The size of the Apennine wolf is comparable to the one of a German Shepherd Dog.
From head to tail its length is about 100-140 cm (39.37 – 55 in), while its height at the withers is normally between 60 and 70 cm (23.6 -27.5 in). Its weight can vary between 25 and 35 Kg (55.1156 -77 lb); weight that the male rarely exceeds.
It is not easy to determine the sex of the specimens from a quick observation of the physical appearance, but generally the female is a little smaller than the male, which appears slightly more robust.
Like all animals, it has a set of teeth suitable for its diet, since it is a carnivore; it has 42 teeth that include, among others, canines developed for greater grip and molars useful for shearing, among which the feral or camassial teeth stand out, particular features developed.
Its hair is variable both in length and colour, depending on the season, it is longer and tends to be greyish in winter, while it is shorter and brownish in the summer.
A specimen of free-living wolf can reach on average 10 years of age, reaches sexual maturity at about 2 years; the dominant couple mates once a year and can give birth to 2 to 6 pups after about 60 days of gestation.
At the beginning of the 70s zoology was purely theoretical in Europe, live studies of animals were very rarely done, and when it happened they were kept in captivity. The idea that we had at the time in Italy, concerning the habits and the number of wolves in the territory, was based mostly on popular beliefs.
In those years the newly created WWF Italia, born in 1967,
started the first scientific monitoring project of the species in our country, which was conducted with innovative methods for Europe.
The study estimated the population of Canis lupus italicus in about 100 specimens, living quite isolated in the most inaccessible Apennine regions: the species was at “serious risk of extinction” according to the parameters of IUCN,
the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which draws up the “red list” of endangered species every year.
Even its living conditions were desperate, the animals trod for food into the villages at night, and they had adapted to feed on abattoir waste or even on dump waste.
The ecolofical involvement
WWF Italia, supported by the Abruzzi National Park, launched the “Operation San Francesco” in 1971
with the aim of studying the wolf and informing the public, at the time unaware and not interested about the real situation of the species.
The observation and scientific description of the behaviour in nature
of this mysterious predator was the basis of the campaign, supported by images captured on the field and by very strong slogans, like the famous one: “extinction is forever”.
In the same period, the “Gruppo lupo Italia” established in 1974 and also sponsored by the Parco d’Abruzzo, committed itself to gathering information on sightings and killings and to rehabilitate the image of the predator.
In a small village of the Park called Civitella Alfedena,
the first museum dedicated to the wolf and the nearby wildlife area housing a small pack of wolves were established in 1976; the visitor centre attracted many onlookers and tourists, and through the contact with specimens in semi-captivity the perception of local population changed.
There was in those years, a radical change of mentality in the public opinion and a decisive revaluation of the wolf figure by the public opinion; everyone, including politicians, started then to be more sensitive to the issue of preserving wildlife and nature in general.