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Photo of a Gray Wolf Looking and Listening for Prey

Gray Wolf
(Canis lupus)

A lone gray wolf takes a rest in the treesThe gray wolf, also known as the timber wolf, looks a bit like a shaggy German Shepherd. They usually have a bushy tail and pointy ears. Their fur can range from white to gray-brown to black. They can weigh between 50 and 100 pounds, but average about 65 pound. The wolf is currently on the Endangered Species list, but lives throughout Michigan's Upper Peninsula. After almost becoming extinct by 1910, a survey by Department of Natural Resources in 2001 found that at least 278 wolves live in the UP.

Two wolf pups sit in the sun and take in the sights and smellsDuring April, wolves have litters of six to ten pups. The pups are born in a den, usually a cave or underground burrow. The female Gray wolves takes care of them for the first few weeks. After they are weaned, the pups spend part of their day on their own at a "rendezvous site" which is usually in a grassy meadow. Here they practice their hunting on bugs and small rodents like mice. When the adult wolves return from hunting they disgorge meat they have eaten so that the pups can have it. They live in family units called packs. These usually include an alpha (leader) male and an alpha female, their pups, and a few other unrelated wolves. The average pack size is about six, but this depends on how A white wolf licks its lips and silently stalks its lunchmuch prey is available in its area.

A pack of wolves has a territory of about 100 square miles. Wolves can trot without stopping for up to 20 hours, helping them to cover large distances in a short amount of time. Wolves hunt both alone and in packs. They prey mainly on deer, beaver, snowshoe After a hard run, this gray wolf stops for a breathhares, rodents and other small animals. They eat their kill as quickly as possible to keep other animals from stealing it. After eating the best parts, wolves sometimes try to hide the rest for later. They can eat up to 20 pounds of meat at one time and can go as long as a week without eating again. Their digestion system is very efficient so that they can eat again after only a few hours. Bits of sharp bone in their stomachs become wrapped in hair that has also been swallowed so that it doesn't poke or puncture their intestines. They also eat berries, bugs, and grasses when prey is hard to find.

Using its strong voice, this gray wolf lets out a howl to let other wolves nearby know where it isWolves communicate with each other in many ways. They mark their territory and use body language such as a lowered head or tail to let other wolves know who is in charge or how they are feeling. Scientists believe that they howl for many reasons such as calling the rest of the pack after a kill or helping to reunite the pack as it roams over its large territory. The low pitch of a howl helps it to travel long distances.

Illustration of wolf paw print, not to scaleTo find out more about the gray wolf, check out the following links:

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