Wolves are similar in size to German shepherds but are generally thinner, with slightly longer legs and a shorter tail. Individual animals’ coats can vary in colour from grey to red. They have a light-coloured facial mask which stretches from the snout to the base of the neck. They have a graceful, smooth gait and generally run at a trot. They can appear quite skinny, particularly in summer when their coat is shorter than in winter.
Signs of presence and activity
Tracking allows us to gather a great deal of information on wolves’ behaviour in their natural habitat. However, they are a wary species, which makes them extremely difficult to observe. Tracking therefore mainly involves looking for clues, setting video camera traps, and night-time observation using thermal imaging.
Wolf prints are oval shaped and are very similar to those of large dogs. It is very difficult to distinguish one from the other; they can only be identified
via thorough knowledge of the terrain and an overall analysis of patterns of movement and behaviour. Wolf tracks generally form a straight line, as
though the animal is following a particular trajectory or direction. When trotting, the rear paws land on the front footprints, a feature called “direct
register trot”. Wolves often use tracks, paths, and sheep tracks to move around.
Periods of snow cover are particularly conducive to finding prints, urine, and even carcasses. These clues can then be used to gain a better understanding of the wolves’ movements, the zones where they are present, and even to estimate the number of animals in a certain area.
Wolf scat is often fairly large in comparison to fox droppings, and the colour and texture vary depending on what the animal has been eating. It can be black and soft if the wolf has been eating blood and entrails, or white and solid if they have been scavenging bones. It is typically dark in colour and contains fragments of bone and fur, and has a characteristically strong odour.