- Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.
Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the ancestor of all domestic dog breeds: grey wolves.
Grey wolves (Canis lupus) are the largest member of the dog family. Because they are one of the most wide-ranging land animals, there are more than thirty recognized subspecies. Grey wolves are highly intelligent and social; they live in nuclear family groups called packs which are typically composed of an alpha pair and their pups. The number of wolves in a pack depends upon habitat and abundance of prey, but can range from two to thirty-six individuals, however, six to ten are most common. Wolves are apex predators and considered ecosystem engineers as they not only regulate the populations of their prey animals, like deer but also modify the landscape through their influence on grazers. Grey wolves’ historical range has been reduced to about one-third mainly due to hunting because they prey on farmer’s livestock and because of fear of attacks on humans. Habitat destruction and the loss of their prey base is also a huge threat to their populations. Fortunately, in some of its former habitat, the wolf is making a successful comeback due to strong conservation efforts and reintroduction plans. Watch the video to learn more about this species!
Special thanks to Alexia Constantinou and Sean McHugh for sharing this footage with us. Alexia is a MSc student in the Wildlife Coexistence and Belowground Ecology Labs in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia. Her work focuses on the relationship between forest harvesting and wildlife. She operates camera traps in the Kootenays, Cariboo and Nechako regions for medium to large-sized mammals, and is also pairing camera traps with the live trapping of small mammals at her most northern site. The goal of her project is to determine how different forest harvesting methods affect small and large mammals by looking at their usage of and behaviors demonstrated in the different treatments. Moreover, Sean McHugh is a wildlife biologist working to protect mammals and ecosystems via research and conservation. He took the camera trap footage of wolves in northern Idaho while he was working on a fisher (Pekania pennanti) research project with the Idaho Dept of Fish & Game. That research took place in the remote panhandle of the state. Idaho has the largest grey wolf population in the lower 48.
Review questions for educators
These questions can help provide a framework for exploring the topics presented in this story.
- How are wolves related to dogs?
- Why are wolves considered ecosystem engineers?
- How do wolves survive living in cold and snowy environments?
Banner photo by Rhett A. Butler