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What Is the Eastern Wolf?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The Eastern Wolf is generally considered to be a subspecies of the Gray Wolf. It is native to a large part of North America, though its range has shrunk considerably in the last 100 or so years. This small wolf is often mistaken for a coyote, partly because of its size and partly because of its color, but it is a true wolf.

The range of the Eastern Wolf is limited to a small part of Canada and the United States, mostly in and around the Great Lakes, due mostly to hunting and loss of habitat. The Defenders of Wildlife estimate that wolves occupy only a small percentage of their original territory in the United States, and less than half of their original range in Canada. A large percentage of the remaining population of these animals is found in northern Minnesota, with some small groups located in other areas such as Quebec and Wisconsin.

There is some debate as to whether or not the Eastern Wolf is a separate breed, or if it is a subspecies of the Gray Wolf. A number of these wolves have been genetically examined and found to have a combination of genes from several wolf species. This adds to the confusion when trying to classify them, especially because the genetic combinations vary in different populations.

Females weigh about 40 to 65 pounds (20 to 30 kg), and males are somewhat larger, weighing in at 55 to 80 pounds (25 to 35 kg), though some may weigh up to 115 pounds (52 kg). They stand no more than about 32 inches (81 cm) at the shoulder, with some barely over two feet tall (61 cm). The coat of the Eastern Wolf is a light reddish-brown overlaid by longer individual black guard hairs and is very similar in appearance to a coyote’s coat.

The Eastern Wolf typically hunts in packs, with all sharing in the kill. They commonly kill deer, caribou and moose. If no larger prey is available they will eat smaller mammals, such as mice, rabbits and voles. Beavers are also a common prey for these animals, and the wolves will scavenge from dead animals if the opportunity arises. The social structure of the pack dictates which wolves eat first and which must wait their turn, but all members of the pack will be given a chance to eat when a kill is made.

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