Jan 09

Winter, Weather and Wolves

Hi readers,

I hope you are all having a wonderful winter season. We are certainly enjoying it here at Wolf Haven. Even though it’s unseasonably warm for January, the wolves are still in their typical high-spirited winter nature. Wolves seem to love the cold, which makes sense, as they are perfectly adapted for these temperatures. Anytime it dips below freezing, our wolves are playful and full of energy. They are also quite majestic this time of year, as they have donned their big, fluffy, thick winter coats that are gorgeous.

Wolf in his winter coat at Busch Gardens

When the weather gets chilly, we really don’t have to do much differently for the wolves, because they are so well adapted. Most of the wolves will get a little extra food, as they burn calories to keep warm, but other than that, they’re pretty hardy. Physically, they grow in a coat that is so thick it’s hard to find their skin underneath all the dense fur. I have personally buried my fingers into their coats parting the fur trying to find the skin and can never seem to get there. They also retain fur in the ears and between their toes. This keeps them from getting frostbite on their pointy, exposed ear tips, and enables their foot pads to walk in snow and ice for miles. When they sleep, they curl into a tight little ball and cover their cold, wet nose with their tail. The effect is a puffy ball, with virtually no skin exposed.

In fact, wolves are not only adapted for cold weather and snow, but sometimes it helps them. In Yellowstone National Park, researchers who track the wolves have determined that a harsh, snowy winter actually helps their populations. The bison that wolves prey on have dense solid hooves that sink right down into the snow. But the wolves have long toes that spread out and act like a snowshoe, allowing them to walk across the top of the snow. When the snow gets deep, the wolves will slowly drive the bison into the snow drifts and block their passage onto dry ground. This makes it much easier for the wolves to hunt the bison successfully, as bison don’t maneuver as well. After observing these trends over several years, biologists now know that there is a direct correlation to wolf populations increasing and bison populations decreasing during very snowy winters. It seems for some animals the difficult winter months are actually a blessing in disguise.