In fairy tales, wolves get a bad rap– the Big Bad Wolf is something we teach children to watch out for. But wolves are actually highly intelligent, social animals. They live in packs made up of a male and female couple and their adult children– in North America, the average pack is made of eight wolves. They communicate with each other through howls, barks, growls, and whines, as well as through visual cues like the position of their ears and tails, and through their scents. Wolves also use their keen senses to track their prey over large territories, and they are excellent hunters. A wolf hunting alone can sometimes bring down an animal as big as a bison or moose, though they also eat smaller prey like rabbits.
Despite their intelligence and skills as hunters, wolf populations are much lower than they used to be, largely due to the destruction of the wolves’ habitats. Places where wolves used to be able to live and hunt have been cleared for farmland and other human uses, and their prey, including bison, have been killed or driven away. In several US states where wolves used to be plentiful, they are now endangered. But there’s hope for the wolves: protecting land where wolves live and reintroducing wolves and other native animals are starting to help them make a comeback!
Photo by Gary Kramer