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Timber Wolves (Canis lupus) are also known as the Common Wolf or Gray Wolf. The actual origin of the Wolf is a highly debated topic. The most likely candidate so far is Canis lepophagus (Hare-eating Wolf), a small canid found in North America during the Miocene Epoche 10.3 million years ago through to the early Pleistocene Epoche 1.8 million years ago. This small canid spread over the northern hemisphere in various evolutionary forms. The first Timber Wolf evolved in Eurasia about a 1,000,000 years ago and migrated to North America about 750,000 years ago. When they arrived in North America they found another Canis species the Dire Wolf (Canis dirus) which is larger and heavier than the Timber Wolf. These two co-existed for about 400,000 years but due to changing climate and reduction of the Dire Wolves food source they finally went extinct about 7000 years ago. Since then the Timber Wolf or Gray Wolf has spread out over the Northern Hemisphere as the apex Canid predator.

Timber or Gray Wolf is the largest member of the Canidae family with the exception of certain breeds of domestic dog. Their size can vary tremendously with geographical location but have a tendency to increase as latitude increases. This evolution is dependent on their environment, as northern food sources tend to be larger in the case of Moose, Elk and Buffulo. The larger size also helps the in the winter time as a larger body hold more heat longer than a small body. The exception to this rule is the Arctic Wolf which has special adaptations to survive in the very cold Arctic regions. Adult wolves are 105160 cm (4163 in) in length and 8085 cm (3234 in) in shoulder height, the tail is usually about 2/3's of the body length. The European Timber wolf is slightly heavier than it's North American cousins, weighing in at 38.5 kilograms (85 lb) to 36 kilograms (79 lb) for the average North American Timber Wolves. Females in any given wolf population typically weigh 510 lbs less than males. Wolves weighing over 54 kg (120 lbs) are uncommon, though exceptionally large individuals have been recorded in Alaska, Canada,] and the former Soviet Union.

Timber Wolves have very dense fur and like their arctic cousins have an under layer and a longer layer. The Guard hairs are long and course and give wolves most of their individual colour pattern. The longest hairs occur on the back, particularly on the front quarters and neck. Especially long hairs are found on the shoulders, and almost form a crest on the upper part of the neck. The hairs on the cheeks are elongated and form tufts. Coat colour ranges from almost pure white through various shades of blond, cream, and ochre to grays, browns, and blacks. The under layer is a softer downy insulating layer that helps to keep them warm in northern winters. Most of the two layers will be shed in the spring to keep the animal cooler during the summer and is grown again during the fall.

The Timber Wolf senses have a different priority than the Arctic Wolves where smell is their most important sense. In Timber Wolves their sense of smell is not as good as some breeds of domestic dogs. They can only small carrion from about 2-3kms away. However their hearing is exceptional and they can hear up to a frequency of 26 Khz and is better than a fox. Their daytime eyesight is good but some domestic dogs have better. However, their night vision is the most developed of all the Canidae family.

Female wolves usually become receptive to reproduction in the late winter. Once the female becomes pregnant she spends most of her time in the den, which is normally located away from territorial boundries. The gestation period last 62-75 days and pups are usually born in early summer. There are usually 5-6 pups in a regular litter, with really large litters happening rarely. Litter sizes vary depending on availability of prey in their territory. More abundant prey years tends to lead to larger litters and low prey years lead to smaller litters. The pups are born deaf and blind and can see after 9-12 days. They leave the den after about 3 weeks and increase their weight rapidly in the first 4 months of life. Pups will nurse for 3-4 weeks and are then weaned onto solid food.

All Text and Images Copyright Michael Cummings ©


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