There are around thirty subspecies of wolves (Canis lupus) around the world. The Réserve Zoologique de la Haute-Touche (Haute-Touche Animal Reserve) is home to the Mackenzie Valley wolf, hailing from Alaska and western Canada, and the Eurasian wolf, which has been recolonising France since the beginning of the 1990s, descended from Italian packs.
Mammalia, Carnivora, Canidae
occidentalis (loup de Mackenzie)
12 to 16 years
90 cm at the shoulder; 60 kg at the most (Mackenzie Valley wolf), 40 kg (Eurasian wolf)
~ 60 days, 3 to 5 babies
boreal forests, tundra, mountains
Europe, Asia, North America
LC, Least concerned
Way of life
Unlike other large carnivores, the wolf is a social animal. It lives in packs with a complex social structure.
Each individual has its place and rank and must communicate this to others through its attitude. Only the dominant couple, known as the “alpha”, reproduces. The female wolf gives birth in a den guarded by the clan. She buries food nearby and at the slightest hint of danger she moves her offspring.
Wolves communicate through marking and a range of sounds such as growls and howls, which can be heard many kilometres away. These canines hunt in packs and the size of their prey depends on the size of the group. More often than not, they feed on cervids or ibex. Wolves can run at a speed of 50 km/h but only for short distances. In general, they run slower than healthy prey. They therefore attack weak or sick individuals.
The Eurasian wolf has a greyish-beige coat, hence why it is also known as the grey wolf, while the Mackenzie Valley wolf varies in colour, from white to black. Its coat thickens in winter to offer better protection from the wind and cold.
The wolf has 5 digits on its front paws and 4 on its back ones. Its slanted eyes have a yellow iris.
Hunting, the decline in wild populations of ungulates and deforestation led to the disappearance of the wolf from France in around 1939. In the 1990s it naturally recolonised the territory from Italian packs. It can now be found in around ten departments (Alps, Jura, Pyrenees, Massif central). The species is strictly protected by international treaties ratified by France (Bern Convention, Washington Convention).