Aug
16
2017

Species Profile: The Caspian Sea Wolf

Though the Caspian Sea Wolf or Steppe Wolf is steadily declining in number, it’s still open to bounty hunting.

Caspian Sea Wolf

Caspian Sea Wolf (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons cc by-s.a. 3.0)

The Caspian Sea Wolf, or Steppe Wolf, is an endangered subspecies of the gray wolf. This animal was once found throughout the area between the Caspian and Black seas but is now seriously restricted to a few scattered packs around the Caspian Sea.

Like other Eurasian wolves, these are highly social animals. However, the steady and unchecked decline in their numbers and territory means they now form smaller packs than their kind in North America.

Unlike their whiter counterparts in Northern Europe, these wolves are usually reddish-tan in color: basically desert colors to allow them blend into their surroundings. They have short coats, a thinly-furred tail, and speckles of gray/rust/brown/black hair on their backs. Though this subspecies tends to be smaller in size than other Eurasian wolves.

Caspian Sea wolves may hunt alone or in packs depending on the circumstances.

1) Scientific Name

Canis Lupus Campestris

2) Scientific Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Canidae
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: Canis Lupus

3) Life Expectancy

Significantly less than expected because of systematic elimination of the subspecies. In fact, its lifespan is as short as six years in present day Russia.

4) Average/Maximum Length and Height

Adults measure 30 inches (76 cm) at the shoulder.

5) Average/Maximum Weight

It is of average dimensions, weighing between 35 and 40 kg (77 and 88 lbs.) Females are usually 20 percent smaller than males.

6) Maximum Running Speed

About 64 km/h (40 m/h).

7) Interaction With/Danger To Humans

Unfortunately, these wolves have a long history of death and destruction. With the continuous influx of humans in areas where the Caspian Sea Wolf typically resides, the relationship between this animal and people hasn’t been positive.

Their range and territory is now severely restricted. Therefore, they are hardly sighted at daytime anymore. They have become so fearful of humans that they rather hide and come out to hunt at night. Unfortunately, there is a dramatic decrease in land, and prey, available for them.

Consequently, they resort to attacking livestock and other farm animals. Since there is no protection for these wolves, the livestock owners retaliate by killing them and there is even a bounty arrangement in place by the Russian government. Hunters get a reward for hunting and killing these and other wolves in the country.

8) Reproduction

Mating happens between the dominant pair of the pack between January and April every year. Gestation period is about 2 months. Afterwards, the mother gives birth to 4 to 7 cubs and the entire pack members take turns caring for the cubs.

9) Diet and Hunting Pattern Of The Caspian Sea Wolf

The Caspian Sea wolf cannot afford to be a picky-eater. Its current plight means that it will eat almost any animal it can find to avoid starvation.

Normally they prey on medium sized ungulates like saiga, wild boar, red deer, and roe deer. Also, scarcity of large prey means that they are forced to hunt solo which increases their risk of getting killed.

They’ll also eat livestock, small rodents, fish, frogs and even berries and other fruits in the direst conditions.

Of course when they can’t find enough food they will give up pack-hunting and scavenge for food near villages and farmhouses. Many rural villages in that region have open dumps where local slaughterhouses disposes of their waste. Wolves and stray dogs will congregate there to feed.

The Caspian Sea wolf is forced to eat almost anything it can find and may even go without food for several weeks.

10) Alternative Names

  • Steppe Wolf
  • Eurasian Wolf
  • Caucasian Wolf

11) Population And Conservation Status

The Canis Lupus Campestris is considered as a nuisance in its native region and has been treated as one for decades now. It is regularly hunted by locals, farmers, and bounty hunters and has no protection from the authorities.

Its exact population figure is unknown and only more extensive surveys can give insight into the actual present day state of this wolf.

Whatever the case, the decline in population is worrisome and is a direct after effect of exploitation, persecution, and disease.

Since this animal is a subspecies of the gray wolf, it is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN along with other gray wolf subspecies. However, it’s classified as Near Threatened in the Mongolian Red List of Mammals.

At this point, all indications point to a possible Endangered status if there was to be a proper analysis of this wolf.

 There is need for urgent reevaluation of the conservation status of the Caspian Sea Wolf.

12) Ancestry and History

Russian scientist Ivan Dwigubski studied and classified the Caspian Sea wolf as a gray wolf subspecies in 1804. It later became commonly known as the Steppe Wolf and the Caucasian Wolf.

Taxonomists recognize four subspecies as being similar:

  • The Canis Lupus Campestris,
  • Canis Lupus Cactrianus,
  • Canis Lupus Cubanensis,
  • and Canis Lupus Desertorum.

Interestingly, people commonly mistake the Caspian Sea wolf for the Tibetan wolf or Mongolian wolf (Canis Lupus Chanco).

13) Distribution and Habitat

The Caspian Sea is the recognized as the largest landlocked body of water in the world today. It’s considered as the largest lake on Earth. It borders five countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran.

The historic and natural range of this wolf was in all the countries surrounding this water body and the Black Sea. However today they are mainly found just in the far south-western part of Russia along the Caspian Sea.

Apparently, this animal may be heading straight into extinction but there is currently no direct conservation effort to save it. If it eventually becomes extinct, it will join the ranks of the Japanese wolf and the dire wolf.

 

References:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steppe_wolf

2. https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/documents/IUCN-RL-517.3-001.pdf

3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3735993/The-wolf-hunters-Siberia.html

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_wolf

Photo Credits:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Canis-lupus.jpg

 

 

 

 

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