in pups, develops strength and hunting skills, and aids in establishing pack communication and hierarchy. The intention to play is often signaled by the gesture well known to dog owners of dropping the front quarters into a crouch position, with smiling face and wagging tail. Adult wolves stage mock fights, play chase, and leap on each other. The ambushing of unwary pack members is a favorite game.

            Scent plays a very important role in the life of the wolf, by smell alone wolves can locate prey, other pack members or enemies. It can tell them if other wolves were in the territory, if they were male or female, and how recently they visited. The wolf has several specialized glands, one around the anus and another on its back about 3 inches (7.6 centimetres) in the front of the base of its tail. The scent from these glands is as individualistic as are out fingerprints and is used by that particular wolf as its personal calling card. These Glands are used as to mark boundaries and also to mark trails. These "Scent Stations" are often 100 yards (91 metres) apart.Next to smell, the sense of hearing is the most acute of the wolf's senses. Wolves can hear as far as six miles away in the forest and ten miles in the open. Wolves can hear well up to a frequency of 25 khz. Some researchers believe that the actual maximum frequency detected by wolves is actually much higher, perhaps up to 80 khz (the upper auditory limits for humans is 20 khz), also according to some naturalist wolves' hearing is greater than that of the dog.
 

Wolves also have keen eye sight and are quick to detect the slightest movement of anything in front of them. Being major predators, thier eyes are on the front of there heads, and they have probably a little less than 180-degree vision, unlike their prey species, which can see over 300 degrees of a circle.Wolves live in family groups called packs. A pack is usually made up of a male parent, a female parent, their pups and a few other adult wolves who are the older brothers and sisters. The pack works together to hunt for food and to take care of the pups.Some members stay with the pack for life. Wolves can run up to 40 miles an hour and can easily cover 50 miles a day. It is highly likely that at one time or another the land your home is on was once the home of a wolf pack{greatest natural range of any mammal except humans}

            In the wild wolves can live up to 13 years or more, in a protected wolf park or a controlled area of land, a wolf can live to be up to 16 years old. But most wolves usually live to be to around 8 years of age. The record wolf life span is about 20 years of age. Life in the wild is difficult for the wolf, with human population taking up more and more wolf habitat, and with those who would kill the wolf, a long life span is unlikely. In a controlled environment they can live longer because they are safe from the outside dangers of traps, snares,enemies and poisons.Wolves communicate not only by sound (such as yipping, growling, and howling), but also by body language. This ranges from subtle signals-such as a slight shift in weight-to the obvious, like rolling on the back as a sign of Submission.Here are some other examples of Body postures:
 

Dominance - A dominant wolf stands stiff legged and tall. The ears are erect and forward, and the hackles bristle slightly. Often the tail is held vertical and curled toward the back. This display shows the wolf's rank to all others in the pack. A dominant lupine may stare penetratingly at a submissive one, pin it to the ground, "ride up" on its shoulders, or even stand on its hind legs.

            Submission (active) - In active submission, the entire body is lowered, and the lips and ears are drawn back. Sometimes active submission is accompanied by a rapid thrusting out of the tongue and lowering of the hindquarters. The tail is placed down, or halfway or fully between the legs, and the muzzle often points up to the more dominant animal. The back may be partially arched as the submissive wolf humbles itself to its superior. (A more arched back and more tucked tail indicate a greater level of submission.)Submission (passive) - Passive submission is more intense than active submission. The wolf rolls on its back and exposes its vulnerable throat and underside. The paws are drawn into the body. This is often accompanied by whimpering.

            Anger - An angry lupine's ears are erect, and its fur bristles. The lips may curl up or pull back, and the incisors are displayed. The wolf may also snarl.

            Fear - A frightened wolf tries to make its body look small and therefore less conspicuous. The ears flatten down against the head, and the tail may be tucked between the legs, as with a submissive wolf. There may also be whimpering or barks of fear, and the wolf may arch its back. Defensive - A defensive wolf flattens its ears against its head.
 

Aggression - An aggressive wolf snarls and its fur bristles. The wolf may crouch, ready to attack if necessary.


            Suspicion
- Pulling back of the ears shows a lupine is suspicious. In addition, the wolf narrows its eyes. The tail of a wolf that senses danger points straight out, parallel to the ground.

            Relaxedness - A relaxed wolf's tail points straight down, and the wolf may rest sphinxlike or on its side. The wolf's tail may also wag. The further down the tail droops, the more relaxed the wolf is. Tension - An aroused wolf's tail points straight out, and the wolf may crouch as if ready to spring.

            Happiness - As dogs do, a lupine may wag its tail if it is in a joyful mood. The tongue may loll out of the mouth.

            Hunting - A wolf that is hunting is tensed, and therefore the tail is horizontal and straight.

            Playfulness - A playful lupine holds its tail high and wags it. The wolf may frolic and dance around, or bow by placing the front of its body down to the ground, while holding the rear high, sometimes wagged. This is reminiscent of the playful behavior executed in domestic Dogs.
           

            Wolves howl for several reasons. Howling helps pack members keep in touch, allowing them to effectively communicate in thickly forested areas or over great distances. Furthermore, howling helps to summon pack members to a specific location. Howling can also serve as a declaration of territory, as portrayed by a dominant wolf's tendency to respond to a human imitation of a "rival" individual in an area that the wolf considers its own. This behavior is also stimulated when a pack has something to protect, such as a fresh kill. As a rule of thumb, large packs will more readily draw attention to themselves than will smaller packs. Adjacent packs may respond to each others' howls, which can mean trouble for the smaller of the two. Thus, wolves tend to howl with great care.

            Wolves will also howl for communal reasons. Some scientists speculate that such group sessions strengthen the wolves' social bonds and camaraderie -- similar to community singing among humans. During such choral sessions, wolves will howl at different tones and varying pitches, which tends to prevent a listener from accurately estimating the number of wolves involved. This concealment of numbers makes a listening rival pack wary of what action to take. For example, confrontation could mean bad news if the rival pack gravely underestimates the howling pack's numbers.
           

            Observations of wolf packs suggest that howling occurs most often during the twilight hours, preceding the adults' departure to the hunt and following their return. Studies also show that wolves howl more frequently during the breeding season and subsequent rearing process. The pups themselves begin howling towards the end of July, and can be provoked into howling sessions relatively easily over the following two months. Such indiscriminate howling usually has a communicative intent, and has no adverse consequences so early in a wolf's life. Howling becomes less indiscriminate as wolves learn to distinguish howling pack members from rival wolves.

 

 

 

 

 

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