The grey wolf is the largest canid in Mongolia. It may be up to 160cm long, and weigh up to 80kg. It has a grey coat, often with some yellow, red, or brown coloration. They are slender, but powerfully built, with large heads and long limbs. The wolf is an important figure in Mongolian culture.
Wolves are found in packs in most areas, but where they are hunted more heavily, may be seen only as individuals. The species occurs in all areas of Mongolia, and live in open areas with sufficient cover and prey abundance. Packs may be active day or night, but are most often seen at dawn and dusk. Packs can be highly territorial.
Wolves eat a variety of prey including domestic ungulates, small mammals, birds and carrion. Attacks on livestock typically occur when wild prey is scarce, and are a serious source of conflict between wolves and herders. Attacks on humans are very rare.
Monogamous pairs mate in December, and gestation takes between 62 and 65 days. In May or June 6-8 pups are born in a den made in a small cave or cleft, or dug in the soil. Pups are weaned at 7-8 weeks. Individuals become sexually mature at 2-3 years, and in the wild generally live up to 15-16 years.
The most common signs are footprints, a little longer and less round than those of a dog. Droppings are larger than those of most canids, and are distinctive in that they contain relatively large amounts of bone fragments and hair. Scat are generally dark brown when fresh and become white when old, but this varies with diet.
Since 2006 WCS Mongolia has been engaged in projects tackling the illegal wildlife trade, much of which consists of wolf products. For more information see the page on Wildlife Trade.
As with most large mammals in Mongolia, the most serious threat to grey wolves is that of hunting by humans. Wolves are hunted more often for sport than for meat, especially following attacks on livestock. Some organs, such as the brain are used in traditional medicine, to cure a variety of ailments. In three years of surveying markets in and around Ulaanbaatar, WCS Mongolia found a large number of wolf skins and organs. In every year, the grey wolf was the most observed species for sale.
As human populations increase, negative interactions between wolves and humans increase, and wolves are forced to move out of their territory.