There are two species of wolves in North America. Canis Lupus or the North American Grey Wolf, and Canis Rufus- the Eastern Red Wolf.
While the Canis Lupus is commonly called the Gray wolf or Canadian Timber, there are actually several different color phases. They are Gray, Black,White, Brown,Red and even Brindled.
The North American Gray wolf is said to be a survivor of the Ice Age, originating about 300,000 years ago. The male matures to about 150 to 175 pounds though some have been known to be a good bit larger.
The wolf is a fur bearing animal which is one of the ways it differs from most dogs. During the winter wolves put on a very heavy under coat which insulates them from harsh winter weather. The outer hair or "Guard Hair" is much longer and is hollow inside. The hollow guard hair also helps to insulate the wolf from the harsh northern climates they are most likely to be found living in.
Wolves live in a structured society called a pack. Only the Alpha Male and Female mate. There are three social classes according to most authorities. The social classes are Alpha, Beta and Omega. The Alpha is the upper class, Betas are middle class and the Omega is the lower class. We personally have seen that there are actually at least two more transitional classes. These are classes where Alphas may be forced to a lower class by a stronger animal, or a Beta Moving upward because of a weaker Alpha. The same is true between the Beta and Omega classes.
Wolves are carnivorous predators who generally live by following the herd animals in their home range.
Another interesting fact about wolves are that they are monogamous, meaning they mate for life. While only the Alpha pair mate, every member of the pack look after the babies. In most packs, the Omegas will stay near the den with the cubs and protect them with their lives while the rest of the pack hunts.
While the term cub is used for the young by many, the term pup is also used. The difference is only one of professional opinion and both are correct.
The wolf has only three primary natural enemies that may be a threat to them in their territory. These natural enemies are Mountain Lions, Bears and Humans.
There are many stories designed to cause us to fear wolves, these are basically incorrect. Wolves are not a natural threat to humans, though just like any wild animal if they are cornered, hungry, sick wounded or have young, they may possibly attack humans. Sine humans are not on the food chain for wolves, humans are not generally in danger from wolves and wolves will more often than not avoid humans when possible.
Wolves are one of the natural predators of North America that is most important to a balanced ecosystem, preying primarily on weaker and sick herd animals. They keep the Moose, Elk and Deer herds moving and vigilant, thus making the herds stronger and more durable.
Wolves at one time could be found through out almost all of North America, though today there are few wolves compared to what once roamed across the country.
Canis Rufus, the Eastern Red Wolf is a much smaller wolf than the Canadian Timber. The male Canis Rufus matures at around 100 to 125 pounds while the females somewhat smaller, mature at between 75 and 100 pounds.
The Eastern Red Wolf almost became extinct. There were less than four hundred left in existence In 1972, Marlin Perkins and a group of experts gathered up the remaining Red Wolves into captivity. They were red in captivity and in the early 90's three releases were made. One in Tenneesee, one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina..Recovery for the Red Wolf, native to the East and South Eastern United States has been slow.
The small numbers left in existence has made it a very difficult process but today, there are more than 600 in existence. While there will never be Red Wolves through out the Eastern Range they once traveled, they do still exist, for now at least.
At one time the howl of the wolves could be heard all across the United States. For many it is a frightening sound, for others, it is a very beautiful sound. Wolves do not as some people believe, howl at the moon. They howl to communicate with each other. If members of the pack become separated from the pack, they howl to locate the pack. Wolves have a distinctive howl and these howls can be heard by the pack as far as ten miles away.
Wolves also make many other sounds besides howling. They yip, bark, whine and converse with numerous different vocalizations. The deeper voices tend to belong to the more dominant wolves while subordinates tend to have a higher pitch howl. Cubs are generally not allowed to howl and are admonished for it because it would alert an invading pack or an enemy of the presence of cubs in the pack.
Howls are also used to warn other packs that they have entered an established pack territory. Since wolves are very territorial, they do not tolerate invasion easily.