Terrestrial Animals, Pacific Northwest
Wolves of the coastal rainforest By Twyla Roscovich
The gray wolf is the largest member of the dog family. They have a shared ancestry with domestic dogs and coyotes. Scientists consider the gray wolf to be the species from which most other wolf subspecies evolved.
They communicate using a wide range of howls, barks, and whines. As a young man I had the opportunity to cowboy on a ranch in central BC, and every night, I would fall asleep to the sound of wolves howling. It was incredible!
These animals live 6 -8 years in the wild, although some wild ones have lived up to 13 years. In captivity, they have lived as long as 17 years. The gray wolf is extremely adaptable and is one of those animal species that survived the last ice age. The gray wolf’s physical characteristics enabled it to adapt quickly to the harsh conditions of the ice age, and its cunning helped it to survive in the changing environment.
They typically prey on large animals, such as deer and elk. They eat smaller mammals, as well, such as muskrats and beavers, in addition to fish, birds, and fruit. Wolves are also scavengers and will eat the flesh of animals killed by other predators. When wolves find ample food or hunt successfully, they eat their fill. A single wolf may consume as much as 20 pounds of meat in a single feeding! These wolves are social animals. They usually live and hunt in packs of 6 – 10 members, and often range over long distances in a single day. Members of a wolf pack will hunt together, working cooperatively to bring down much larger prey. Wolf packs follow a strict hierarchy, with an alpha male and omega female at the top. The Alpha male and female are usually the only two wolves in the pack that breed. All of the adult wolves in the pack help to care for the pups.
By the mid-’30s, most of them in the United States had been killed. Today, the gray wolf’s North American range has been reduced to Canada, parts of Alaska, and a few other States. There is a large population of gray wolves on Vancouver Island.