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WOLVES Physical characteristics Oh they look just like dogs is an appropriate comment often heard near wolf pens in a zoo for dogs are descendants of wolves It is virtually impossible to describe the typical appearance of wolves Wolves of many large arctic islands and Greenland usually appear snow-white from a distance but closer up often reveal gray black or reddish shades Wolves of northern North America and Eurasia vary in colour A single pack may contain animals that are black shades of gray-brown and white Wolves in the heavily forested areas of eastern North America are more uniform in colour They are often a grizzled gray-brown like some German shepherd dogs This colour variation is a good example of natural selection which enables those animals best suited to a particular environment to survive On the arctic islands where much of the ground is snow-covered for at least nine months of the year being white is a distinct advantage so wolves in the Arctic may be nearly white In the mottled grey green and brown world of the eastern forests the normal coat of the wolf is an effective camouflage As a wolf moves stealthily or rests it blends into the background and is hardly seen Wolves in the Arctic have extremely dense underfur which insulates them against rigorous winters Another adaptation to environment is their habit of hunting in packs or groups which enables them to kill large animals -- deer elk moose caribou bison and muskox Social behaviour and family life The wolves habit of hunting in packs has resulted in the development of complex patterns of social behaviour Wolves are gregarious they not only hunt in packs or groups but live most of their lives with other wolves Studies in Alaska Minnesota Michigan Isle Royale and parts of Canada Algonquin Provincial Park and Jasper Banff and Wood Buffalo national parks show that a family made up of male female and pups
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