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Wolves and their Winter Coats

March 24, 2010

I’m guessing that many of you out there have a dog. If you don’t, I’m sure you probably know someone who does. What I noticed about my dog this morning, much to my dismay, is that he is already shedding. There’s nothing like a fur-covered couch. Maybe you’ve noticed this about the dogs you know, too. Well, wolves are not quite like our domesticated dogs in how their coats grow in and shed out.

When it gets cold outside, wolves put on a dense layer of undercoat. The undercoat fur is so thick that the military used to line parkas with it. Fortunately for wolf conservation, this is no longer the practice. However, that dense undercoat stays until it gets warmer. It doesn’t just start falling out immediately upon warm weather. It takes about three weeks for all of that undercoat to come out. And while that is happening, the wolves look patchy and not quite right. But don’t worry. It’s totally normal and they are still healthy.

Here are some pictures for you to compare? Can you tell who has their winter coats on?

The top coat that remains consists of guard hairs which are slick hairs that help with weather proofing. The guard hairs are also very long, usually four inches or more, and give the wolves their particular color pattern. Guard hairs are also there year round. Wolves that live in warmer areas, like the critically endangered Mexican Gray Wolf, don’t usually put on the undercoat, and all they have are guard hairs. This difference in coat status and density can really make for variations of appearance. A full winter coat can add the illusion of 20 pounds. Our wolves are still in full coat, but it won’t be long until the shedding begins.

Wolf Trainer at Busch Gardens

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 1:17 pm

    They almost look like different animals withou their winter coats.

  2. Vickie permalink
    March 25, 2010 3:30 pm

    Tala looks so different in her winter coat! I love the dark stripe down her nose. 🙂 It was great to see them still in their winter coats last weekend. I’m used to seeing them all skinny!

  3. David permalink
    March 25, 2010 5:38 pm

    This is so interesting, both this post about their fur, and the other post about helping the wolves adjust to the noises of the opening of the park’s season.

    I’m proud to be a Busch Gardens fan. Even with the change of ownership, the parks continue their devotion to animals, gardens and their human guests. …And, “Long live the Loch Ness!”

  4. August 7, 2010 9:07 am

    We formerly had a half wolf half dog pet. What a great watch dog he made!

  5. October 24, 2010 10:03 am

    I do free wolf education seminars and community craft projects with blown undercoats. my ambassador girl passed last year. PLEASE have anyone/everyone contact me about acquiring next spring’s undercoats…. I will be happy to send any donations to the non-profit sources of undercoat received (all proceeds go to wolf rescue preserves anyway).

    Thanks. I am in NC.

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