A wolf, or gray wolf, or an ordinary wolf is a predatory mammal of the dog family. Together with the coyote and the jackal is a small kind of wolf. In addition, as shown by the results of studying the DNA sequence and gene drift, is the direct ancestor of a domestic dog, which is usually considered a subspecies of a wolf. The wolf is the largest animal in its family: its body length (without tail) can reach 160 cm, tail up to 52 cm, height at withers up to 90 cm; Body weight up to 86 kg. Once the wolf was much more common in Eurasia and North America. Nowadays, its range and total number of animals have decreased noticeably, mainly as a result of human activities: changes in natural landscapes, urbanization and mass extermination. In many regions of the world the wolf is on the verge of total extinction, although in the north of the continents its population is still stable. Despite the fact that the population of wolves continues to decline, it is still in many places is a hunting object as representing a potential danger to humans and livestock, or for entertainment. As one of the key predators, wolves play a very important role in the balance of ecosystems of such biomes as temperate forests, taiga, tundra, mountain systems and steppes. A total of approximately 32 subspecies of wolves, differing in size and shades of fur. On the territory of the Russian Federation, common and tundra wolves are common. Slavic word wolf goes back to the pre-Indo-European vocabulary.
The size and total weight of wolves are subject to strong geographical variability; It is noticed that they vary proportionally depending on the surrounding climate and in full accordance with the Bergman rule (the colder the climate, the larger the animal). In general, the height of the animals at the withers varies between 60-95 cm, length 105-160 cm, and weight 32-62 kg, which makes the ordinary wolf one of the largest mammals in the family. Profitable (one-year) wolves weigh in limits 20-30 kg, peryarki (2-3 years) - 35-45 kg. Matters a wolf at the age of 2,5-3 years, reaching a weight of 50 and more kilos. In Siberia and Alaska, large wolves can weigh more than 77 kg. A large animal was registered in 1939 g in Alaska: its weight was about 80 kg. 86-th kilogram wolf was killed in Ukraine in the Poltava region. It is believed that in Siberia the weight of individual specimens may exceed 92 kg. The smallest subspecies should be considered an Arabian wolf, the female of which in adulthood can weigh only 10 kg. Within a single population, males are always larger than females by about 20%, and with a more lusty head. In general, the wolf resembles a large, sharp-pointed dog. Feet high, strong; The paw is larger and more elongated than the dog, the length of the track is of the order of 9 - 12 cm, the width of 7 cm, the middle two fingers are more forward, the fingers are not spread out and the imprint is more embossed than the dog. The track of the tracks of the wolf is more even, and forms an almost even line, and in dogs - a twisty line. The head is broad-browed, the muzzle relatively wide, strongly elongated and flanked by "whiskers". The massive muzzle of a wolf distinguishes it from a jackal and a coyote, in which it is narrower and more acute. In addition, it is very expressive: scientists distinguish more than 10 mimic expressions: anger, anger, resignation, affection, fun, alertness, threat, calmness, fear. The skull is large, massive, high. The nasal aperture is wide, especially noticeably widening downward. The maximum length of the skull of 268-285 males, 251-268 females, condylobazal length of the skull, 250-262 males, 230-247 females, 147-160 females, male 136-159 females, 84 female X-mux male spacing, 90 females 78 females , The length of the upper row of teeth of males 85-108, females 116-100 mm.
The structure of the wolf's teeth is an important characteristic that determines the way of life of this predator. On the upper jaw there are 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars and 4 molars. The lower jaw contains more on 2 molar. The fourth upper premolars and the first lower molars form carnivorous teeth, which play the main role in the division of the game. An important role is played by the fangs with which the predator holds and drags the victim. The wolf's teeth can withstand the load of more than 10 megapascals and are both his main weapon and the means of protection. Their loss for the wolf is disastrous and leads to hunger and loss of legal capacity. The tail is rather long, thick and, unlike the dog's, is always lowered down; Hunters call it a "log". The tail is the expressive "language" of the wolf. According to his position and movement, one can judge the mood of the wolf, if he is calm or afraid, his position in the pack. The fur of wolves is thick, rather long and consists of two layers, because of what sometimes the animal looks larger than it actually is. The first layer of wool consists of rigid coarse hair, which repels water and dirt. The second layer, called undercoat, includes a waterproof down that warms the animal. In late spring or early summer, the fluff flakes off from the body (molt), while the animals rub against the stones or tree branches to facilitate this process. Between the subspecies of the wolf there are significant differences in color, often in accordance with the environment. Forest wolves are gray-brown. Tundra - light, almost white. Desert - grayish-reddish. In the highlands of Central Asia, wolves have a bright-buffy color. In addition, there are pure white, red or almost black individuals. In cubs, the color is monotonous, dark and brightens with age, and the blue iris of the eyes usually becomes golden yellow or orange after 8-16 weeks of life. In rare cases, wolves' eyes remain blue for life. Within a single population, the color of the coat can also vary in individual individuals or have mixed colors. Differences apply only to the outer layer of wool - undercoat is always gray. It is often believed that the color of the wool is designed to merge the animal with the environment, that is, it fulfills the role of camouflage; But this is not quite true: some scientists indicate that mixed colors enhance the individuality of a particular individual. Traces of wolves are distinguishable from traces of the dog on several grounds: the lateral fingers (index and little finger) are more backward than the middle ones (middle and anonymous), if you draw straight from the tip of the little finger to the tip of the index finger, then the rear ends of the middle fingers will just go slightly behind this line, While the dog behind the line will be about a third of the length of the pads of the middle fingers. Also, the wolf holds the paw "in a lump" so the imprint is more prominent, and therefore the track of the wolf is slightly smaller than the track of a dog of the same size. In addition, the track of the wolf's tracks is much more direct than the track of the dog's tracks, which serves as a reliable "identification mark". The trace of the wolf has a length of 9,5 - 10,5 cm, width 6-7 cm wolf - 8,5-9,5 cm and 5-6 cm.
In historical time, among terrestrial mammals, the area of the wolf occupied the second largest area after the human range, covering the greater part of the Northern Hemisphere; Now greatly reduced. In Europe, the wolf survived in Spain, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Scandinavia, the Balkans, and the Baltic states. In Asia, it inhabits Korea, partly China and the peninsula of Hindustan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the north of the Arabian Peninsula; In Japan he died out. In North America it is found from Alaska to Mexico. In Russia there is only one island (Sakhalin, Kuriles).
The wolf lives in a variety of landscapes, but prefers the steppes, semi-deserts, tundra, forest-steppe, avoiding dense forest tracts. In the mountains it spreads from the foot to the area of alpine meadows, adhering to open, slightly intersected areas. Can settle near human habitation. In the taiga zone, it spread after the man, as the taiga was cut down. A wolf is quite a territorial being. Breeding pairs, and often flocks, live settled in certain areas, the boundaries of which are marked by odorous marks. The diameter of the site occupied by the school in winter is usually 30-60 kilometers. In the spring and summer, when the flock disintegrates, the territory occupied by it is divided into several fragments. The best of them captures and keeps the main pair, the other wolves pass to a semi-migratory way of life. In open steppes and tundra wolves often wander after moving herds of livestock or domesticated deer. Logs are arranged for breeding offspring; They are usually served by natural shelters - crevices in rocks, bushes, etc. Sometimes wolves occupy the burrows of badgers, marmots, arctic foxes and other animals, rarely dig them themselves. The female is most attached to the lair during the rearing of the offspring, the male does not use it. Young animals are excreted in sheltered places: in the forest belt - mainly in dense shrubbery, on manes among marshy swamps; In the steppes - along the overgrown ravines, girders and dry reed beds near the lakes; In the tundra - in the hills. Characteristically, wolves never trade near their home, but at a distance of 7-10 km and beyond. After the cubs grow up, the animals cease to use a regular lair, and are arranged to rest in various, but reliable places. Small wolf cubs are brownish in color, very similar to ordinary puppies.
The wolf is a typical predator, extracting food by actively searching for and prosecuting victims. The basis of feeding of wolves consists of ungulate animals: in the tundra - reindeer; In the forest zone - moose, deer, roe deer, wild boar; In the steppes and deserts - antelope. Wolves are also attacked by domestic animals (sheep, cows, horses), including dogs. Catch, especially single wolves, and smaller prey: hares, ground squirrels, mouse rodents. In the summer, wolves do not miss the chance to eat egg-laying, chicks sitting on nests or feeding on the ground grouse, waterfowl and other birds. Often mined and domestic geese. The production of wolves sometimes becomes foxes, raccoon dogs, corsacs; Occasionally, hungry wolves attack the bears sleeping in the den. There are many cases when they tore and eaten the weakened animals, wounded by hunters or badly injured in a fight during the rut. Unlike many other predators, wolves often return to the uneaten remains of their prey, especially during the hungry season. Do not disdain the corpses of livestock, and on the seashores - carcasses of seals and other sea animals thrown ashore. During periods of fodder, wolves eat reptiles, frogs and even large insects (beetles, locusts). Wolves, especially in the southern regions, eat vegetative food - various berries, wild and garden fruits, even mushrooms. In the steppes, they often make raids on melons and watermelons melons, satisfying not so much hunger as thirst, as they need regular, abundant watering.
They are active mainly at night. About their presence wolves are often given a loud howl, which is very different for males, wolves and young. Out of the external senses, the wolf is best developed hearing, a little worse - the sense of smell; Vision is much weaker. Well-developed higher nervous activity is combined in wolves with strength, agility, speed and other physical data that increase the chances of this predator in the struggle for existence. If necessary, the wolf develops speed up to 55-60 km / h and is able to make transitions up to 60-80 km per night. And accelerates to a gallop for a few seconds, overcoming the 4 meter, after which they are already rushing all over. When attacking a herd, wolves often cut several animals, tearing their throats or ripping off their belly. Wolves leave uneaten meat in reserve. There were cases of wolf attack on a man. Mentally the wolf is highly developed. This is expressed in the ability to navigate in an environment and move away from danger, as well as in the ways of hunting. There are cases when a pack of wolves separated, and one part remained in ambush, while the other was catching on its prey. In a pack that pursues an elk or a deer, often some wolves run along the heels of the victim, while others - on the cross or the cowards slowly and, resting, replace the advanced ones, until they take the victim by the sea. There were also cases of almost human intelligence in wolves. For example, there was a case when hunters on a helicopter drove the wolves into a grove. At first they could not be found, then, when the hunters left the helicopter and walked into the grove, it turned out that the wolves stood on their hind legs, and pressed themselves against the tree trunks, clasping their forepaws, so that it was extremely difficult to notice them from the helicopter.
Wolves are monogamous, that is, one female has one female. In addition, for the wolves, the family way of life is typical: they live in flocks from 3 to 40 individuals - family groups consisting of a pair of leaders - alpha male and alpha female, their relatives, and also alien lonely wolves. Vapors are formed for an indefinitely long period - until one of the partners dies. Inside the flock there is a strictly designated hierarchy, on top of which is the dominant couple, followed by adult family members, lone wolves and late puppies of the last litter. As a rule, instinct forces predators to seek a partner and territory for reproduction outside their pack. Dispersal of pubescent animals occurs all year round, and puppies of the same litter usually do not mate together. Sexual maturity occurs in the third or fourth year of life.