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Timber Wolf

Timber Wolves (Canis lupus) are also known as the Common Wolf or Gray Wolf. The actual origin of the Wolf is a highly debated topic. The most likely candidate so far is Canis lepophagus (Hare-eating Wolf), a small canid found in North America during the Miocene Epoche 10.3 million years ago through to the early Pleistocene Epoche 1.8 million years ago. This small canid spread over the northern hemisphere in various evolutionary forms. The first Timber Wolf evolved in Eurasia about a 1,000,000 years ago and migrated to North America about 750,000 years ago. When they arrived in North America they found another Canis species the Dire Wolf (Canis dirus) which is larger and heavier than the Timber Wolf. These two co-existed for about 400,000 years but due to changing climate and reduction of the Dire Wolves food source they finally went extinct about 7000 years ago. Since then the Timber Wolf or Gray Wolf has spread out over the Northern Hemisphere as the apex Canid predator.

Timber or Gray Wolf is the largest member of the Canidae family with the exception of certain breeds of domestic dog. Their size can vary tremendously with geographical location but have a tendency to increase as latitude increases. This evolution is dependent on their environment, as northern food sources tend to be larger in the case of Moose, Elk and Buffulo. The larger size also helps the in the winter time as a larger body hold more heat longer than a small body. The exception to this rule is the Arctic Wolf which has special adaptations to survive in the very cold Arctic regions. Adult wolves are 105–160 cm (41–63 in) in length and 80–85 cm (32–34 in) in shoulder height, the tail is usually about 2/3's of the body length. The European Timber wolf is slightly heavier than it's North American cousins, weighing in at 38.5 kilograms (85 lb) to 36 kilograms (79 lb) for the average North American Timber Wolves. Females in any given wolf population typically weigh 5–10 lbs less than males. Wolves weighing over 54 kg (120 lbs) are uncommon, though exceptionally large individuals have been recorded in Alaska, Canada, and the former Soviet Union.

Timber Wolves have very dense fur and like their arctic cousins have an under layer and a longer layer. The Guard hairs are long and course and give wolves most of their individual colour pattern. The longest hairs occur on the back, particularly on the front quarters and neck. Especially long hairs are found on the shoulders, and almost form a crest on the upper part of the neck. The hairs on the cheeks are elongated and form tufts. Coat colour ranges from almost pure white through various shades of blond, cream, and ochre to grays, browns, and blacks. The under layer is a softer downy insulating layer that helps to keep them warm in northern winters. Most of the two layers will be shed in the spring to keep the animal cooler during the summer and is grown again during the fall.

The Timber Wolf senses have a different priority than the Arctic Wolves where smell is their most important sense. In Timber Wolves their sense of smell is not as good as some breeds of domestic dogs. They can only small carrion from about 2-3kms away. However their hearing is exceptional and they can hear up to a frequency of 26 Khz and is better than a fox. Their daytime eyesight is good but some domestic dogs have better. However, their night vision is the most developed of all the Canidae family.

Female wolves usually become receptive to reproduction in the late winter. Once the female becomes pregnant she spends most of her time in the den, which is normally located away from territorial boundries. The gestation period last 62-75 days and pups are usually born in early summer. There are usually 5-6 pups in a regular litter, with really large litters happening rarely. Litter sizes vary depending on availability of prey in their territory. More abundant prey years tends to lead to larger litters and low prey years lead to smaller litters. The pups are born deaf and blind and can see after 9-12 days. They leave the den after about 3 weeks and increase their weight rapidly in the first 4 months of life. Pups will nurse for 3-4 weeks and are then weaned onto solid food.

Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolves (Canis lupus arctos) also called Polar Wolf or White Wolf is a subspecies of Gray Wolf or Canis lupus. They inhabit the Canadian Arctic, Islands, parts of Alaska and the northern part of Greenland. These territories are some of the most inhospitable areas in the world with temperatures that rarely go above -30C or -22F. Arctic Wolves have gone though some physical adaptations that make it easier to survive in this extreme cold. They have a smaller body than their southern cousins, their ears have decreased in size to reduce heat loss and reduce chance of freezing, they have a shorter snout and their legs are shorter to reduce exposure to frigid air. Their fur has also been adapted to help them survive in the cold. Arctic Wolves have a dual layer coat. The top layer consists of long guard hairs and the under layer is a soft thick downy layer similar to that found in Eider Ducks. This downy layer traps body heat and protects their skin from frostbite.

Arctic Wolves travel in packs from 2 to 20 depending on how much food is in their territory. Their regular prey is usually Caribou and Muskox, but they will also hunt Arctic Hare, lemmings, ptarmigans, seals and waterfowl. Each pack has a large area up 1000 sq. miles and move around following their prey. Wolves do not waste any of their kills and will eat the bones as well. Bones contain marrow which is a great source of fats that produce energy during the cold winter months.

Due to the fact Arctic Wolves live in an area of permafrost or permanently frozen ground it is difficult to dig a den like other wolf varieties. So they Alpha female will look for rock outcropping, caves or depressions in the ground. They usually have 2-3 pups but can have up to a dozen. If depends on scarcity of food in the region. In times of lower available food they will have less pups and in times of high food availability they will have more pups. The pups are born in late May to early June. Like other mammals the pups are born blind and deaf and weigh about a pound. They stay in the den for about three weeks and are dependent on their mother and pack for food, protection and warmth. After about three weeks they start venturing out of the den area and start exploring the world around the den area.

The Arctic Wolves greatest sense is their sense of smell. With their sense of smell they gather a tremendous amount of information. They learn to recognize their pack mates and as pups they learn their mother's smell which is very important in the first couple of weeks when they cannot see or hear. Adults use their sense of smell to locate prey that are too far to see, and mark their territory that borders along other packs territories. The Alpha Male uses smell to judge the Alpha Females state during the breeding season. The next important sense Arctic Wolves have is their hearing. In the open wolves can hear things 10 miles away. Their eye site is also very important to them and like most mammalian predators their eyes are forward on their head which gives them 3D vision with a radius of 180 degrees. Three dimensional vision is very important when trying to judge distance from objects.

All Wolf Pictures Copyright Michael Cummings and Bill Maynard ©

Arctic Wolf Galleries:    Arctic Wolves In Action  |  Arctic Wolves At Rest  |  Arctic Wolf Portraits  |  Arctic Wolf Pups
Timber Wolf Galleries:    Timber Wolves In Action  |  Timber Wolf At Rest  |  Timber Wolf Portraits  |  Timber Wolf Pups
Black Wolf Galleries:    Black Wolves
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