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More About Wolves ...
The Wolf or Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) is a mammal of the Canidae family and the ancestor of the domestic dog.

Wolves once had an almost worldwide distribution, but are now limited primarily to North America, Eurasia, and the Middle East. Their preference on habitat ranges among Forests, Tundra, Taigas, Plains and Mountains. In the northern hemisphere, human encroachment on their habitat and persecution of the animals themselves have drastically reduced their range. The wolf is today frequently in the line of fire in conflicts between many different interests: Tourism/Industry, City/Country as well as Conservation/Exploitation.

As the wolf is a top predator the state of the wolf can frequently be seen as a state of the land where it lives.

Wolves function as social predators and hunt in packs organised according to a strict social hierarchy and led by an alpha male and alpha female. This social structure allows the wolf to take prey many times its size. The size of the pack changes during the year and is controlled by factors such as mortality and food supply. Generally it's between 2 and 12, even if packs with more than 30 has been recorded. The hierarchy of the pack is strict, with the alpha on top and the omega at the bottom. The hierarchy controls all activity in the pack, from which wolf eats first to who is allowed to breed (generally only the alpha pair). Between the extremes of the alpha and the omega there is generally a beta pair, contesters for the alpha position that will take it if any of the alpha wolves are killed. Also, depending on the season there might be a number of pups and yearlings.

New packs are formed when a wolf leaves its birth pack and claims a territory. Wolves searching for other wolves to form packs with or suitable territories can travel very long distances. Packs frequently break apart when the alpha pair is killed.

The wolf is somewhat opportunistic and will eat what it comes across as long as it is reasonably fresh. Packs of wolves hunt any large herbivore in their range, while lone wolves are more prone to take eat anything the come across, including rodents. The hunting methods ranges from surprise attacks on smaller animals such as rabbits and rodents to long lasting chases. Wolves can chase large prey for several hours before giving up, but the success rate is rather low.

Livestock predation
As long as there are enough prey animals, wolves seem to avoid taking livestock. However, some problem animals can specialize in hunting livestock. Sheep are frequently the most vulnerable, while horses and cattle are at less of a risk. Wolf-secure fences and the killing of problem animals are today the only known methods to effectively stop livestock predation.

Wolves communicate with a wide range of sounds, from yips and growls to howls. Howls are frequently used to summon the pack to a location, announce their presence to other packs or simply to reinforce the bounds in the pack. Wolves howl more frequently when they have something to protect, such as a freshly killed prey or a border of their territory, and less frequently when avoiding conflicts with other packs.

Normally, only the alpha pair of the pack breed. This kind of organisation also occurs in other pack-hunting canids, such as the Dhole and the African Hunting Dog. Mating usually occurs in February to May and wolves, unlike dogs, only mate once a year. The gestation period is 6163 days and the pups are born completely dependent on their mother. The wolf is sexually mature at two years old

The oldest recorded free wolf was 16 years old. There has been reports of captive wolves reaching 20 years (not much unlike dogs). However the mean age of wolves is rather low. The mortality among pups is high, few survive the first winter. The most important mortality factors for grown wolves are hunting/poaching, car accidents, conflicts with other wolves and wounds from hunting. All diseases that affect dogs also affect wolves, including mange and rabies, and can from time to time wipe out the wolf population in an area. Wolves adjust rather well to fluctuations in prey populations, so mass starvation is unusual.

Relation to the domestic dog
Much debate has occurred over the relationship between the wolf and the domestic dog. Most authorities see the wolf as the dog's direct ancestor, but others have postulated descent from the Golden Jackal. Because the canids have evolved recently and different canids interbreed fairly readily, untangling the true relationships has presented difficulties. However, molecular systematics now indicate very strongly that domestic dogs and wolves are more closely related than either is to any other canid, and the domestic dog is now normally classified as a subspecies of the wolf, Canis lupus familiaris

The classification of wolves and closely allied creatures offers many challenges. Although taxonomists have proposed many species over the years, most types clearly do not comprise true species. Indeed, only a single wolf species may exist. Scientists have proposed a host of subspecies. Many of these seem unlikely to stand. Further taxonomic clarification may well take decades.

In the United States wolves are making a comeback; not only are they slowly but surely coming back autonomously from the north, they are also being successfully reintroduced like in Wyoming. It is curious to note that farmers prefer reintroduction as this often allows for culling when livestock are imperiled while truly wild animals are protected by law.

Wolves in folklore
In many ancient myths, the wolf was portrayed as brave, honourable, and intelligent. The best examples of these myths can be seen in those of the Native Americans.

In more modern western folklore, the wolf is a creature to be feared. The iconic examples of this image are the werewolf and the Big Bad Wolf. In Norse mythology, Fenris is a giant wolf beast that is feared by the gods. Human fear of the wolf is responsible for most of the trouble the species has received, and the reason it was nearly hunted out of existence. However, in the 20th century, with the new knowledge of wolves and the growing respect for Native American folklore, the animal has been generally depicted much more positively.

Despite their often negative image, wolves have variously been credited, in mythology, fiction and reality, with adopting, nursing and raising human Feral children. The most famous examples being Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, and Mowgli of The Jungle Book.
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Source: Wikipedia Read more about Wolves
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