From wild animal to fairy tale character – wolves are always fascinating their human neighbors. Since forever, we can hear their howl in silent nights, coming from the forest. Wolves were considered one of the most fearsome natural villains. They had many obstacles to overcome during their existence. After they almost went extinct during the Middle Age, wolves are returning to many countries that were previously their home, like nowadays Germany. Let’s discover how amazing these animals are! Here are some interesting gray wolf facts.

Gray Wolf Facts via Pinterest
Gray Wolf via Pinterest

1. Wolves Are the Grand-Parents of Domestic Dogs.

Do you have a furry-friend that wiggles his tail? Congratulations, his grandpa was a wolf! The Latin name for gray wolfs is Canis lupus. He is originally from the same family as our domestic dogs. The wolf is the largest wild member of Canidae. Thousand years ago, some wolves became domestic animals. Additionally, through selective breeding, they started to produce dogs. No wonder they all have similar behavior sometimes. I mean, your dog also loves howling at the moon, right?

2. In Europe, the Gray Wolf Almost Went Extinct During the Middle Ages.

Gray wolf extermination became a collective effort until the late 1800s. The gray wolf was widely misunderstood back on the days. It uses to have a strong impact on the human imagination. In ancient times, wolves were always mentioned in mythology and folklore. Also, humans associated them with evil, witchery and supernatural powers. Nevertheless, humans considered them dangerous. For example, during the reign of Henry VII, wolf prosecution in England was enforced by law. They killed the last wolf during the 16th century. In Germany, wolves started to return recently. Currently, in 8 European countries, the gray wolf remains regionally extinct: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

3. Romania is one of the Best Places in the World for Gray Wolf Watching.

Eastern Europe has large forested areas. Thanks to this and the vicinity with Asia, wolves were never near extinction here. For example, in Romania, the gray wolf population always remained largely substantial. The lowest population was registered in 1967, with a number of 1550 individuals. Currently, the Romanian gray wolf population is numbering around 2500 animals. Carpathians Mountains are home to several wolf packs. For nature enthusiasts, wolf watching Romania shouldn’t be missed. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can get so close to a gray wolf.

Carpathian Wolf via Pinterest
Carpathian Wolf via Pinterest

4. Wolves Feed on Livestock out of Necessity.

Misunderstood gray wolf facts – why do wolves attack domestic animals was always a big concern for humans. Wolves are never hunting for sheep or goats. Anyway, they are opportunistic. Human establishments have developed deeper into the forest. This restrained the wolf’s habitat to smaller forest surfaces than ever. Due to the shortage of natural prey, wolves are sometimes forced to scavenge for food around villages and farmhouses. We tend to take our domestic animals closer to their territory. Somehow, the wolves are just “accepting our gift”. One of the primary justifications for eradicating the wolf in many areas was the depredation of livestock. In consequence, there are still conflicts between human inhabitants and wolves.

5. Wolves Keep the Balance in a Healthy Ecosystem.

Wolves prey mostly on large herbivores as red deer, roe deer, chamois, and wild boar. They also eat smaller mammals if needed. Birds, fish, lizards, snakes, and fruit are part of their diet. In addition, gray wolves are also called “doctors of the forest”. They mostly kill animals old and in poor conditions, including sick individuals. This way they contribute to the natural selection. Additionally, wolves keep the herbivores population under control. For this reason, the wolves are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. A proof that nature it’s following its course and selection process. Gray wolf facts are surprising, as reality is always different from myths.

Gray Wolf Alpha Male
Gray Wolf Alpha Male via Pinterest

6. Gray Wolves are Heavy Eaters.

Gray wolves never hunt more than they need. A wolf never kills without reason. However, wolves hunt in a pack and they don’t eat in moderation. After a successful hunt, each animal can eat up to 9 kg of meat at a sitting. After such delight, they can go for several days without a meal. The pack often reduces the carcass of their prey to hair and a few bones. They are such great hunters. Early human societies admired them and tried to imitate their habits. Nevertheless, after that age, they have been widely seen as evil creatures. Nowadays, similar to Brown bear facts, Gray wolf facts are starting to be better understood. Wolves are now more popular with the public than at any other time in history.

7. Living in Packs, Gray Wolves are Highly Sociable Animals.

The social bonds in wolf packs are really strong. The wolf pack is organized according to a strict hierarchy. The Alphas are the breeding pair of the pack and they ensure the survival of the pack. The entire social dynamics of a pack gravitates around them. Their safety is a priority, sometimes overcome only by the protection of the pups. The next ranking levels are the Betas. mid-ranking wolves and the Omegas are following. A pack’s territory depends on prey abundance. Usually, can be 80 to 3.000 km2. In Europe, gray wolf packs are smaller than in North America.  This happens due to a fast decline in their territory.

Gray Wolf Facts: life in a pack
Gray Wolf Pack via Google Images

8. Every Member of the Pack is Looking After the Pups.

According to their geographical position, gray wolf mating season is from January to March or February to April. Usually, litters consist of 6 pups. The Alpha female gives birth to the little ones in Spring. The gestation period is about two months. During Spring, all the adults help to care for the young pups. They bring food and watch them while others hunt. However, despite the pack’s efforts to protect the next generation, pup mortality is high. Only 30% of them survive their first year of life. The ones that make it are almost adult size by October or November.

Gray Wolf Pups
Gray Wolf Pups via Pinterest

9. Strange Gray Wolf Facts – Humans are Their Bigger Enemy.

In the wild, wolves have few natural enemies. Human beings are the most dangerous. Humanity became sometimes hostile to the wolf population. That’s due to several attacks on domestic animals. Even though they avoid contact with their two-legged neighbors. Countless wolves have been hunted, trapped and poisoned. This led to a decrease in the gray wolf population around the globe. A gray wolf can live up to 13 years. However, most die before that age. Also, starvation is an important cause of death. It happens mostly in areas with decreasing prey and increasing wolf population.

10. The Gray Wolf was a Symbol in Battle for The Dacians.

There are countless Romanian wolf legends.  Even more, the Dacian Draco was an important symbol for the ancient Dacian people. They used it in the fight. Guess why? To intimidate their enemies and create a terrifying atmosphere. Did it work? Indeed. Draco was actually a dragon’s head mounted on a pole. It also had a fabric tube fixed at the head. Held up in the wind and shaped like a dragon with open wolf-like jaws, Draco made a terrifying sound when the wind was blowing through its several metal tongues. It gave the impression that it was alive. Was it scary? Of course. It caused shivers to their enemies. Even more, Dacian Draco can be seen in several scenes depicted on Trajan’s Column. So, when in Rome, visit the Column and try to spot the Dacian Draco!

Timber Wolf Males
Majestic Gray Wolfs via iStock

To sum up, the gray wolf is a majestic and emblematic animal. There are many interesting facts about Europe’s biodiversity, as these wild boar facts.  In addition, wolves are essential for a healthy ecosystem and we must cherish their presence. Human and wolf interference always existed. Unfortunately, gray wolf facts were often misunderstood. Nonetheless, let’s try to give them the space they need. Happily, right now the gray wolf population is stable or increasing in most countries. Since 1996, gray wolves were classified as a species of least concern by IUCN.

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