A Guide to Baby Wolves and Their Unique Traits
Baby wolves are very cute. They are like mini versions of their adult selves, only with more clumsy movement at first. They have a curiosity in their eyes, a keenness to play and explore, and a firm affiliation with their pack. Under the protective eye of their ever present parents, they grow and develop in a family, into the not so cute alpha predators they are destined to be.
In this guide we look at some amazing baby wolf facts, and answer a few of the most frequently asked questions about the incredible animals.
7 Amazing Baby Wolf Facts
Baby Wolves Are Called Cubs
Similarly to some big cat predators like baby tigers and baby lions, baby wolves are usually called ‘cubs‘ but they can also be called ‘pups‘ too like their canine cousins. They are born in a ‘litter‘ with siblings, and live in a ‘den‘ with their family.
There is no gender specific name for a male wolf, but female wolves are often called ‘she-wolves‘. The dominant male and female in a pack are known as the ‘alpha male‘ and ‘alpha female‘.
There is no specific collective noun for a group of young wolves, but they live in large families which are collectively known as a ‘pack‘ of wolves.
Baby Wolves Are Deaf And Blind
Baby wolves are born deaf and blind due to their underdeveloped senses, but will develop both hearing and sight over time.
At the time of birth, their eyes are still closed, but dark fur can be seen through the thin membrane covering the eyes. This fur will act as a form of protection for them during this vulnerable period. While the exact ages vary for each pup, most baby wolves can hear by 18 days old and see fully by 21 days old.
Even after their eyes and ears have developed, baby wolves will still remain dependent on their parents for care and protection.
Wolf Cubs Live In Family Packs
Baby wolves are born into packs which may vary greatly in size. They can be born into the typical ‘nuclear’ family pack with direct siblings and parents, or into an extended setup including uncles, grandparents and even step-siblings.
Generally speaking, the more intricate pack structures are found in areas where there is an lots of wolves with an ample supply of food and habitat available.
In all packs, there are generally an alpha male and alpha female. Only the alpha male with father pups and populations are controlled to keep the pack manageable and sustainable.
Wolf Cubs Are Very Small
Baby wolves are very small, often no larger than 8 inches in size, with a weight between one and two pounds. The grey wolf has the largest babies of all wolf species, but there are many subspecies of grey wolf and some are bigger than others.
With the help of their parents, baby wolves are able to grow rapidly in a short period of time. By the time they reach 8 weeks old, most pups weigh between 20 and 30 pounds and have attained enough strength and courage to begin exploring the world around them.
As they grow, baby wolves will develop rapidly, with most reaching their full size by the age of six months. Once fully grown, wolves can measure up to 3 feet in height at the shoulder, and up to 6 feet in length. Some northern subspecies of grey wolf, including Arctic Wolves, some Alaskan Wolves and the Northwestern wolf can often be even larger than that!
Baby Wolves Have Blue Eyes
Similarly to some of the big cats like baby cheetahs, a baby wolf cub is born with vibrant blue eyes. This trait is also shared by many canine species. This eye color is due to their lack of pigment in the iris of their eyes, which often darkens as they age. It is rare for any adult wolf to retain their blue eyes, most will develop other shades such as yellow, amber, green or brown.
Some will keep a light pigmentation, like a pale yellow or grey, but by around 6 weeks of age, as the cubs level of melanin increases, the blue should be gone and their adult color will be coming in.
Baby Wolves Learn To Howl Early
It doesn’t take long once a cub enters the world, until it starts to practice its distinctive howl. Baby cubs as young as two weeks old have been observed practicing this primal howl. They can start howling before they are even able to see properly.
They pick up this skill from imitating the howl of their parent, and their pack. At first, their howl is like a high pitched squeak, but it is obvious, visually, that this is an integral part of who they are. Over the first weeks, this squeak turns into more of a screech until they grow and master their voice.
Most Wolves Are Born In Late Spring
Most wolves breed in late winter – January to March. This is the same for all subspecies of grey wolves that live in the north, or southern subspecies such as the Mexican wolf. Cubs are born after around 60-63 days of gestation, usually in May or June. Those that live in the far north, such as the Arctic Wolf, may breed later in the season and give birth as late as early summer. Southern subspecies favor the earlier portion of the season.
Other distinct species, such as the Maned Wolf from South America, have a different breeding season, which changes depending on where they live. From observations of captive Maned Wolves located in the Northern Hemisphere, mating season begins around October and ends by February; however, those living south of the equator breed from August to October.
Across all species, the breeding and birthing pattern for bringing baby cubs into the world seems to be effected by photoperiodism. This is the effect on a growing organism of the length of dark and light periods. More growth occurs in periods of greater daylight.
Baby Wolf FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Wolf ?
Wolves mate in January to March. The female wolfs gestation period is 63 days. An average litter is 4 to 6 pups. At birth, wolf pups tend to have darker fur and blue eyes. Their eyes will change to a yellow-gold or orange color when the pups are 8 – 16 weeks old.
Most wolves reach sexual maturity by around the age of two, and this is when they will venture away from the pack to find their own mate.
Though extremely unusual, it is possible for an adult wolf to retain its blue-colored eyes. Grey wolves can live to around 14 years in the wild and 16 years in captivity.
How Many Wolves Are Born In A Litter?
A litter of baby wolves usually have about 4 to 6 cubs. They will live with their parents and any siblings from the past year or two to form a large family pack. The size of a litter can be impacted by the availability of food. In areas where food is scarce, the litters tend to have fewer cubs.
What Do Baby Wolves Eat?
Wolves start out their lives relying on their mothers milk, for around the first three or four weeks. At this stage, they will start introducing meat to their diet. They will be fully weaned from their mothers milk by around 8 to 10 weeks, but this varies across different breeds and populations.
Wolf cubs are not yet able to hunt on their own, so adult wolves bring back food from the hunt for them in their stomachs. When they return from the hunt, the cubs lick around the mouth and nose area of the adult wolf until the elder regurgitates a meal for them in their mouths.
Most wolves are carnivorous depending on the availability of food. They often prey on animals larger than they are including – deer, moose, caribou, elk, bison and musk-oxen as well small animals such as beaver, hares and other small rodents.
Some breeds that live around Vancouver Island eat mostly seafood, as that is the source of protein mostly available to them.
While they could technically be considered omnivores because they can eat vegetation and different fruit, they can not survive on a diet without meat for a long time. In the wild, meat makes up the vast majority of the food they eat.
How Big Do Baby Wolves Grow?
At birth, baby wolves typically weigh between one and two pounds, with a body length of 8 to 10 inches, but African wolf pups are smaller. Baby wolves grow quickly though, around 2.5-3.5 lbs in weight per week!
The Arabian Grey Wolf is the smallest subspecies of Canis Lupus at around 20kg in weight. But there are smaller African Wolves (Canis Lupaster), which can weight as little as 7 kg.
The largest grey wolves are those that live up in the Arctic Circle, particularly the North-western Wolf and the Arctic Wolf. They can reach up to 7 feet long and 60 kg in weight as fully grown adults.
The size and weight of a wolf tends to follow Bergmann’s rule, in that the higher and colder the latitudes that they live, the bigger the wolf. Conversely, the lower and warmer, the smaller the wolf.
You can find out more about the different sizes of the many different wolves out there in our wolf size comparison guide.
Where Do Baby Wolves Live?
Baby wolves usually start out their lives in a den, with their mother and any siblings. A den is any shelter like a cave or large, dug out hole that the mother prepares before the cubs arrival. The same den may be used year on year, but wolves do tend to move around their wide territory.
Geographically, wolves live in many different locations. The various species of Grey Wolf live widely across North America, particularly the northern USA, Canada, Alaska and into the Arctic Circle. Some can also be found further South towards Mexico, South and Central America. There are some species of the grey wolf that still live in the wilds of Eurasia, particularly Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Siberia.
There are also a few other distinct species of wolf, like African Wolves, Maned Wolves and Ethiopian Wolves.
Natural Predators Of Baby Wolves
Wolves may be apex predators, but they do have their own range of threats, particularly when they are younger and more vulnerable.
Animals that are most likely to make a meal from a wolf include large predators such as grizzly bears, polar bears and Siberian tigers. Breeds that live in lower latitudes, they may also find themselves a target for mountain lions, coyotes, or even other wolves.