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Scientific classification

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae, comprises 13 genera with 38 species
Genus: Canis, 8 species
Species: Canis lupus

Subspecies: Canis lupus lupus

Range / Habitat

Once abundant over the whole of Europe as far as Russia and central Asia; due to human persecution, reduction of the species' range; large gaps between the populations today; please refer to Distribution in Europe; very adaptable, many climatic zones and habitats; sufficient prey animals and sites of retreat are important for the wolves' survival.

Physical dimensions

Shoulder height: approx. 60-90 cm
Head/body length: approx. 100-140 cm
Tail length: approx. 30-70 cm
Weight: approx. 30-45 kg

Mostly significantly larger than a German Shepherd dog; females' weight and size is typically 15-20% less than that of males on average.

Physical characteristics

Largest member of the family of Canidae; well-proportioned, powerful body structure; perfectly adapted to move over large distances; heavily muscled neck, large rib cage, slender abdominal area, long legs

Coat colour

Yellow-brown to grey with partly redder tones; exhibit a "saddle patch", a lighter patch of hair in the middle of the shoulder area with dark "saddle lines"; black tip of the tail; faces are often coloured with lots of contrast, but without a mask, light to white coloured muzzle and throat; comparatively small, triangular, always upright ears, with light-coloured and densely furred insides, slanting light yellow-brown to yellow-green eyes

Reproduction

Monoestric (once a year); mating season: January to March; gestation: 61-64 days (mostly 63 days); birth of pups: end of April / beginning of May; litter size: approx. 1-11 (usually 4-6) pups; appear in front of the wolf's den at an age of approx. 3 weeks; the pups are nursed for up to 6-8 weeks; fully mature at about 10 months of age; mostly reproductive at about 22 months of age

Senses

Good night vision thanks to tapetum lucidum (special light-reflecting surface in the eye) and densely spaced rods on the retina, 250° degree vision (human: 180°);
Good sense of hearing: can hear up to a frequency of 40 kHz (human: 20 kHz), can hear other wolves' howling from a distance of 6.4 to 9.6 km;
Highly developed sense of smell: can get the scent of prey animals and members of the same species at a distance of up to 2 km; surface of wolf's olfactory epithelium: 130 cm² (human: 5 cm²)

Howling

heuler klMarking the territory acoustically and making contact with members of the same species

Communication

kommunikation neuVariety of forms of communication as adaptation to living in a pack; have a varied repertoire of facial expressions, body language, gestures, sounds (e.g. growl, howl, whines and whimpers) and producing of odours; postures and visual features also for social communication with members of the same species (e.g. fear, joy); scent plays an important role when it comes to recognising individual animals of the pack and their condition at the time (e.g. heat) as well as to making territorial claims (urine and scat marks).

Activity

If heavily disturbed by humans, mostly active in the twilight and at night (adapted to their preys' behaviour); regularly cover long distances within the territory (10 to 30 km per day); during dispersal distances of 50 to 60 km per day are possible; endurance runner, moving at a direct register trot at a pace of about 8 to 10 km/h, may reach speeds approaching 50 km/h during a chase for a short time; good swimmer

Diseases

Rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus, scabies, lyme borreliosis and others (the same as in dogs)

Life expectancy

Approx. 10-13 years; mostly high mortality within the first two years of life, maximum age in captivity up to 18 years

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