"Asprey becomes more scarce in winter months wolf packs become morenomadic, often traveling up to 60 miles per day in their quest forfood. Wolves are well adapted for traveling through deep snow withtheir long legs and large, wide paws that work like snowshoes oncrusted snow.
Duringparticularly deep snows, wolves travel in single file, allowingmembers toward the back of the line to save energy. They will alsouse trails created by other animals. During blizzards, wolves oftencurl their tails over their paws and nose and let the snow covertheir bodies completely, thus providing insulation from the wind andcold.
Wolffur consists of two layers-an overcoat of long, sleek hairs and adowny undercoat that is so thick that a human finger pressed into itcannot penetrate to the wolf's skin."
"Themating season for northern altitude wolves begins in February.Typically, only the alpha (leader) pair will mate. Subordinate malepack members that attempt to mate may be severely disciplined by thealpha male, and female pack members by the alpha female.
Thealpha male and his mate seen quite playful and affectionate duringthis time, chasing and greeting each other, nipping the other's faceand ears, and grooming one another. The mating pair will often slipaway from the pack when the female is in estrus, their union creatingthe one liter of the year.
Wolvesreach sexual maturity by the age of 3, 4 or 5, but usually do notreproduce unless they achieve the alpha ranking or break off from thepack."
"Withthe tense period of mating over, the pack's former affability andfriendliness toward one another has resumed. The Pack's nomadictendencies give way to a more stationary lifestyle centered around aden site selected for the birth of the litter.
Densare reused year to year and are most often dug out of the sides ofhills with water found nearby. The tunnel leading back to a slightlylarger inner chamber may extend from a few feet deep to as far backas 20 feet. Usually, only the pregnant female is allowed in the den.
Densites are usually higher than the surrounding ground, allowing thepack to watch over a large area."
"Theentire pack serves in some capacity while the wolf pups are reared.Females often "baby-sit" the pups while the alpha femaleresumes hunting activity, and each pack member provides food for the5 to 12 hungry wolf pups.
Pupslick and nuzzle the mouth or head of an adult returning from a hunt,stimulating the adult to regurgitate partially digested meat. Adultsoften have to make several long trips from the kill to the den toensure the young are well fed, and at times must retreat to hiddenareas so they can digest a meal without sharing it.
Wolfpups emerge from their dark den about three weeks after birth andbegin playing, exploring and resting with the rest of the pack."
"Thealpha female, now the dominant wolf in the pack until the pups areold enough to travel, often decides to relocate to a new den when theyoung are a few months old.
Atthis age, the pups play a great deal. They are a constant bother tothe adult pack members which show a remarkably high tolerance forrough-housing pups. Early wrestling contests between litter matesalready demonstrate signs of hierarchical positioning, with the toppup showing dominance by standing over a defeated sibling in a rigidpose with tail erect.
Duringthe move to a new den site, pack members will station themselves atboth sites to protect the offspring until the move is complete."
"Territoriesof wolf packs range from 20 to 150 square miles depending on theavailability of food. The alpha male marks th pack's territory byurinating on tree stumps and other conspicuous objects along theperimeter. These scent stations are checked and freshened frequentlywhen the pack is making its rounds along the boundary of itsterritory. Though it rarely happens, a loner wolf or another wolfpack that violates the resident pack's territory will be met with avicious defensive attack.
Territoriesbetween wolf packs are separated by "buffer zones" whichare not regularly patrolled or defended. Not surprisingly, preyanimals tend to congregate in these buffer zones."
"Everywolf pack has a social structure and every member has a certain rankin the hierarchy. Below the alpha male is a beta male who is dominantover all other males. The alpha female is dominant over all otherfemales and most males.
Thishighly organized structure is maintained though an organized,predictable set of behaviors. The dominant wolf will approach asubordinate with tail up, ears forward and mouth open. Thelower-ranking wolf will lower its tail or tuck it between its legs,lay back its ears and may even lie down, exposing its stomach to themore dominant wolf. A dominant wolf and a subordinate will alwaysshow their rank whenever they meet.
An"outcast" is the lowest ranking wolf in a pack. Remaining onthe periphery of the pack, it is forced to survive on the scrapsleft by the rest of the pack."
"Nextto humans, wolves may be the most adaptable of all animals. Wolvescan live in almost any climate; a few are found in deserts ortropical forests. Given enough wilderness to roam and sufficientnumbers of prey, wolves can survive and thrive almost anywhere.
Akeen sense of smell, good hearing and good vision combine to make thewolf an effective hunter in virtually every type of habitat. Inheavily wooded areas where visibilty is limited, wolves rely more ontheir sense of smell to locate prey. In mountainous areas wolves sitatop ridges for hours waiting for prey to move below them.
Wolveshave good vision and a keen sense of smell, able to detect a deerfrom more than a mile away."
"Thefirst autumn through winter is a critical time for wolf pups. Theymust learn how to hunt and fend for themselves because once a newlitter is born in spring, some of them will be driven away from thepack's domain by the alpha pair.
Atabout one-half the size of adults, they are old enough to travel manymiles roaming each night in search of prey. Only observing at first,the young wolves learn which animals to attack, how the pack workstogether in a chase, and how to kill running prey, all valuablelessons they will call upon in the years ahead.
Adolescentwolves from the year's litter now travel with the pack on hunts. Atfirst they only watch the adults hunting tactics and kills but willsoon begin to join in the action."
"Preferring to hunt at night, wolves feed primarily on large mammals such as deermoose and caribou. Hunting as a pack, wolves try to surprise prey,cut off its retreat, or ambush it.
Onaverage, only 1 in 10 animals tested will be killed, usually the old,young, sick or injured. Once wolves are able to wound their prey witha crushing bite to the exposed rump or hamstring, the pack willpounce ont their quarry and finish the kill with 2-inch-long fangsand an incredible jaw strength of 1,500 pounds per square inch.
Wolvescan run at bursts of speed of up to 35 mph but will abandon a chasequickly if a kill is unlikely or if a formidable prey puts up astrong defense."
"Tosome, the howl of a wolf is haunting, sad, or spine-chilling. Toothers, it is the beautiful, untamed song of the wilderness. Towolves, it serves a variety of purposes.
Howlingis sometimes used during a hunt to communicate position. Certainvocalizations are used when members are separated from the pack. Apack will also howl to communicate territory. Each wolf in the choruswill howl on a different note, making the pack seem larger than itreally is. Chorus howling is also heard after a successful hunt. Inaddition to sending messages, howling reinforces pack unity which mayexplain why wolves sometimes seem to howl for no reason other thanthe joy of it.
Awolf separated from its pack may issue a "lonesome howl."If answered, the wolf switches to a "location" howl that isdeeper, more even and often punctuated by barks."
"Becausea pack cannot always absorb an entire litter of pups each year due tolimited food supplies, some adolescents may be driven from the packin the winter months. Sometimes the rejected wolf can find anotherlone wolf of the opposite sex and the two of them can begin a newpack. Though it is rare, these loner wolves are sometimes able tojoin neighboring packs. More often than not, however, the solitarywolf will die of starvation before spring arrives.
Thoughseemingly harsh, ostracizing young is sometimes necessary if the packis to survive on them limited prey in the territory. It is one of themany ways the balance of nature is maintained.
Somewolves that reach sexual maturity of 22 months may leave the pack toestablish a new territory, find a mate and begin a new pack."