Gray Wolf Facts and Information

Want to know more about gray wolves?

Gray wolves have been plagued by myths and misinformation for centuries. We strive to dispel some of these myths and set the record straight about these misunderstood creatures.

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Gray Wolf Facts

Physical Characteristics

On average, female gray wolves weigh between 55 and 100 pounds, and male gray wolves weigh between 70 and 145 pounds. The length of the gray wolf varies between 4’6″ and 6’6″ from muzzle to tip of tail. The height of an average gray wolf is between 26 and 32 inches at the shoulder.

Wolves have large paws, the average being 4 inches wide by 5 inches long.

A gray wolf in a hurry can run as fast as 35 miles per hour for short distances.

Fur color varies from gray, tan and brown to pure white or black.

Wolves have 42 teeth. A wolf’s jaw can exert 1500 pounds of pressure per square inch when using their back carnassial teeth, twice the jaw pressure of a German Shepherd. Wolves can crush large bones in just a few bites.

Pack Dynamics

Wolves are social animals and live in packs. Packs can have as little as 2 members or as many as 30 members. Average Pack size is 6 to 8. The pack is composed of the breeding pair and their offspring.

Gray wolves hunt in packs and primarily prey on large ungulate species including deer, moose, caribou, elk, and bison. They also have been known to prey on fish and beaver in some regions.

Wolves breed once a year, December through March, depending on latitude, the gestation period is 63 days.

Wolf pups are born in northern climates as late as early June and in southern climates as early as late February.The average litter size is 4 to 6 cubs.The cubs weigh approximately one pound at birth and cannot see or hear.

Wolves communicate in three major ways: vocalization, body language, and scent marking. Vocalizations include howling, growling, whimpering, whining, and barking. Body language includes eye contact, facial expressions, body movement, posture, and tail position. Scent marking includes urination as well as the use of scent glands present throughout different areas of their body.

Territory and Lifespan

The range of a pack’s territory varies with location. In the Alaskan or Canadian wilderness the territory for one pack can range from 300 to 1,000 square miles while in the continental U.S. the territory can be as small as 50 square miles.

Wolves can live up to 13 years in the wild but the average is only 6 to 8 years. Wolves in captivity have been known to live up to 16 years.

Loss of habitat and persecution by humans are the major threats to wolves in the wild. Their endangered status has fluctuated over the past few decades, losing federal protections across some of their range in 2011, losing full federal protections in 2020, then regaining federal protections again in 2022. Their conservation status remains a point of contention, and there are still annual hunting bounties in areas where their populations have recovered.


Defenders of Wildlife: Gray Wolf

International Wolf Center: Wolf FAQs

International Wolf Center: Articles by L.David Mech

Living with Wolves: The Language of Wolves

National Wildlife Federation: Wildlife Guide – Gray Wolf

The Wolf Almanac, New and Revised: A Celebration of Wolves and Their World (2007) Robert H. Busch

Wolves: Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (2007) Edited by L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani