Introduction

Animal: Gray Wolf
Research Location:

Why This Animal?

I love wolves. I think they are really secretive and mysterious. The Gray Wolf seems very similar to the normal demestic dog, and I would like to know what makes them different. I would like to know where they live so I can go see them sometime in the wild, like in a national park. I want to know how wolves relate in their family and pack environment. I also have some what of a connection with Gray Wolves because my mom grew up in Canada and Gray Wolves are found in most of Canada.

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10 Adjectives that discribe my animal are:
  1. cute
  2. mysterious
  3. secretive
  4. strong
  5. big
  6. soft
  7. independent
  8. playful
  9. compationate
  10. fearless

Gray Wolves live mostly in the tundra biome but really they are spread into any biome that can support them, is plentiful in food, and is relativly cold. The location that I am going to focus on is the Gray Wolves in Kamchatka in the far east of Russia.

Climate: The average temperature, for Kamchaka, in the winter is roughly about 5° F and the average temperature in the summer is roughly about 58° F. Annual rainfall can reach as high as 53 inches.
Shelter: On a nice nice night the Gray Wolves that do not have pups, or are near giving birth, will just sit and sleep out in the open within their pack, but they will still sleap ready to run if needed, because they are so explsed out in the open. Gray Wolves mainly make dens to keep their offspring safe when they're young, or if there is a very potentially cold or damp night coming they will have a place to shelter themselves. Females will build dens from natural fissures in rocks, a short overhanging cliff, or even a hole in the ground that is covered over thickly with vegetation. A shelter for a wolf could even be a hole dug out and abandoned by a smaller animal, they will dig and make the hole bigger so they can fit inside with their pups. There are also many wildlife rufuges in Kamchatka.
Water Sources: Kamchatka is mainly a penninsula so it is surrounded on all sides by water. Some major rivers in Kamchatka are the Bistraya River curving southwest, and south of that is the Golygina River. In the Kronotsky Bioshpere Reserve is a valley of geysers. In the Southern Kamchatka Wildlife Refuge there is Kurile Lake.

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Physical Adaptations:
  • Ears- Gray Wolves have great hearing so they can hear when pray is near.
  • Coat- their coat is very thick so they can survive the tundra cold.
  • Color- their color is usually a white or gray (hence the name Gray Wolf) so they can blend in with their surroundings of snow and bare tree bark.
  • Legs- they have strong legs so they can chase after their prey without getting too tired.
  • Paw Pads- Gray Wolves have pads on the bottoms of their paws so that their feet don’t get too torn up or cold.
  • Claws- they have claws so they can scratch their prey when their hunting.
  • Teeth- Gray Wolves have sharp teeth so they can grab at prey when hunting, or to tear apart their food.

Behavioral Adaptations
  • Gray Wolves will hunt in packs so that they can have a bigger chance of catching food, or if they were going after a larger animal they would have a better chance of bringing that animal down and killing it, whereas if it was just one-on-one the wolf would probably loose.


Journal Entry:

Day 1:

I just got off the airplane, and arrived in Kamchatka. I instantly feel the chill of the tundra air; it’s colder here in the summer, about 58° F. I sure can’t wait till winter when its 5° F, just kidding! Looking around I can already see Conifers spread out into a forest with birds flying through the trees, Shrews nesting in the leaves, while an Arctic Fox prowls for a snack. I have finally arrived at the Southern Kamchatka Wildlife Refuge where I will be studying the fearless Gray Wolf, also known as the Tundra Wolf or Arctic Wolf. Already walking out on to the refuge area I see a pack of Gray Wolves hunting a herd of Muskoxen. Almost instantly the behavioral adaptations of the Muskoxen kick in and they form a circle with the calves on the inside and the cows circling around them. The wolves are hunting in large pack so that they will have a larger chance of getting more prey, but they can see that their not going to get a snack tonight. As the Muskoxen bulls chase the wolves away, the strong wolves finally admit defeat. It is getting colder by the second and unlike me the wolves have adapted to this colder weather and they have a thick coat of fur to keep them warm. The vegetation on the land of the Southern Kamchatka Wildlife Refuge isn’t the greenest, it is kind of dull. There are a few exceptions though, such as the Sarana, a dark purple flower. I look far to the mountains and see that all around the base of the mountains is the Shelamannik plant; it is a long tall grass that grows around mountains and rivers. It is now getting dark so I must get to my hotel before I can’t see anymore.

Day 2:

I am outside and have tracked a pack of wolves far along a river. As I am looking at them I can tell that their coat color ranges from white, grays, and blacks, to tans, reds and browns, these colors are to help with blending in the whites and grays help to blend in with snow and the browns help to blend in with trees and the forest. A Gray Wolfs fur is very fluffy and dense so that it can keep them warm in the cold tundra air. These Gray Wolves are about the size of large domestic dogs. An adult Gray wolf is 41–63 inches in length and 32–34 inches in shoulder height. The Gray Wolf is very muscular and strong, it is large, has long strong legs so that they can run fast, these physical adaptations are very important because it means that they can take down larger animals like muskoxen. Gray wolves will use their eyes, nose, and ears to sense where their prey is. Humans have 5 million scent receptors in their nose but dogs and wolves have up to 300 million, so they have a very good sense of smell. Wolves have pads on the bottom of their paws that are kind of like a rubber texture and these pads help so that their paws don’t get torn up and cold. Gray wolves have teeth and claws that are very strong and durable. Their teeth are meant for chewing and biting prey. All these physical adaptations are very important to Gray Wolves because they help insure their survival.
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Day 3:

Gray Wolves in Kamchatka, Russia can get all of their needs in many different ways. There are plenty of opportunities to get water in Kamchatka. The Bystraya River covers a lot of area that goes across the middle section of Kamchatka and there is the Kurile lake in the Southern Kamchatka Wildlife Refuge where the wolves can also get food and shelter. In Kamchatka there are many herds of Muskoxen. Muskoxen and Gray Wolves have a predator-prey relationship. Gray Wolves will prey on small animals that are easy to catch like snakes, rabbits, birds, eggs, and arctic foxes. Grey wolves will build dens in dens or cliff overhangs, but usually they will sleep outside on nice nights that aren’t too cold for them. A pregnant female wolf will find an abandoned small animals nest and dig it out to make it bigger for her to give birth to her pups in. These are some of the Gray Wolves basic needs that the biome of Kamchatka helps them achieve.

Day 4:

Gray Wolves will hunt in a pack or pair when they are hunting larger animals so that they can help each other bring down that animal. Gray Wolves will mate for life so that they can have pups and not have to find a mate. When a wolf starts to expirience the first symptoms of a disease it will imediatly leave its pack so that it does not spread within the pack. When hunting animals that are in a herd, like muskoxen, the wolves will try to break up the heard and separate a calf from the group. This makes the process easier because they don’t have to fight of large males or females to get to a calf and kill it. A behavioral adaptation and a symbiotic relationship that a Gray wolf has is with small animals. The Gray Wolf has a communalistic relationship with small animals like rabbits and foxes that make burrows. The wolf will find an abandoned burrow that a small animal made and will dig it out further and make it a den for them, or if they are a pregnant female wolf they will build it fore their pups.

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Monitoring Technique:

Scientists will monitor Gray Wolves with GPS collars becasuse they move around so much. They don't use radio collars because they are more in open spaces and radio collars are more for the jungle and woodsy areas. I chose this technique because you would get information often and you wouldn't have to go out into the woods or land to get the information because it would just send it to a computer.



Fellow Researcher Profile:

Joe Fontaine is a wildlife biologist that is studying Gray Wolves in Yellowstone National Park. Joe Fontaine and his group of researchers captured 26 wolves and radio-collared them and then set them free in Yellowstone National Park to be monitored. About twice per month the radio-collared wolves were located by aircraft. These scientist would monitor the wolves and record how many births and deaths their were in wolf packs. They would follow wolf packs on foot and study how they behaved and survived. Me as a researcher I study their behaviors and research their physical adaptations. I have looked at population counts from different years in Yellowstone National Park, like how in 2002 at least 27 wolves out of the population died, and I did this just like Joe Fontaine would have done.
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Using the Research:

There are many limiting factors that can effect wolves. Hunting is a big limiting factor, humans will hunt or capture wolves and kill them for food or their coats. Whether humans do this legally or illegally it still effects the wolves and brings the population number down. Gray Wolves and Brown Bears will have disputes over carcasses. When this happens the bears generally prevail because of their strength. The bears will kill the wolves but they only generally eat small young. Wolves will also have disputes with Hyenas, usually the Hyenas dominate and they will kill and eat the wolves. These species do fight when they come in rage but they rarely try to interatct. Tigers are the only predator that pose a real threat to Gray Wolves. In area where there are Tigers and Gray Wolves there is a very small wolf population because the Tigers have either made them go extinct or dwindled the populations so low that they are insignificant to the ecosystem. Diseases are another great limiting factor to wolves. Wolves are a major host for rabies in Russia. Even thought there are many limiting factors to the Gray Wolves existence they have adapted to them and learned how to survive them.
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Bibliographies: