Wolf Behaviour




  • A pack can consist of 4 to 40 wolves – depending on territory size.
  • The wolf pack hierarchy is a very strict social order.
    • Leaders are known as Alpha (Male and Female).
      The dominance is communicated by posture and vocally.
      (A straight tail – bared teeth – deep growls). 
      This show of force rarely leads to serious injuries.
    • The Lowest ranking wolf is known as an Omega (Male or Female).
      The Omega wolf serves an important purpose by absorbing the packs
      aggression thereby maintaining balance within the pack.
      This submissive position is displayed by means of body language.
      (Ears back – head down – tail between the legs – or a raised leg to expose the stomach and genitalia). 
  • Wolves in the wild have a lifespan of 5 – 10 years and have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity.
  • The Alpha male and female pair for life and breeding is usually confined to the Alpha pair only.
    • Female wolves become sexually mature during their 2nd year.
    • Male wolves become sexually mature during their 3rd year.
    • Gestation lasts 63 days but can vary by up to four days.
    • The size of each litter is related to the size of the wolf population in the local area, the amount of prey available and other environmental stresses.
    • Litters range in size from 3 – 12 young with an average litter size being 6 pups.
    • The female usually burrows into a mound to create a “den” when having her pups.
    • The Alpha female appoints one of the lesser females to become the “babysitter” when she is not in attendance.
    • The “babysitter” will also lactate in order to feed the pups.
    • The pups are born blind and their eyes open within the first two weeks.
    • Pups can utter their first howls at 4 weeks.
    • The pups begin to emerge from the den at 3 – 5 weeks and are lead out of the den by the Alpha male who whimpers and howls.
    • Pups are weaned at approximately 5 weeks.
  • The pack feeds their pups and their aged family members by regurgitating food.
    • We feed our wolves every second day – meat only – fortified every couple of weeks with vitamins and bone meal (when necessary).
  • Wolves have twice the biting power than that of a dog.
  • Our wolves moult twice a year to adapt to the climate.
  • Wolves have an extra web between their toes for snow walking. They can travel great distances covering up to 200km in 48 hours.
    • Under threat wolves will purge their stomach contents to make their bodies lighter for flight.
    • When wolves are put into abnormal situations – small enclosures or when physically abused or threatened, they display aggressive behaviour and often become violent to protect themselves.
  • Wolves’ eyes have an extra lense for night vision.
  • Wolves are fond of water and love their daily swim, which also serves to eliminate ticks and fleas.
  • Wolves communicate in many ways:
    • From an early age they establish dominance by growling.
    • They are quite vocal as they whimper and whine in hunger, pain or to attract attention.
    • They communicate by means of body language – ears, nose, teeth, and tail.
    • They howl. Howling is not uniform – each wolf has its own distinctive howl – and often a variation each time it howls.
    • Although wolves do not bark as domestic dogs do – they do use a bark as a form of communication – usually signaling alarm or a challenge.
    • Howling identifies the packs whereabouts to lost members, serves to avoid aggression between packs and helps demarcate territories.
    • Lone male wolves have a deep mournful howl, lasting for hours that can be heard up to 25km away.
  • Wolf or Dog?
    • Dogs hold their tail much lower than wolves and for almost all dog breeds – including crossbreeds – the tail tends to curl up.
    • Paw prints are another distinguishing difference. 
      In wolves – the toe pads and claw marks point forward.
      In dogs – the toe pads and claw marks are angled to the outside.


Wolf packs do not amalgamate – it is usually only the Omega who leaves the pack or an ousted Alpha – and finds other Omega’s or ousted Alphas in the wild – to form new packs.








General Shape

Intergroup Distance

Print Size (Front Foot)



4 toes, symmetrical, longer than wide, rectangular shape, typical canid-shaped planter pad, nail marks not attached to toe mark.

>26 inches

L > 4 ¾”
W > 3 ¾”

Usually travels in a straight line.


Same as wolf


Variable – but most breeds 
< 4”

long Lots of meandering


Same as wolf

< 16”

L < 2 ¾”
W< 2 ½”

Travels in a straight line.




Research Courtesy of:
International Wolf Centre Ely, Minnesota
Lopez, Barry H. Of wolves and Men. New York City, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; 1978
Mech L. David. The wolf: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press; 1988.
California Wolf Centre, Julian California.




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Wolf Hybrids

(Courtesy of United States American Wolf Dog Association)


“Wolves and wolf hybrids are not the pet for everyone. They must be contained in a secure pen because they can be escape artists. Caution must be used with small children – these animals play rough and often cannot be taught to inhibit their rough behaviour. They are also very protective of food and possessions. Most states require permits for these animals and in some states they cannot be owned at all.
We enjoy wolf dogs – they are sensitive, intelligent and affectionate. They are naturally hardy and are rarely prone to health problems or genetic disorders.
Have we convinced you that wolf dog ownership is not for you?”




 A wolf hybrid is the “creation” of a new species. 
Canis Lupus and Canis Familiaris – the wolf and the dog – once mixed, one creates a hybrid. Wolf dogs are VERY special animals, with specialised needs that require more attention and work than an ordinary domestic dog


The Lupus Foundation is against hybridising. It is not the animal – but rather the potential owners – that we have a problem with. NOT ALL hybrid owners are aware of the animal’s needs, nor are they sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject of wolves or hybrids when they purchase these animals.


In the end, it is the animal that suffers!


Usually by the time the animal has out-grown the “cute puppy” stage, the owners realise that they have a “difficult” animal on their hands. Not knowing what to do with them, they are usually “farmed out” to unsuspecting new owners, euthanaised or abandoned.


Help us to prevent further hybridising in South Africa. Help us keep the genetic strain of the wolves that are in South Africa – pure. Teach your children the dangers of removing an animal from its natural habitat. Show them the sad pictures of animals that have to live out their lives in cages – because of OUR actions.


Tell your friends and any potential hybrid buyer of the dedication, love and extremely hard work that is required in order to meet this animals needs. Spread the word! The more the public are aware of the dangers of owning a hybrid, the sooner we can cut or slow down the “gravy train” the cross breeders are on.



Wolves in South Africa??

Come and see for yourself – visit our Sanctuary at the foot of Witelskop in the beautiful Tsitsikamma Forest Area




  • Bring & Braai area - picnic style.

  • “Wolf” goodies & souvenirs at our shop

  • Sound room Presentation (English, Afrikaans and German)

  • Camping facilities - booking essential

  • Rustic Hikers Cabins (self-catering) - booking essential 

  • Wolf Songs at night



  • The sanctuary is open 7 days a week.
  • Closed on the following public holidays:           25th December & 1st January
  • Hours are 08h30 to 15h30
  • Tours begin on the half hour, every hour: first tour is 08h30, last tour 15h30













HOW MUCH? (Prices are per person)




CHILDREN - R100 (10 yrs and under)


GROUPS (minimum of  8 people in a group)

ADULTS - R100 

CHILDREN - R80 - (Pensioners and children) 

SCHOOLS - R60 - min. 20 children - accompanying adults R100 

Bookings are essential for SCHOOL groups only.

 - (MINIMUM of 8 people in a group - during Summer months ONLY.  Night tours not run unless there are 8 in your group).




Bookings are essential for night tours.


FEEDING TIMES - (alternate days at 14h30)


Participate in feeding the wolves. 

Not for the feint-hearted.

Register at the office on site and book your spot on the "feeding team". 

Adults only please as the meat is heavy and has to be tossed over the fence -  as the public is not allowed into enclosures.

R50/person/slab of meat.

Bookings are essential for feeding.


CAMPING COSTS - (Summer months only)

Booking essential - space is limited.

R300-00 / person / day.

Includes free entry to sanctuary (value R150-00/adult)

Bookings are essential to book a site



Booking essential - space is limited.

R350-00 / person / day.

Includes free entry to sanctuary (value R150-00/adult)

Bookings are essential

PLEASE NOTE: CABINS ARE VERY BASIC - like camping under a roof.  The facilities are minimal




Just off the N2 at the R102 (Witelsbos / Koumansbos) turnoff – after Humansdorp - before Storms River Bridge.

Only 10.5km North of the Storms River Bridge at the R102, park your vehicle in our secure parking area, and enjoy a 500m scenic stroll along the Elands River Trail, towards the Wolf Sanctuary Educational Experience.  Or for the not-so-adventurous, just drive up....