Grey Wolf Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Grey Wolf

Scientific Name:

Canis lupus

Wild Status:



Diverse: Forests, Grasslands and Mountains




Forest and Mountain Terrain

Life Span:

7-8 years in the wild. 12 years or more in captivity.


2-3 feet tall at shoulder and 3-5 feet in length

Cool Facts:

  • Grey Wolves are carnivores and will eat 20 to 30 pounds of meat in one meal, but have also been known to go up to 14 days between meals with no ill effects.
  • There are five subspecies of gray wolves in North America. Their coat colors can range from pure white to brown, gray, cinnamon or black.
  • Wolf pups are born blind and deaf, and must be cared for until they mature at around ten months of age.
  • Grey wolves travel in packs of four to seven, led by alphas—the mother and father wolves that track, hunt and choose dens for the pups or younger subordinate wolves. Wolves often mate for life


Grey wolves are the largest wild members of the dog family. Males are usually larger than females. They have silvery grey-brown backs, light tan and cream underparts, and long bushy tails. The fur can be any shade of gray, brown, black, white, or tan. In winter, their fur becomes darker on the neck, shoulders, and rump. Grey wolves are territorial and live in packs lead by the alpha pair. A pack of 6 to 8 wolves includes some of the alpha pair's offspring and may include some unrelated wolves. Grey wolves communicate with each other through howling, body language and scent. Howling is used to assemble the pack, communicate with other packs, and assert territorial boundaries.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Canidae Genus: Canis Species: C. Lupus

Conservation & Helping:

After receiving federal protection, gray wolves saw tremendous recovery in the western Great Lakes region. Their populations grew to around 4,500 and expanded through Wisconsin and Michigan. Through natural migration from Canada and reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, wolves returned to the Northern Rockies and are establishing a toehold in the West Coast states. There are now about 1,700 wolves across Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon, with a few wolves beginning to range into California. In the Southwest Mexican gray wolves also saw recovery — but to a lesser degree. Just seven surviving Mexican gray wolves were captured between 1977 and 1980 and bred in captivity. After their progeny were reintroduced into Arizona and New Mexico, Mexican gray wolves now number 110 in the U.S. wild, but fewer than 20 remain in Mexico.

For Teachers and Educators


Keep Exploring Defenders!