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Wolf Lifespan: How Long Do Wolves Live?

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Wolves are one of the most popular wild animals, and for good reason! As the ancestors of today's modern dogs, these apex predators are among the most famous in the entire animal kingdom. Many cultures often associate the wolf with a symbol of freedom, courage, loyalty, and keen instincts. This explains why, out of so many wild animals, wolves were chosen for domestication to become man's best friend.

As such a fascinating species, wolves still have many mysteries behind them. Have you ever wondered how long these ferocious hunters can live and what can take down top predators? If you've ever wondered how long wolves live, let's explore how long wolves live and how long they live in the wild and in captivity.

wolf fast background

Eastern Timberwolves
A pack of wolves can vary in size from 2 to over 30 wolves. On average, they run in packs of 5 to 8 wolves.


Wolves are the largest members of the canine family, also known as canids. Interestingly, all of your favorite dog breeds are descended from wolves! There are currently three different wolf species, however, there are about 40 different wolf subspecies.

With sharp teeth and strong physical strength, wolves have always been at the top of the food chain. They are classified as apex predators because they hunt in packs and are therefore able to hunt some fairly large animals. It is not uncommon to see a pack of wolves killing elk, moose, bison, and deer.

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As the top predators in their environment, not many other animals pose a threat to them.

How long can a wolf live?

Wolves can run at speeds of 36 to 38 miles per hour.

© Dave Pape – Public Domain

Wolves can live up to 14 years in the wild and up to 16 years in captivity.

Considering the specific species, the average lifespan of a gray wolf in the wild is about 6 to 8 years. Gray wolves are the most recognizable and largest of the wolves due to their long, shaggy tails with black tips and can weigh up to 143 pounds. They are native to Eurasia and North America.

Today, the world's longest-lived wolf is a 19-year-old female wolf named Madade. Madadh was rescued from a safari park when he was just 10 days old.

Let's explore the factors that affect the lifespan of wolves and what are their main threats to survival.

Major threat to wolf survival

tundra wolf
A wolf can eat 20 pounds of meat in one meal.

© Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

As wild animals, wolves have learned to survive in fairly harsh habitats. However, despite their status as top predators, there are many threats that affect their survival. According to the Society for Conservation Biology, "wolves once inhabited a wide variety of habitats throughout much of the northern hemisphere north of 20° north latitude." Because of this, wolves were listed as endangered in the United States for many years. However, in October 2020, wolves were removed from the Endangered Species Act across the United States.

Still, wolves face some major threats, including:

  • Habitat Loss: Human encroachment on wolf and other animal habitat is a serious threat. This can lead to habitat loss. As habitat is lost, wolves can find themselves in more populated areas, such as highways and railways.
  • Human Intolerance: Throughout human history, there have been many misconceptions about wolves. Many myths and fairy tales depict them as dangerous animals, and hunters often see them as competitors for their prey. Therefore, humans have been hunting wolves for many years.
  • Loss of prey base: Wolves need sufficient numbers of natural prey to survive. Declining prey populations due to overhunting by humans and habitat loss affect their ability to hunt and feed themselves.
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Average life cycle of a wolf

If you've ever seen or cared for a puppy, then you have an idea of a wolf's life cycle. Let's take a look at how this amazing hunter grows from cub to adult.


The life cycle stages of a wolf begin in its mother's womb. Female wolves are 60 to 63 days pregnant. During this time, the wolf's body begins to develop. This includes the eyes, nose, head, limbs, legs, etc.

wolf cub

Two gray Mackenzie wolf puppies (Canis lupus occidentalis) also called Timberwolves sitting in front of a rock.
Wolf pups are born blind with bright blue eyes.

© Jan Hejda/Shutterstock.com

Wolves give birth in mid to late spring. Average litter size is between 5-11 pups. However, there are also litters where only one litter is born. Puppies are born blind with their ears closed. They rely on their mother's milk for nutrition.


When they reach six months of age, cubs are called juveniles. At this intermediate stage, they are no longer considered puppies, but are not fully adult wolves either. At this stage, juveniles are able to leave the dens in which they were raised and go out hunting with wolves. They are not yet old enough to participate in the hunt, but will stand nearby and observe.

adult wolf

After two or three years, the wolf finally fully matures. At this point, they are faced with a serious choice. They have to choose between living in groups or living alone. If they choose to leave, then the wolves will have to form their own packs.

Interesting Facts About Wolf Lifespan And Life Cycle

Interested in learning more about wolf lifespan? Check out these fun facts about its lifecycle:

  • Only the highest-ranking "alpha" males and females in the wolf pack breed once a year. This means that all other wolves in the pack will not mate. Instead, other wolf pack members help raise the pups, treating them like siblings.
  • Wolves always cooperate with each other in their packs because this ensures their survival. They use howls to communicate with each other as well as smell.
  • Wolves are monogamous. This means they have the same partner for life.
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Tibetan mastiff vs wolf
A gray wolf runs in the snow. These gray animals are pack animals, organized into unique hierarchies within wolf packs.

© Holly S Cannon/Shutterstock.com

about the author


Volia Nikaci is a freelance writer and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding and marketing. She has a background in broadcast journalism and political science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When not writing, she enjoys traveling, visiting used bookstores, and hanging out with her significant other.

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