How much do you know about wolves?

wolf stare
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Wolves have been intertwined with humans since time immemorial. How much do you know about this important animal?

Question 1 of 12

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Eurasian wolves
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How many species of wolf are alive today?

There are three species of wolf: The gray wolf (Canis lupus), the red wolf (Canis rufus), and the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). But don't worry if you thought there were more species. There are 39 subspecies of Canis lupus currently described — some agreed upon by biologists and some still in dispute — ranging from the timber wolf to the Vancouver Island wolf. And yes, those subspecies also include the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris.

Question 2 of 12

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wolf pups at den
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Which wolves within a pack reproduce?

Wolf packs are not just a collection of wolves that hunt together. They are more like family units. Most packs are made up of an alpha male and female, and they are the only two to reproduce. The other members are offspring from various years that help raise the current litter. It is very rare, and only when the pack is thriving and there is an abundance of prey, that more than the alpha male and female will mate.

Question 3 of 12

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wolf howling
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Which is not a reason why wolves howl?

Wolves have an amazing diversity of communication, including vocalizations and body language. When it comes to howling, it can be for a number of reasons, from announcing a pack's location and size to finding a mate. Despite the myths and fairy tales, wolves do not howl just because the moon is full. Science has found no evidence that the phase of the moon affects the howling of wolves.

Question 4 of 12

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wolf behind tree
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What is the main cause of wolf mortality in the United States?

All of these are common ways wolves may perish, but when they live near areas populated by humans, death by hunter or trapper is easily the primary way that wolves die. Settlers, ranchers and wolfers (and other hunters) in the U.S. had nearly wiped out all wolves in the lower 48 by the 1970s, when only around 500-1,000 wolves were left. A persistent but controversial recovery effort for wolves has helped to bring their numbers back up slightly to around 5,000 in the lower 48. Gray wolf populations are much stronger in Canada and Alaska, where there is more human-free terrain for them to roam.

Question 5 of 12

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wolf with prey
Gray wolves in North America help keep elk populations stable. Meanwhile, Iberian wolves help keep what species in check?

Wild boar are considered pests, as they damage crops and can be dangerous when they live near settlements and they lose their fear of humans. Without any real natural predators, their numbers have soared despite an active hunting season. The Iberian wolf is one of the few predators of boars — and in fact they prefer roe deer and wild boar over domestic animals — thus they're considered a beneficial species. An extermination campaign in the 1950s and 1960s wiped out the Iberian wolf from almost all of Spain except the northwest part of the country. Perhaps now the rising problem with wild boar will be a reason to encourage the return of the Iberian wolf back to its original habitat.

Question 6 of 12

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ethiopian wolf
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The Ethiopian wolf was only recently determined through DNA to be a wolf species. Before this it was mistaken as:

With their lanky build, their solitary hunting strategies and their location, it's no wonder that scientists miscategorized this species as a jackal or a fox for so many years.

Question 7 of 12

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two wolf pups
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Gray wolves are always gray in color.

Gray wolves can be a range of colors. Depending on their location and subspecies, they can be tan, brown, varying shades of grizzled, white and black.

Question 8 of 12

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wolves in snow
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Since the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone, what impact have scientists noted?

Since the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone, scientists have noted that elk populations have dropped with wolf predation, and that elk behavior has changed. The elks' increased fear of a returned natural predator has altered their grazing patterns, which has allowed improved growth of flora along waterways, which in turn has helped beaver populations improve. Wolves have helped other carnivores — including grizzly bears — by providing carcasses to scavenge. Wolves have also caused coyote populations to drop, which has a ripple effect in populations of rodents, rabbits and other prey species of coyotes. The changes have been significant and widespread, affecting large animals all the way down to microorganisms. This event is called a trophic cascade.

Question 9 of 12

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wolf pack interaction
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The wolf with the lowest social status in the pack is called the:

Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. The lowest wolf in the pecking order thus is called the omega.

Question 10 of 12

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IUCN red list
Which wolf species is considered the world's most endangered canid?

Not only is the Ethiopian wolf considered the world's most endangered canid, but it is also Africa's most endangered carnivore. There are several wolf species and subspecies that are critically endangered. Red wolves are also one of the most endangered canids in the world, with only around 200 individuals in captivity and 100-120 individuals in the wild. But because they have a functioning captive breeding and reintroduction program, they aren't technically as endangered as the Ethiopian wolf, a species that has only about 500 individuals left (and not a single individual in captivity, let alone a captive breeding program) and faces multiple serious threats including rapid habitat loss and disease from domestic dogs.

Question 11 of 12

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white wolf on ridge
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The heaviest wolf on record in North America weighed how much?

In North America, the heaviest gray wolf was 175 pounds when it was shot in 1939 in Alaska. In Eurasia, however, the heaviest wolf on record was killed in the Ukraine after World War II, and it weighed 190 pounds. It is rare that wolves weigh more than 120 pounds, but wolves are larger the farther north you go. While those farther south in latitude weigh in around 80-100 pounds, those farther north can be much heavier.

Question 12 of 12

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red wolf
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Besides hunters, what is one of the most serious threats to red wolves in the wild?

When wolves were eliminated from most of the lower 48, coyotes seized their chance to flourish. The species spread from the Southwest across the entire continent, including the regions where the red wolf once thrived and has been reintroduced. Hybridization with coyotes has occurred and is still a significant threat to the red wolf as a pure and distinct canid species.