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Wolf Info
Eastern Timber Wolf (Canis lups lycaon)

Description: The eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) was the first subspecies of the gray wolf, Canis lupus, to be recognized in the United States. Canis lupus lycaon inhabited the eastern portions of the United States and southeastern parts of Canada.

Habitat and Range: The eastern timber wolf has occupied most habitats and topography except deserts and high mountaintops, including forest edges, swamp borders, second growth boreal forests, and areas interspersed with fields and woodland openings. The eastern timber wolf was virtually exterminated by the early 1900s throughout its historic range in the northeastern United States. Although there are unconfirmed sightings of wolves in Vermont and Maine, and a confirmed shooting of a wolf in Maine in 1993, there is no evidence of breeding activity in the region.

Image of an Eastern Timber Wolf
Courtesy Derek Meier
Behavior and Communication: The wolf pack is one of nature's most sophisticated social orders, as well as one of the most intensively studied. A wolf pack is usually a family group of five to eight animals, usually consisting of a pair of breeding adults and their young of 1 or 2 years old. The breeding pair is likely to be the oldest, largest, and strongest wolves in the pack. They are known as the dominant wolves and are usually the only members of the pack to produce pups. Any wolf can become dominant. To do so, it must find an unoccupied territory and a member of the opposite sex with which to mate. Or, more rarely, it moves into a pack with a missing dominant wolf and takes its place, or perhaps kills the dominant wolf and usurps its mate.

Wolves us body language to convey the rules of the pack and rule number one says that the pack is made up of leaders and followers. The dominant male and female are in charge of the pack. To communicate dominance, they carry their tails high and stand tall. Less dominant wolves exhibit submissive behavior by holding their tails down and often lower their bodies while pawing at the higher-ranking wolves. The pack has a complex social hierarchy maintained through a variety of vocalizations, body postures, and scent marking.

Wolves have keen senses of sight, hearing, and smell and can travel at approximately 5 miles per hour for long periods of time while hunting or traveling within their territory. A wolf pack may spend 8-10 hours a day on the move and may cover 40 miles a day during winter hunts. Wolves can reach a top speed of about 40 miles per hour for short periods of time.

Diet: Generally the primary prey base for the eastern timber wolf includes white-tail deer, moose, and beaver.

Breeding and Maturation: The pack's social structure generally determines which wolves breed, usually only the dominant wolves or breeding pair mate and produce a single litter of pups. However when prey in winter is abundant, a wolf pack may occasionally have multiple litters born that spring. After a 63 day pregnancy, the pups are born deaf and blind, but can hear within a 12-14 days. After 3-6 weeks, the pups usually leave the den and begin to investigate their surroundings, staying close to the safety of the den. As the pups mature, the pack moves to a more open area or "rendezvous site" within their territory. By fall the pups are large enough to travel and hunt with the pack. Wolves generally reach adult size by six to eight months of age and are usually sexually mature by 22 months.

Miscellaneous: The northeastern United States provides suitable wolf habitat with over 26 million acres of northern forest from Adirondack State Park in Upstate New York through the North Woods of Maine. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 1992 Eastern Timber wolf Recovery Plan identified Adirondack State Park and 2 areas of New England as possible recovery areas for this subspecies. Despite the availability of habitat and prey, natural recolonization is unlikely due to many landscape barriers, including the St. Lawrence Seaway and extensive urban areas.


Where to see a Gray Wolf in the U.S.


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