Wolf paws

Wolf paws are the found­a­tion for the carnivore’s every move­ment. They carry the pred­at­or across rugged ter­rain, serve as snow­shoes in deep snow and provide trac­tion on icy sur­faces. And the heavy pad­ding means a wolf can move across the land­scape as si­lent as a cloud.

Of course, if a wolf is trav­el­ling across rocky ground or a paved road, their nails may click against the hard sur­face. Wolves have four toes on each paw, as well as an­oth­er toe, the dew claw high­er up on the front legs.

The struc­tur­al dy­nam­ic of in­ward-turn­ing el­bows and out­ward-turn­ing paws res­ults in a highly ef­fi­cient gait that puts little or no stress on the shoulders. And webbed toes mean wolves are cap­able of ford­ing rivers, lakes and even up to thir­teen kilo­metres (eight miles) of open-ocean.

Wolves pos­sess an in­tern­al tem­per­at­ure reg­u­la­tion sys­tem that pre­vents their toes from freez­ing in north­ern loc­a­tions. They also have scent glands between their toes, al­low­ing oth­er wolves to know if it was a friend or foe that passed by.

Wolf paw prints are gen­er­ally re­cog­nis­able due to their size – about 7.610 cm (3 — 4 inches) wide and 8.9 — 11.4 cm (3.5 to 4.5 inches) long on an adult. Some dogs, such as Great Danes or Blood hounds have tracks that are longer than wolves but most dog paw prints are smal­ler and rounder.

Coyotes have smal­ler tracks than most dogs and wolves. Young wolf pups’ paws grow in­cred­ibly quickly so, even at three months old, most wolves have lar­ger feet than an adult coyote.

Image cour­tesy Montana Fish and Wildlife

Top photo iStock/​Ramiro Marquez