The Eurasian Wolf (Canis lupus lupus), also known as the Common Wolf, European Wolf, Carpathian Wolf, Steppes Wolf, Tibetan Wolf and Chinese Wolf is a subspecies of the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus). Currently, it has the largest range among wolf subspecies and is the most common in Europe and Asia, ranging through Western Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, China, Mongolia and the Himalayan Mountains.
Originally spread over most of Eurasia, with a southern limit of the Himalayas, the Hindukush, the Koppet Dag, the Caucasus, the Black Sea and the Alps, it has been pushed back from most of Western Europe and Eastern China, surviving mostly in Central Asia.
Eurasian Wolf Characteristics
Eurasian wolves have shorter, denser fur than their North American relatives. Their size varies according to region, although adults measure 30 inches (76 centimetres) at the shoulder and weigh around 70 – 130 pounds (32 – 59 kilograms), with females usually being about twenty per cent smaller than males. The heaviest known Eurasian wolf was killed in Romania and weighed 158 pounds (72 kilograms).
The colour of the Eurasian Wolf ranges from white, cream, red, grey and black, sometimes with all colours combined. Wolves in central Europe tend to be more richly coloured than those in Northern Europe.
Eurasian Wolf Behaviour
Eurasian wolves are highly social animals, though due to a decline in territory, they form smaller packs than in North America. Social behaviour seems to vary from region to region, an example being that wolves living in the Carpathians tend to be predominantly solitary hunters.
Eurasian Wolf Reproduction
The Eurasian Wolf alpha male and female mate between January and March. Litters, usually consist of 6 pups which are born 7 weeks later in a den which has been dug among bushes or rocks. The male brings food back to the den, either by carrying it whole or by swallowing and then regurgitating it for the others to eat. As the pups grow, the mother and other members of the pack help to feed them.
Eurasian Wolf Diet
The diet of Eurasian wolves varies enormously throughout their ranges. Eurasian wolves commonly prey on medium sized ungulates like moufflon, chamois, saiga, wild boar, red deer, roe deer and livestock. Eurasian wolves will occasionally eat smaller prey such as frogs and hares. In Europe, their largest prey is the wisent, while in Asia, it is the yak.
Because of increasing shortage of natural prey, wolves are sometimes forced to give up their pack-hunting habits and scavenge for food around villages and farmhouses. Many rural villages have open dumps where the local slaughterhouse disposes of its waste. Many wolves feed there alongside feral or stray dogs.
Eurasian Wolf Conservation Status
In Norway, in 2001, the Norwegian Government authorised a controversial wolf cull on the grounds that the animals were overpopulating and were responsible for the killing of more than 600 sheep in 2000. The Norwegian authorities, whose original plans to kill 20 wolves were scaled down amid public outcry. In 2005, the Norwegian government proposed another cull, with the intent of exterminating 25% of Norways wolf population. A recent study of the wider Scandinavian wolf population concluded there were 120 individuals at the most, causing great concern on the genetic health of the population.
Wolves cross over the border from Russia into Finland on a regular basis. Although they are protected under EU law, Finland has issued hunting permits on a preventative basis in the past, which resulted in the European Commission taking legal action in 2005. In June 2007 the European Court of Justice ruled that Finland had breached the Habitats Directive but that both sides had failed in at least one of their claims. Finland’s wolf population is estimated at around 250. Eurasian wolves are currently considered as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN.