Gray Wolf

Characteristics

Gray wolves are the largest members of the dog family, Canidae.  There are many subspecies of the gray wolf, including the dingo, arctic wolf, and domestic dog.  Wolves have thick fur with a dense undercoat, which provides them with protection from cold.  Generally these wolves range in color from black to nearly white, and all shades of gray or brown in between.  Wolves live and hunt in packs, allowing them to take on larger prey, and they have very large feet with some webbing between the toes, which helps them run on snowy surfaces.   

Behavior

Wolf social structure is quite complex, consisting of a dominance hierarchy.  A wolf’s place in the hierarchy determines when it is allowed to eat and is enforced by behavior cues like muzzle licking and tail position.  Wolves are easily recognized by their howl, which helps pack members locate each other and keep rival packs out of their territory.  Wolves also use scent marking to communicate.  Only certain wolves in the pack breed, but all individuals help care for the pups. 

Did You Know?

  • Wolves eat the entire carcass of their prey, including bones and hair.
  • Wolves have special blood vessels in their feet to keep their paw pads from freezing.

Our Animals

There are 2 wolves that call PPZ their home. Bella and Tala are both female. Bella is 13 years old and came to Potter Park in 2009. Tala arrived in January of 2012 from a zoo in New York and she is 3 years old.  Because of their thick fur, Michigan winters don’t faze them, especially when they have cozy shelters lined with blankets and straw. 

Video

Scientific Name Canis lupus
Conservation Status IUCN: Least Concern
Size Wolves weigh from 75 to 150 pounds, and can range in length from 34 to 50 inches, not including the tail.
Average Lifespan Wolves usually live about 8 years in the wild, but can live up to 15 years in captivity.
Wild Diet If living in a large enough pack, wolves take down large prey like elk, moose, and caribou. Lone wolves or those living in very small packs eat small mammals like beaver and rabbits. Wolves will also steal kills from other animals and eat carrion.
Due to habitat destruction and over-hunting, they are now only found in Canada and parts of Europe and Asia