Facts about Wolves

The Wolves have recently made a strong comeback in Sweden since they were claimed extinct in the 1960’s.

Today there are more than 400 Wolves in 60 different family groups. The exact official figures are changing each year, but this page will give you a good insight into the current status of the wolves in Sweden.

To begin with we give you some basic facts about wolves in Sweden.

 

Facts about wolves in Sweden. Photo: Glenn Mattsing
Wolf, photo: Glenn Mattsing

Facts about Wolves in Sweden

Scientific name: Canis lupus

How large is a wolf? They get up to 90 cm at shoulder. Males weigh 35 – 55 kg and females are on average 10 kg lighter. Scandinavian Grey Wolves are larger than the wolves of the same species in Southern Europe.

How long do they live? Wolves rarely become older than 12 years, but most wolves die at a young age, even during their first year.

What do wolves look like? The wolf has a large head and a coarse neck in relation to the size of the body. One often say that the typical Scandinavian wolf is grey, but at a closer look the fur is actually more a mix of white, yellowish and black. The chin and throat are almost always white. Unlike many husky dogs Scandinavian wolves are never white above the eyes. They often have black markings on legs, in the face, along their back and a dot halfway down the tail. The winter fur is a lot thicker than the summer fur. The front paws are larger than the hind paws, basically because the front part of the body is heavier and therefore needs larger paws.

What is a wolf pack? Wolves are social animals. They live in family groups, sometimes called packs. A family group typically consist of two parents and their pups. Most of the pups leave the family after nine months, before becoming sexually mature. Some pups may stay for more than one year, but usually not for more than a few months longer. These elder pups may act as baby sits as the elder pups use to remain close to the cubs of the younger generation anyway.

A Wolf couple keeps a distinct home territory where they typically stay for as long as they are an intact couple. The territory is marked out accurately by urine, droppings, scratches and sound calls and is defended actively against trespassing wolves. Fights between family members and trespassing wolves are not uncommon. Wolves may even get killed in such fights.

The size of a Wolf territory may vary considerably. In Scandinavia such sizes have been calculated with the help of snow tracking and radio collaring. A normal home territory measures 800 – 1 000 square kilometers or more than 140,000 football/soccer pitches. In extreme cases the home territory can reach up to 2 000 square kilometers. Access to food and surrounding territories are some of the factors determining the size of the territory. The parents maintain the territory by droppings, by urinating, by scratching markings or by sound calls.

How many wolves are there in Sweden? Wolves in Sweden and Norway are members of a joint cross-boundary Scandinavian wolf population. In both countries, the wolf population is monitored by authorities each winter.

During winter 2015 – 2016, 41 family groups (pairs with a documented litter) were documented in Scandinavia; 30 within Sweden, four across the Norwegian-Swedish border, and seven within Norway. 29 territorial pairs were also confirmed; 24 within Sweden, one across the border and four within Norway.

Based on the above figures on reproduction the Scandinavian wolf numbers were estimated to 430 (span 340-559), with the Swedish sub-population estimated to 340 (span 269-442). The smaller Norwegian population was counted directly in the field. A minimum of 25 cross-boundary wolves were counted, in addition to 65-68 individuals found only in Norway.

The return of the wolf to Scandinavia: The Wolf was claimed to be extinct in Scandinavia in the 1960’s. In the early 1980’s three Wolves migrated from the Russian-Finnish population all the way to the county of Värmland in Southern Sweden close to the Norwegian border. These Wolves founded the new Wolf population and multiplied successfully into about 200 Wolves before some more Wolves arrived naturally from the Russian-Finnish population in 2008. Today most Wolves live in the Southern parts of Central Sweden.

Breeding: The mating season occurs by mid-February. During this period the couple spends most of their time at their own away from their pups. The pups are born 63 days after the mating. The pups are born at the end of April or beginning of May. A litter may consist of 1-10 pups. The pups weigh 400 grams at birth and in late autumn they have already grown to about 35 kg’s. During the first weeks the pups are kept inside or close to a den in which the pups have the chance to hide if danger occurs. This den can be a hole dug out in sand or just some rocks with cavities.

What does a wolf eat? Wolves are carnivore and they prey on whatever is available and easiest to catch. In Central Sweden they mainly prey on Moose and Roedeer, but also Beavers, Hares, Badgers and Rodents. Further South they are more likely to prey on Roedeer, Red deer and Fallow deer. Certain individuals may occasionally take Sheep and Reindeer but these are often soon killed in protective hunting. The teeth are adapted to grip, drag, scratch and crush. The wolf can break bones of their prey to eat the marrow inside, they even break the thighbones of an adult moose. The wolf can survive in all types of habitat as long as there is enough food and they don’t get killed by man. Therefore they are often confined to live in forested areas where little or no humans are present. Wolves do not go in hibernation; they remain active the whole winter.

Natural predators: Many wolves are killed by humans, both in hunting as well as by traffic. Some wolves are killed by other wolves in territorial fights.

 

Photo: HKuchera - Wolf

Wolf, photo: H Kuchera

More interesting facts about Wolves

  • Wolves are good swimmers. At several occasions they have been seen swimming out to islands in lakes, and even across large rapid rivers during winter.
  • Wolves constantly move around their territory and can easily cover 40-50 kilometers in a day.
  • Wolves howl to each other and to other Wolves, simply as a way of communication. Listen to our recordings of howling wolves here!
  • Nope, they do not howl more at full moon 🙂
  • Hearing a Wolf howl in a dark forest is a big experience, join Sweden’s most successful Wolf howling tours.

 

 

Wolves in Sweden

Why do Wolves howl?

Wolves howl for many different reasons. They actually use many different type of calls to communicate within the family group. It can be short calls or longer series of howls, yipping, wining or even barking. Howls are also used to keep other wolves away from their territory. The most characteristic howls is probably when the pack is howling together.
>> Listen to our recordings of howling wolves here
>> To learn more you can join a Wolf howling trip or Wolf tracking trip in Sweden