North American Timber Wolf
The North American Gray Wolf, also known as the timber wolf, is
the largest wild member of the dog family. A large male wolf
can be over three feet tall at the shoulder and weigh as much
as 130 pounds. Females are generally about 20% smaller. Their
thick double-layered coats might be white, gray, brown, red, or
When measured from nose to the tip of the tail, adult gray
wolves are generally between 40 and 80 inches long, with narrow
chests and powerful legs that can propel them to 40 miles per
History of the Timber Wolf
once ranged much of North America, but now only Canada, Alaska,
and a few pockets in some of the northern US states sustain
healthy breeding populations. As human populations have
expanded, the wolves’ habitat has become smaller and smaller.
Seen as a threat to domestic stock, many of the carnivores have
been killed by man.
Timber Wolf Behavior
Wolves are social animals and live in packs made up of several
animals that are usually related. The average size pack is
comprised of 6 or 7 individuals, but some packs might have
almost 20 members. Each pack has a leader called an alpha,
usually the biggest, strongest male. The alpha determines hunts
and makes other critical decisions for the pack.
Each pack has its own territory, with a range of over 250
square miles. If food and water sources are abundant, a pack’s
range will be smaller. In some areas, one pack’s territory
might overlap another pack’s hunting range, but wolf packs
prefer not to encounter each other. When they do, a fight
ensues. In some areas, half of all wolf deaths are caused by
other wolves. Wolves will also kill members of their own pack
when one is injured or ill.
New packs are started when a wolf breaks from
the group and becomes a “lone wolf” until it finds a mate
and begins its own family group.
Timber Wolf Breeding
Wolves mate for life and breed in late winter or early spring,
depending on the region. Usually only the alpha male and the
alpha female are allowed to breed, but the entire pack helps in
the raising of the young. Occasionally, the alpha male will
mate with one or more subordinate females in addition to the
In spring and summer, while the pups are small,
the pack’s hunts center near the home den. By autumn, the
pups are strong enough to join the adults on hunts.
Wolves are apex predators and are typically at the top of the
food chain. Hunting is usually a group affair and takes place
at night. Timber wolves are opportunistic feeders and hunt elk,
deer, moose, caribou, bison, Dall sheep, birds, beaver,
rabbits, fish, and even insects. Many hunts are relatively
short – about 100 yards – but some can be over 3 miles long.
When there is a proper balance between hunter and prey, the
wolf helps keep prey animal populations healthy by killing the
old and sick, which are generally the easiest targets. Wolves
also target young animals and pregnant females, since they’re
not as swift as the rest of the heard. When food is scarce,
wolves will resort to cannibalism in order to survive.