Wolf Spider Identification

What Does a Wolf Spider Look Like?

General Appearance

There are a number of wolf spiders found in the United States and Canada. Generally speaking, wolf spiders are hairy and bear a stripe down the dorsal side. The females measure about 3/8″ to 1-3/8″ in body length, while the males are smaller, usually 1/4″ to 3/4″ long. They have bristly, long legs with three claws at the end of each.

wolf spider


A wolf spider’s anatomy consists of two sections: an abdomen and cephalothorax, which is the head and thorax together. These two major sections are connected with a small waist, known as the pedicel. Like all spiders, the wolf spider has eight legs and two jaws, called chelicerae, with fangs at the end through which they inject venom.

Between the jaws and first pair of legs, spiders have pedipalps, which look like a shorter pair of legs. These aid the spiders in sensing objects, constructing webs, and feeding on prey. Males use their pedipalps to deliver sperm to the females. A male’s pedipalps are sometimes a different color than the female’s and they also tend to be larger.

When measured with their legs included, these spiders can get as large as five inches, so they can look rather terrifying to people. Because of their hairy appearance and size, these spiders are sometimes mistaken for tarantulas.

wolf spider

The striping on the dorsal side is usually lighter in color than the rest of the spider, which is often brown, grayish, or black. Sometimes the coloration is the opposite, with a lighter color overall and darker striping.

Most spiders, including the wolf spider, have eight eyes, though some have six. But wolf spiders have eight eyes arranged in three rows-four small eyes in the front, then two large eyes in the center row, and two smaller ones behind.

Male vs Female
Like many spider species, female wolf spiders are larger than the males. Females measure approximately about 3/8″ to 1-3/8″ in body length, while the males are about ¼” to ¾” long. However, with the legs included, wolf spiders can measure as large as five inches. Needless to say, they can be frightening to those who happen upon them. Their legs are long and bristly with three claws at the end of each.

Female wolf spiders carry their egg sac on the under side of their abdomens. A female can be seen carrying spiderlings on her back, which she will do for several days or a couple of weeks before they disperse. Many spiders do not carry their young, so this behavior may help one identify wolf spiders.

wolf spider with spiderlings
carrying spiderlings

image source:© Hank Guarisco Illinois DNR

Where Do You See Them (generally)?
Wolf spiders are fast moving and are found mostly outdoors. If seen inside a home, it is usually when the spider is hunting for prey. Outside, they can be found among leaves, under rocks, in wood piles, under decks, or other ground-level areas where they can locate prey. They do not build webs, but create burrow-type retreats in these areas. They hunt for their prey-generally insects and other spiders-and do so mainly at night, although they are sometimes active in the daytime as well.

Wolf spiders and hobo spiders often look alike.

The usually dont bite unless provoked.

More Pictures

wolf spider
click for full size image

Female Wolf Spider
female wolf spider
Univ of Nebraska