Dog Wolf and Coyote Facts


Kingdom: Animalia Subkingdom: Metazoa Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata Class: Mammalia Subclass: Eutheria Order: Carnivora Suborder: Canoidea Family: Canidae

Genus and species: Ten genera and thirty-five species, including Canis familiaris (domestic dog), C. lupus (gray wolf), C. rufus (red wolf), C. latrans (coyote) Geographical location: Dogs live on every continent except Antarctica; wolves are not found in Africa, South America, and Australia; coyotes live only in North and Central America Habitat: Mostly prairies, forests, and mountains Gestational period: Approximately two months Life span: Ranges from an average of eight to twelve years, longer in captivity or domestication ing to size, with smaller dogs reaching adult size within five to sixth months of birth and larger dogs sometimes not becoming fully grown until they are more than one year old.

Female dogs gestate for about nine weeks before whelping. Litter sizes depend on the mother's size and can average from one to more than ten puppies. Puppies' eyelids and ear canals are closed for almost two weeks. At about three weeks old, they begin walking, barking, wagging their tails, and eating solid food. Puppies are usually weaned at age six weeks. Dogs' life spans depend on their breed and environment, and range from eight to more than fifteen years.


Wolves are wild relatives of dogs and are represented by two species, the gray and red wolf, with variations within each species for a total of thirty-two described subspecies. At one time, wolves lived throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. The gray wolf, also called the timber wolf, is the most common wolf species living in North America and can be found mostly in Canada and Alaska. Considered extinct in western Europe, with a few exceptions, gray wolves live in Russia, southeastern Europe, and Asia. Wolves' ranges have decreased due to urbanization. Most wolves live in sparsely populated forest, tundra, wilderness, and mountain regions and tend to avoid people, approaching settled areas only when they are starving or when natural crises, such as floods, fires, and blizzards, cause their migration to populated places to seek emergency food sources.

Gray wolves can attain a body length (from nose to base of the tail) of 1.2 meters (4 feet) and height of 90 centimeters (3 feet) at the shoulder. They average forty-five kilograms (one hundred pounds) in weight, with some wolves weighing twice that amount, and have sharp teeth, thick coats, tall legs, and bushy tails. Gray wolves have primarily gray coats with some black, yellow, and brown fur, although some gray wolves are solid black or white, particularly in the Arctic. An endangered species, red wolves live in the forests and brush of the south central United States and can be colored a hue ranging from reddish gray to Wolves prey on both large and small animals, black. Hunting of gray wolves escalated as farm- including deer, moose, rabbits, birds, and mice ers and ranchers penetrated wolf territory, their and also eat vegetables, fruit, and carrion. They livestock offering easy targets for the wolves. Hu- tend to hunt at night and can leap over obstacles mans' retribution threatened decimation of the 4.9 meters (16 feet) high, and travel up to fifty-six gray wolf population. Efforts to replenish the kilometers per hour (thirty-five miles per hour) to number of wolves include the reintroduction of capture prey, sustaining thirty-two kilometers per gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. hour (twenty miles per hour) for several hours when endurance is necessary to wear down elu-Pack Behavior sive prey. Wolves migrate to follow prey to other Hunting alone and in packs, wolves usually roam areas. Scientists hypothesize that wolves howl in over large territories with a family group consist- order to communicate with other wolf packs. ing of parent wolves and their offspring. Zoologists believe that wolves mate with the same part- Coyotes ner for life, producing from three to nine cubs The scientific name for coyotes, Canis latrans, annually in late winter. Digging an underground means "barking dog," which describes coyotes'

den or appropriating a cave or hollow tree, wolves staccato yips. Colored brown with gray and black give birth and raise their cubs in this space, where flecks, coyotes grow to have a body length of ap-

the parents bring food until the cubs attain suffi- proximately ninety centimeters (three feet) and cient maturity to hunt. During winter and other can attain speeds of sixty-five kilometers per hour stressful conditions, wolf families occasionally es- (forty miles per hour). Coyotes can adapt to many tablish a larger pack of as many as thirty animals. environmental situations and eat a variety of

The leader of a wolf pack, known as the alpha foods, including vegetables and insects. Although male, disciplines pack members. they tend to hunt alone, mostly at night, coyotes

Wolves Natural Habitat
Wolves are endangered by the loss of their natural wilderness habitat. (Corbis)
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