The wolf was often protrayed as the Anti-Christ, epitome of evil, in European mythology and history. Wolves have been exterminated in most of Europe over the past four centuries. Some survive in mountainous Spain, France, Italy, and in forested Finland.
There are some 60,000 wolves inhabiting 90 percent of Canada, and about one-tenth of that number in Alaska. Hunting and trapping of wolves is still permitted in large parts of these regions, providing subsistence income to the rural people.
Wolves are aware and loyal to their social group, and exist for its pack. The exception, though rare, is the "lone wolf", the runt, the outsider. These wolves are ostracized from the rest of the pack. This loner may wanter six miles (ten kilometres) or 600 miles ( 1000 kilometres) until it finds a mate and begins a new pack. The wolves identity begins and ends as part of a cohesive, eight to fifteen member pack. The wolf lives by a system of hierarchy. The leaders of the wolf pack are called alpha male and female, and (usually) descendants of these alpha parents are the subservient members. Each wolf knows its place in the pack, which is reinforced by favours, rituals, nips, and fights. Some of the subservient wolves help in the feeding and the raising of the pups. All of the wolf pack members share in the hunting duties. The lower ranking, younger wolves bow, literally, before the alpha adult wolves to show their submisson. Dominant adults urinate with a raised leg, while the weaker, lower ranking wolf will squat while urinating to minimize the distribution of the scent. There is a regular, weaker wolf that is the baby-sitter. This wolf helps to look after the young and often goes hungry while the alpha parents are out hunting. The alpha wolf leads the pack on large prey attacks. The wolf employs a wide varity of group tactics which is communicated to the rest of the pack by the pair of alpha wolves, through vocalizations, facial expressions, and body movements to other pack members.
The pack protects is territory against incursions from other wolves with regualr, ritual scent markings along the perimeter, every 100 - 200 metres, of their territory. These boundaries are fiercely protected from intruding wolves which are attacked and on occcasion killed.
The wolf has the capacity to survive several winter months of perpetual darkness and -40 degree temperature, with bitter winter winds, while some wolves are quite comfortable living in the heat of the desert or dampness of a humid Gulf Coast swamp. The wolf is most likely the most adaptable and successful non-human predator on earth.
"Among groups of wolves in North America, physical size, diet, number of animals in the pack, and colouration vary considerably. The arctic wolf is often whitish-gray. The timber wolf in most of Canada and northern Minnesota ranges from jet black through gray to tawny. The red wolf and Mexican wolf have, sepecially on the ears and haunches, an auburn colour."
* Some of the information above is taken from the book "Wolves" by Daniel Wood