Italian wolves: fantastic beasts and where to find them

' "But Grandmother! What big teeth you have," said Little Red Riding Hood, her voice quivering slightly.
"The better to eat you with, my dear," roared the wolf and he leapt out of the bed and began to chase the little girl. '

I think we are all familiar with this dreadful moment, but do not fear: the Wolves, despite their fame, are unlikely to eat you (unless you are very tasty!).

The “big bad wolf”, or simply the wolf, is a recurring character in popular fiction, especially in fairy-tales , that include some of Grimms' Fairy Tales. Most people have heard of the most famous stories, such as "Little Red Riding Hood", The Three Little Pigs, where the wolves have the purpose of being a warning- a symbolic representation of evil and danger from which to beware and keep away.

Now, today we will learn a new tale, one more real, about a special subspecies of wolf: the Italian wolf, (Canis lupus italicus) also known as the Apennine Wolf, is a subspecies of the Grey Wolf found in the Apennine Mountains in Italy.

Now, today we will learn a new tale, one more real, about a special subspecies of wolf. The Italian wolf (Canis lupus italicus) also known as the Apennine Wolf, is a subspecies of the Grey Wolf found in the Apennine Mountains in Italy.

First things first: Italian wolves most probably won’t eat you (if you don’t harm them, of course, or don’t get close to them and their puppies).

The Italian wolf differs from the European wolf because of the shape of its skill and the color of the pelt. Italian Wolves are very fascinating animals, and most children would be interested in learning about them in detail.

The Italian wolf was first described in 1921 and only in 1999 was recognised as a different subspecies. Their fur colour is commonly blended grey or brown, though black specimens have recently been sighted in the Mugello region and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.

Italian wolves are not huge and are actually considered an average size wolf. But we may wonder what the literature is referring to, when describing wolves as “medium”.

Wolf stands by fern

Male Italian Wolves have an average weight of 24 – 40 kilograms (53 – 88 pounds), with females usually being 10% lighter. The body length of the Italian Wolf is usually 100 – 140 centimetres (39 – 55 inches).

They are such beautiful animals, so expressive and fascinating! Don’t you think?

Wolves are highly intelligent pack animals but unfortunately they have been widely misunderstood through the millennia as wild and deadly beasts. But are they really so brutal?

The short answer is “no”.

The truth is that wolves are extremely social animals that develop very close social bonds with family members and their pack. Of course, for these reasons Italian wolves are very protective of their family members, but let’s be honest- aren’t we all?

Italian wolves really remind us of wild dogs, or we should actually say the opposite way round! At the end of the day this is exactly where modern-day dogs come from- wolves. But as much they might look sometimes similar, if you are in the wild and see a wolf, you will immediately recognise them.

As my father, that had this amazing honour to actually see a wild wolf in the “Sila Piccola” part of the Calabrian Mountains:

“When you see a wolf, as he looks at you, you feel frozen and unable to move; not just because of the fear but of astonishment as in those eyes you can clearly see the ancientness of a wild species”.

Italian wolves in Italy

Each year, it is estimated that between 200 and 500 wolves die from gunfire, poison and traps or run over by cars.
Hunting, cars and accidents are the main causes of the extinction of wolves in Italy.

“In the 1970s, the population of the Italian wolf was as low as 70-100. Italy has been strictly protecting them since, but the threat of illegal hunting and persecution is still not completely dealt with. After the 1970s, the population of the Italian wolf doubled. Currently, it is noted that the Italian wolf population is increasing at a 7% rate annually. However, the Italian wolf that migrated and settled in the alps of Southern France is still as low as 40-50 individuals and so its conservation status is vulnerable.” (Kidladl.com)

The symbol of Italy is the wolf

The “Capitoline wolf”: if you google it or you travel to Italy, especially in Rome, you will see it everywhere: the she-wolf as a symbol or Italy is world famous as it goes back to the legend of Romulus and Remus: the twin brothers that, according to the legend, founded the city Rome itself. Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf who cared for and protected them from wild animals as she raised them as her own children.

China with its dragon, the barbary lion for the English, Australia with the kangaroo, and Italy has the Gray Wolf of the Apennines as a national symbol.

The Italian wolf plays a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem. They help enrich the ecology of the region by preying on large and small animals that allow the vegetation to grow. Wolves play a key role in keeping ecosystems healthy. Fiery and fascinating creatures, where to spot them in Italy?

If you aim to be one of those lucky ones that will be able to sight one of the 500 specimens of Italian wild wolves, then you must like mountains as Italian grey wolves inhabit the Apennine Mountains and the Western Alps, from the Alps to Calabria.

If I can give you a piece of advice: online you will find hundreds of amusing videos about the Italian grey wolves in the wild. They are truly an amazing, fascinating, view, even better, I dare say, than a fairy tale!

Guest article written by Mariarita Loprete.

- October 13, 2021