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7 surprising facts about grey wolves

Posted on: 11 August, 2023

Unique howls, a huge geographical range and complex social bonds… there’s a lot about wolves you might not know. Find out more about how we care for our four resident grey wolves, and discover more about their wild cousins around the world.

1 Wolves were once one of Britain’s apex predators

Wolves were the last large carnivore to disappear from the UK, in the 18th century. In ancient times, they roamed Britain’s woodland along with other top predators such as bears, lynxes and wolverines. You can see all of these species in Bear Wood, Bristol Zoo Project’s ancient woodland habitat for these predators. The bears and wolves share their area of the wood, allowing them to interact with one another as they would have done in the wild.

2 Grey wolves have a huge range

Found in 69 countries, the grey wolf’s range spans the globe. They’re found everywhere from the Middle East and India to the northernmost reaches of arctic Greenland. They were once the most widely distributed mammal (with the exception of humans), but their range has been reduced by hunting and habitat loss.

3 Wolves are on the increase in Europe

Once widely hunted by farming communities concerned about their livestock, wolves are now recovering in numbers. Successful reintroduction programmes and legal protections are allowing the animals to spread, benefiting their ecosystems.

4 Wolves are skilled pack hunters

Wild wolves hunt in packs to bring down large prey like deer. Our four wolf brothers living in Bear Wood don’t need to hunt, but our keepers often chain up their meat for them to jump, tug and pull at, mimicking the movements they’d make hunting in the wild.

5 Wolves mate for life

Wolves form strong social bonds, and pairs usually mate for life, raising young together with the help of their pack.

6 Packs can recognise each other by their unique howls

Like humans, all wolves have their own voices and can recognise each other by their howls, which can be heard up to 15km away — this means you might hear our wolves howling from the other side of the Severn Bridge! They howl as a social or hunting rallying call and to communicate to other packs that an area is their territory.

7 Scent is an important communication tool

As well as vocalisations, wolves communicate with each other through scent. Wolves scent mark using pheromones and urine to mark their territory and communicate their readiness to breed. To mimic the rich smell-scape wolves would experience in the wild, our keepers sometimes spray perfumes around Bear Wood, which the wolves recognise as unfamiliar scents and like to scent mark over.

Experience Bear Wood and see our wolves for yourself! Book your tickets to Bristol Zoo Project now — book the day before your visit or earlier for 10% off.

Admission includes special events and activities including AutumnFest (4 September to 30 November), and Howl-oween (21 October to 5 November).

Bristol Zoo Project is part of Bristol Zoological Society, a conservation and education charity. Every visit supports our conservation work in the UK and around the world.