Haliburton Forest Blog

3 Things You Didn't Know About Wolf Behavior

3 Things You Didn't Know About Wolf Behavior

Wolves are everywhere from movies to clothing to home décor. Although there are many fascinating stories and legends about wolves, entertainment often has little to do with reality. The wolves at Haliburton Forest aren’t the werewolves and direwolves you’ve seen on TV. They’re better. They’re the real deal. And when you visit the Wolf Centre, you can catch a glimpse of them up close.

Winter is a great time to observe wolf behaviours as it is the wolves’ most active season. There are two main reasons for this. First, winter temperatures are much more comfortable for wolves, because their fur coats are designed to keep them warm and protected in the cold weather. Second, the wolves’ annual breeding season occurs in the winter. This results in an increase in challenges to the pack hierarchy; you may witness confrontations between pack members and displays of dominance.

You May Think You Know a Lot About Wolf Behavior, But Do You Know…

What Wolves Eat

Deer, elk, and moose are staples of a wolf’s diet in the wild. If those are not available, wolves will also eat smaller animals, such as beavers and rabbits. Adult wolves consume an average of five to fourteen pounds of meat per day but can sometimes go more than twelve days without eating if food is scarce.

At Haliburton Forest, the wolves are fed all-natural whole carcasses to make their experience as close to nature as possible. They are mainly fed beaver carcasses, which are purchased from local trappers, but occasionally Haliburton Forest will acquire a deer or moose that was killed on the highway. Enough food is given to encourage the wolves to cache (or save) some food for later, according to their natural instinct.

How Wolves Behave

Wolves are pack animals, and although it is a tightly knit social unit, there is a clear hierarchy within the pack.

The breeding pair has been called the alphas, a term coined by Rudolph Schenkel, a Swiss animal behaviourist, in 1974. The pack also includes the siblings and offspring of the alphas, with the average pack size being four to seven wolves. Packs of up to thirty-six wolves have been documented.

Beta wolves are the next strongest male and female in the pack. The beta male will try to mate with the alpha female and the beta female will try to entice the alpha male. These betas are able to dominate the other pack members, with the exception of the alphas.

At the bottom of the pack hierarchy, is the omega wolf. This is the weakest wolf and can be a male or female. The omega is very submissive and is the last to feed at a kill. He or she is often the scapegoat for the anger and frustration of the rest of the pack. By tolerating this negative treatment, it is thought that the omega is crucial in keeping the pack together.

How Wolves Communicate

Wolves use 3 different languages to communicate effectively:

  1. Sound (howls, barks, whimpers and growls)
  2. Scent (scat, urine, pheromones)
  3. Body language (position, movement, facial expression)

Wolves communicate pack hierarchy, rules and warnings using four types of vocalizations: barking (warning), whimpering (submitting), howling (long distance communication), and growling (warning/dominance).

A wolf’s sense of smell is about 100 times more powerful than a human’s. It can be used to recognize territory, identity, hierarchy, or an empty food cache. They can also smell fear and reproductive desire.

 “Wolves convey much with their bodies. If they are angry, they may stick their ears straight up and bare their teeth. A wolf who is suspicious pulls its ears back and squints. Fear is often shown by flattening the ears against the head. A wolf who wants to play dances and bows playfully.” — International Wolf Centre


Visit the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre

Now that you know what to look for when you observe wolf behaviour, it’s time to plan a visit to the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre, where you’ll learn even more about wolves. The 5,000-square-foot facility chronicles how the world has viewed wolves from past to present in order to educate people and dispel the myths surrounding an often-misunderstood species. The Wolf Centre includes exhibits, a cinema, a classroom, retail space, and an observatory. There are displays for visitors of all ages, so it’s perfect for bringing the kids or a group of your friends.

The observatory is designed to minimize human contact as wolves are viewed through one-way glass. They cannot see the humans; however, they do hear and smell people. You can catch a glimpse of the wolves as they wander through their 15-acre forested enclosure.

Bring Your Group to the Wolf Centre & Stay for so Much More…

The Wolf Centre is a great group activity. Bring your friends, family, or colleagues for this unique Haliburton Forest experience. Spend the weekend or a few days in one of our holiday units. You can cook your own food or eat at The Cookhouse licensed restaurant onsite. Customize your visit with a blend of group activities and individual time. And check out all the other amazing winter activities you can do while you’re here …

Start Planning Your Group Adventure Today

Visit the Wolf Centre and find everything else your group wants — all in one place. Download “Plan the Perfect Group Adventure” to make planning stress free.

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