Vilified in legend and lore, the timber wolf once roamed vast areas of the world, but thanks to man, this apex predator now has a much more limited range.
Despite population decimation, this grey wolf subspecies continues to survive, and we are learning much more about them!
The Timberwolf Is the World’s Largest Wild Canine
There are numerous species of timber wolf, but the largest is the Mackenzie Valley wolf. This timber wolf subspecies is native to Alaska and the Northwestern United States. Compared to the smallest gray wolf species, the Arabian wolf, the timber wolf has a ninety-five-pound advantage.
The Mackenzie wolf is the largest wild canid, reaching three and one-third feet tall at the withers, between five and seven feet long, and weighing as much as one hundred forty pounds. Like many species, the female timberwolf is smaller than the male and weighs around one hundred pounds.
The Timber Wolf Has an Incredible Appetite
The adult timberwolf can eat as much as twenty pounds of meat in a single sitting – allowing them to go without food for days and sometimes weeks. An ability to survive through feast and famine is exceptionally beneficial since only twenty percent of hunts are successful.
Timberwolves hunt in family packs ranging in size from a mated pair to a group of thirty made up of a mated pair and their adult offspring. Experts have interestingly noted that hunts are more successful when carried out by a mated pair or a lone wolf than by large packs.
Healthy wolves prefer to hunt wild animals rather than livestock and track caribou, moose, deer, and musk oxen. As hunts for large prey items often fail, timberwolves frequently eat small rodents, rabbits, crabs, fish, and carrion.
Every Wolf in The Pack Has a Unique Howl
Timberwolves – like all wolves, use howling to communicate. Wolves in the pack howl to communicate with each other – for example, calling the pack to hunt – and to interact with nearby wolf packs – for example, warning them against trespassing in their territory.
Timberwolves even have accents! Researchers have identified specific howls and attributed them to different canid species. So far, twenty-one canine “dialects” have been recorded.
In addition to Timberwolves having a unique dialect, individual wolves within the pack have their own howl. Researchers have found that they can identify individual wolves 100% of the time based on sound analysis of their vocals. Wolves within the pack can distinguish each other’s unique voices, too!
The Timberwolf Is Well-Traveled
A timberwolf pack can inhabit a territory of between 30 and 1,200 square miles! The size of the wolf pack territory depends on the number of neighboring wolf packs. If a wolf pack lives in an area surrounded by many competing wolf packs, its home range tends to be smaller and easier to defend.
How far can a wolf travel in one day with such a potentially large territory? In a single day, the average wolf roams around twelve miles, but some wolves roam between 40 and 50 miles daily while searching for food.
How far a wolf travels during a day depends on a number of factors, including the age and health of wolves in the pack, the terrain they are crossing, whether food is available, and the season of the year.
Timberwolves are Family Animals
Wolves traditionally mate for life and have between four and six pups per litter. Those pups remain with their parents for at least a year to learn the intricacies of hunting. Once they are adept hunters, the wolf pups may stay with the pack or leave to find a mate and form their own group.
Familial packs create a more secure environment because grey wolves instinctively protect family members from outsiders. Family packs are also beneficial because the wolves function as a community, helping to raise younger siblings and care for the lead female after giving birth.
Living in a family (or “natal”) pack creates a more cohesive environment for the wolf pack. Where other wolf packs may be classified by the alpha, beta, and omega hierarchy, family packs do not conform to this model. In family packs, the breeding pair leads their wolf pack, dictates individual roles, and oversees food distribution.