Wolf behaviour and reproduction

Wolves live as fixed couples that usually reproduce annually. The wolf pack is commonly a family unit consisting of a couple (a so-called alpha couple) and its offspring. There are also other types of wolf packs, but they are rarer. On average, Finnish wolf packs consist of seven wolves. Wolves are on the move at all times of the day, but they are most active during dusk and at night. The wolf is a very fast mover that can cover vast distances with speed. 

Wolves live as permanent couples that usually reproduce annually

Three wolf cubs sitting on a rock. Wolf cubs. Photo: Lassi Rautiainen


The size of a wolf pack’s territory is determined by the availability of food and the density of wolves. The average size of a wolf territory in Finland is approx. 800 to 1,200 square kilometres, depending on the mathematical method used. The wolf pack must be able to satisfy all of its needs related to food, shelter and reproduction within its territory. The boundaries of the territory remain more or less the same from year to year unless major changes take place in the pack structure. Wolves also defend their territory against other wolves who are not part of the pack.

Due to this behaviour, individuals not belonging to the pack will not live permanent in the territory.


The mating season of the wolf is in February and March. The gestation period is 60 to 63 days, and the cubs are born in mid-May. When the cubs are about to be born, the pair chooses a den, usually a simple sheltered space, for example under the lower branches of a spruce. After around one to three weeks, they move the cubs to a more permanent den that is often located near water. This den, which may even be a proper cave dug in sand, will be more permanent in structure. While wolves rarely use a birthing den again, they may return to the same second den.

A female wolf typically gives birth to three to six cubs, but the wolf can have as many as ten cubs in one litter. The cubs are always guarded by one of the older wolves in the pack. This so-called babysitter can be a cub from the previous year's litter, for example. Cub mortality in wolves is high and nearly half of the cubs may die from parasites, diseases or lack of nutrition. The wolf's diet varies especially in the early summer. It might prey on moose as well as smaller animals, such as hares, rodents and birds. The cubs must be fed every day.

In the late summer the pack becomes significantly more mobile and its focus shifts away from the den. As autumn draws near and the cubs grow larger, hunting becomes easier and there are more large game animals such as moose calves to prey on. The entire pack participates in food acquisition and the young cubs learn how to hunt.

Wolf's diet and hunting behaviour

The wolf is a carnivore. The availability of prey animals greatly influences its diet. It can prey on animals ranging from moles and lemmings to hares, birds, deer, reindeer and moose. Wolves primarily hunt cloven-hoofed animals, which in the coniferous forest belt usually mean moose, but they also ...

Number and distribution of wolves

Wolves are met in northern and eastern Finland. Our wolf population is densest near the eastern border, but wandering wolves and even packs are met all over the country. The size of the territory of a wolf pack is determined by nutrition conditions and the density of wolves. In Finland the average s...