Wolf Facts, Tips For Getting Great Wolf Pictures and Wolf Conservation.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is a member of the Canidae family and also known as the Arctic wolf, common wolf, Mexican wolf, Plains wolf, timber wolf, Tundra wolf.
Adult wolves are 41–63 inches in length and 32–34 inches in shoulder height. The tail is ? the length of the head and body,measuring 11–20 inches in length. North American wolves weigh on average approximately 79lbs. Females in any given wolf population typically weigh 5–10 lbs less than males. Gray wolves have very dense and fluffy winter fur, with short underfur and long, coarse guard hairs. Most of the underfur and some of the guard hairs are shed in the spring and grow back in autumn period. The winter fur is highly resistant to cold; wolves in northern climates can rest comfortably in open areas at -40° by placing their muzzles between the rear legs and covering their faces with their tail. Wolf fur provides excellent insulation and it does not collect ice when warm breath is condensed against it. The average lifespan in the wild is 6-8 years with those in captivity pushing up to 14-16 years.
Wolves live and hunt in packs of around six to ten animals. They are known to roam large distances, perhaps 12 miles (20 kilometers) in a single day. These social animals cooperate on their preferred prey—large animals such as deer, elk, and moose. When they are successful, wolves do not eat in moderation. A single animal can consume 20 lbs of meat at a sitting. Wolves also eat smaller mammals, birds, fish, lizards, snakes, and fruit.
Wolf packs are established according to a strict hierarchy, with a dominant male at the top and his mate not far behind. Usually this male and female are the only animals of the pack to breed. Wolves breed once a year, usually in late December when the female wolf will go into heat. At this time the alpha pair will start a courtship or bonding and within five to seven days the pair will copulate several times. The gestation period is 63 days. In our northern climates wolf pups start making their way out of the den in June. All of a pack’s adults help to care for young pups by bringing them food and watching them while others hunt. If you really want to immerse yourself in learning more about wolves I highly recommend you pickup a copy of Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation which has served as my Wolf Bible for years.
Wolf Photography – Tips For Getting Great Wolf Pictures.
- Bundle up and embrace winter. A wolf’s coat is at its absolute best visually during winter and there’s nothing quite as beautiful as a wolf picture taken during a snowfall.
- I shoot f/4 for single wolf subjects and take it out to f/8 or f/11 for multiple subjects. For action shots try to keep the shutter speed above 800 increasing your ISO as required.
- Wolf photography can be done in every season although I tend to avoid the heat of summer as wolves are very inactive in the heat. Wolf pups are just coming out of the den in June so make sure you plan a photography outing to capture these cute little bundles in their first few weeks.
- Focus on the wolf’s eye always. You’ll hear this tip repeated for every species you photograph, focus on the eye is key to getting award winning wolf pictures.
- The very best wildlife photography images are usually taken at the subjects eye level or shooting upwards. Example, the wolf is on a ridge above your shooting position.
- Pay attention to the backgrounds. Coniferous trees with snow and fall colours out of focus make wonderful backdrops for wolf pictures. When shooting wolves in captivity pay attention to man made objects like fences. poles, etc. so they are not included in your image.
- During feeding the alpha always eats first while the remainder of the pack can be seen slinking cautiously up to the kill. This will draw an aggressive reaction from the alpha if a subordinate gets too close so be ready to capture the moment when you observe this type of activity.
- When one wolf begins to howl pay close attention to the others in the pack as they often respond and this forms a group howl which I can tell you is the most magical, warming feeling you could ever have. One of the wolf pictures in my wolf gallery is captured from such a moment.
- Take a variety of lenses with you. I shoot everything from a 24-70 to 600mm and everything in between. Shooting with different lenses yields varied perspectives and that makes for a more interesting and diversified portfolio.
- Don’t forget to go vertical every once and a while especially with single subjects that are beside tall vertical objects likes rocks or trees. Often the front cover of a magazine or calendar is looking for a vertical shot so mix it up.
The wolf was the world’s most widely distributed mammal but has become extinct in much of Western Europe, Mexico and much of the USA. Their original worldwide range has been reduced by about one-third by deliberate persecution due to depredation on livestock and fear of attacks on humans.
Predators and predation play a dynamic and essential role in maintaining the health of ecosystems. In Yellowstone National Park, scientists are documenting the important role reintroduced wolves are playing in rebuilding greater biodiversity within the ecosystem. Since the reintroductions in 1995 and 1996, studies have demonstrated the wolf’s ability to cull weak and old ungulates (hooved animals such as elk and deer) (Smith, Peterson and Houston 2003) and to reduce long-term concentration of elk herds and the damage they do to sensitive meadows and wetlands (Ripple and Beshta 2004). In what is known as the cascade effect, wolves are exerting influence over a multitude of species within the park’s ecosystem. Elk, wary of the reintroduced top predator, have altered their grazing behavior. With less grazing pressure from elk, streambed vegetation such as willow and aspen is regenerating after decades of overbrowsing. As the trees are restored, they create better habitat for native birds and fish, beaver and other species. In addition, wolves have reduced Yellowstone’s coyote population by as much as 50 percent in some areas, which in turn increased populations of pronghorn and red fox (Crabtree and Sheldon 1999)
Fellow photographer Michael Cummings and I have made a deliberate effort to photo document an Arctic Wolf pack and a Timber Wolf pack to bring awareness to these amazing animals. Our wolf pictures can be viewed at our WolvesOnly website where we also blog about issues that are pertinent to wolf conservation and offer wolf tours for those that wish to capture the magic for themselves. For those of you looking for wolf clothing, many of the wolf images in this gallery are available as wolf shirts and wolf hoodies at our WolvesOnly shop.
Smith, D. W., R. O. Peterson and D. B. Houston. 2003. Yellowstone after Wolves. BioScience. 53(4): 330-340.
Ripple, W. J. and R. L. Beschta. 2004. Wolves and the Ecology of Fear: Can Predation Risk Structure Ecosystems? Bioscience. 54(8): 755-767.
Crabtree R. L. and J.W. Sheldon. 1999. Coyotes and Canid Existence in Yellowstone. pp. 127-163 In Clark, T.W., A.P. Curlee, S.C. Minta and P.M. Karieva. Carnivores in Ecosystems: The Yellowstone Experience. Yale University Press: New Haven, CT. 429pp.