Wild Animals/Wolves


How much area is required for a wolf in a zoo
enclosure?  Typically how many wolves are
housed together?

Dear Marisa

Thank you for your questions. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

I'm sorry for the delay. There are no definite answer to this. According to where the zoo is, there is no minimum size to an enclosure, nor is there a definite number of wolves that are housed together. Wolves can have large litters and some zoos will remove young wolves and send them to other zoos, while others may react differently. I have looked at various articles and have tried to show how enclosure size affects wolves.

On Thursday, I visited an exhibition on animals in Islington (http://www.islington.gov.uk/islington/history-heritage/heritage_whatson/wo_exhib), which included a picture of a menagerie, where the enclosures were very small. I doubt if the width of the rhinoceros enclosure was greater than the length of a rhinoceros, so the animals would have found it difficult to move about. A poster showed that one of the beast shows also had wolves and I doubt if these animals had much space.

http://www.captiveanimals.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Enclosure-size.pdf gives an account of how zoo enclosures compare to the space required for animals in the wild. As zoo wolves do not need to hunt live prey, they do not need as much space as they would in the wild, but keeping them in small, barred enclosures, with barely enough space to move around is cruel.

While many zoos don't keep their animals in such cramped conditions, some do. Ideally, wolves will be kept in a group, including an alpha male and female, with enough space to run around.
A. Sherratt-Ayerst (https://ukwct.org.uk/files/dissertations/sherratt.pdf) has written a useful account about captive wolves. There was more alert resting behaviour higher density enclosures and more wandering or exploratory behaviour in enclosures with a more varied layout. It seems that wolf packs will not function normally in a small enclosure, as lower ranked wolves cannot escape the aggression of other pack members, leading to increased stress. Other research says that enclosure size had little effect on the amount of time spent resting
compared to that spent in activity by the wolves; pack structure showed a stronger effect on behaviour than did enclosure size.

Annie B. White (http://www.graywolfconservation.com/Wolf_Dogs/07_Recommendations.htm) gives dimensions for wolf enclosures and I hope this is the information you are looking for. Please note that wolf enclosures can vary dramatically in size in different zoos

Rob Laidlaw (http://www.zoocheck.com/Reportpdfs/Wolfreport.pdf) wrote about accommodation for wolves in Ontario. He talks about the effects of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA) on how wildlife is kept, including their accommodation. Overall,wolves had been kept in substandard accommodation, with little attention to the spatial and physical requirements of wolves. Many wolves had lived out their lives in tiny, barren enclosures, pacing endlessly back and forth. Enclosures that are designed and constructed with little or no consideration of the biological and behavioural needs of the animals, rarely, if ever, provide an appropriate quality of life. It is important to provide of complex, variable environments that stimulate physical and mental activity within an appropriate social context. Captive wolves need to seek shelter and nest sites, defend territories and explore new spaces. If they do not engage in "natural" behaviors, this may be severely detrimental to their well-being.

The above article is very detailed and gives information about how enclosures affect the behaviour of captive wolves.

There are several other articles that may help you. I keyed the following words into Google: size of wolf enclosure zoo.

I hope this helps.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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