Life Span
The life of a wolf in the wild is not easy. Diseases like distemper, tapeworm, and heartworm. Injuries from the hooves and horns of intended prey. Shortages of food and the ravages of winter all take their toll. But the wolf's greatest enemy inflicts by far the greatest damage: MAN. Hunting, poisoning, trapping and highway deaths have been responsible for a massive decline in the wolf population. Scientists determine a wolf's age by analyzing the teeth, and wild wolves rarely live longer than five or six years. Captive ones, by contrast, may last three times as long. The oldest captive wolf died at age seventeen.
Social Structure
Packs, the basic social structure in the wolf's existence, consist of extended families of wolves, and range in size from three to twenty-five, most number five to eight wolves. Every pack develops it's own unique personality that differentiates it from the others. Observers familiar with certain packs can identify them from a distance by the wolves behavior alone. Some packs may last a relatively short time, breaking up in the summer or winter. Others remain together for years, inhabiting the same dens, hunting the same territory, and maintaining certain behavior patterns, even after the founding members have left or died.