Wolves Use All Their Senses to Find Prey by Kyle Mrak
Wolves are constantly searching their territory for their next meal. Territories can be very large—anywhere from 25 to more than 1,000 square miles in size! How are wolves supposed to find their prey in that huge area? By using their ears, noses and eyes, of course!
Wolves are predators. Predators hunt and eat other animals. The animals they hunt are called their prey.
Many predators, including wolves, are carnivores—meaning they receive almost all of their nutrients from the prey animals they catch and eat—but some predators are omnivores, which means they get the nutrition they need from both animals and plants.
Wolf pups that were born in late April or early May are now approaching six months of age.
A lot has changed since spring. For the first few months of their lives, they were very dependent on the adults in the pack. They
spent most of their time in or around the den, and later, in summer rendezvous sites. These pups are now traveling within the pack territory in a nomadic lifestyle with the adults. They have also started to observe the large prey animals in their wide, new world. These pups still have some growing up to do, but soon enough they will be full-grown members of the pack.
What big teeth you have! The teeth and jaws of adult gray wolves are well suited to their
diet and hunting methods. Over 90 percent of gray wolves’ diet
is meat, so they must hunt live prey or eat from a carcass. Adult
gray wolves have 42 teeth. Adult humans have only 32. Wolves have several types of teeth that serve different purposes while hunting or eating. These teeth include incisors, canines, carnassial and molars.
Paws and Effect: Wolves have fantastic feet with adaptations that set them apart
from other animals in their environment. Wolves’ very large
feet help them move around confidently on harsh terrain. In
the winter those big feet even double as snowshoes, keeping them from sinking down into the snow as much as do other animals.
Canine Communication Humans communicate in lots of different languages, both spoken and written, in order to exchange information and express feelings. We can use words to communicate with people—and even with some animals—but animals have other ways of communicating with each other. By studying wolves for many years, we have learned a lot about how they communicate with members of their own species. Wolves can use vocalizations, or sounds, to communicate feelings or situations, but they also position their body parts in ways that provide information to other wolves. This is called postural communication.
Wolf Folklore Folklore is the word for the traditions, customs and beliefs found within a culture. Folklore is passed on by telling stories, sharing superstitions, creating music and art, and teaching by word-of-mouth. A folk tale, or story, may contain important lessons, tell a joke or reveal the moral values of the culture it came from.
What is an Ethogram? An ethogram is a catalog of animal behaviors. Here at the International Wolf Center we use an ethogram as we observe our wolves because it helps us understand the reason for each behavior, and tells us what the animals are communicating. We see play behaviors, dominance behaviors and confidence behaviors in our wolves.
How Do Wolves Keep Warm? During winter, humans put on coats, hats, mittens and boots to go outdoors.
Do wolves wear hats? No! But they have adaptations that help them stay warm outside in the snow. Adaptations are physical traits that have evolved to keep an animal alive. Wolves have very thick fur that keeps them warm all winter.
Activities: Word Find and Match the Characteristics
Hunting Prey Wolves hunt many different kinds of prey such as ungulates, rodents and rabbits.
Ambassador Wolf Behavior: International Wolf Center visitors often ask our staff what the ambassador wolves might be thinking—especially when the wolves come up to the windows and peer inside. People assume they may be interested in food or looking for wolf care staff, but in fact, we have no way of knowing exactly what animals think or feel.
Do wolves eat in a certain order, and is the order based on dominance?
What is the usual eye color of wolves? Can they be blue?
Citizen Science: In our previous issue, we discussed how important citizen science is, and how kids just like you can get involved.
Citizen scientists’ eyes and ears help us collect information that informs scientists who study wolves.
Vocabulary: Rendezvous site
Ambassador Wolf Behaviors: “Obnoxious Submission”
Lower-ranking wolves approach and greet higher-ranking wolves in a constant—and “annoying”—manner by whining, licking the muzzle and pawing at the higher-ranking wolf’s face.
Citizen Science: This young man, watching our ambassador wolves in their enclosure, is demonstrating observation, a first step in practicing citizen science!
All over the world, girls and boys dream of putting on lab coats and becoming scientists. Some kids want to be biologists, some want to study human behavior, some want to be astronomers— but most of them make one mistake. They think they can’t start being scientists until they enter college or until they get a degree.
Ambassador Wolf Behaviors: Jaw sparring is a common wolf behavior in which two wolves jockey for position over each other with open mouths, often accompanied by snarling or growling.
Notes from the Field: We got Axel and Grayson from Canada when they were very young. They came from a litter of four, so they are brothers.
Activity: Arctic Pups Word Find
Meet the Pup Brothers: Axel and Grayson were born on May 2, 2016. They are arctic wolves, a subspecies of the gray wolf species. The arctic wolf subspecies consists of a few hundred to a few thousand individuals in the wild, and only around 100 in captivity, so Axel and Grayson are actually very rare!
Notes from the Field: Wolves in the wild in this area are born in late April or early May. During the late summer and early fall, the pups live with the pack in an area called a rendezvous site.
Activity: Make a Word
Meet the Pack: Denali is a Rocky Mountain subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis). He is the largest member of the Exhibit Pack at the International Wolf Center, weighing approximately 135 pounds.
Notes from the Field: Have you ever gone for a hike and found signs that an animal had been there? Animal signs are little clues that show us that animals live in the area. These signs can be as diverse as holes, scaly skin, bones and nests.
Activity: Word Find
Meet the Pack: Aidan was born on April 27, 2008, and since then has been part of the International Wolf Center’s Exhibit Pack with his littermate Denali.
Birthday Girl Raises Money for Wolves
It’s not every day that a 10-year-old foregoes birthday presents, raises money to support wolves and convinces her parents to travel more than 2,000 miles to deliver the donation in person.
Meet the Pack: Denali is the largest member of the International Wolf Center’s Exhibit Pack. Many visitors mistakenly assume Denali is the dominant member of the pack due to his size.
The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.