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Wolf spiders are members of the family Lycosidae, from the Greek word "λυκος" meaning "wolf". They are robust and agile hunters, and have good eyesight. They live mostly solitary lives and hunt alone. Some are opportunistic wanderer hunters, pouncing upon prey as they find it or chasing it over short distances. Others lie in wait for passing prey, often from or near the mouth of a burrow.

Wolf spiders resemble Nursery web spiders (family Pisauridae), but they carry their egg sacs by attaching them to their spinnerets (Pisauridae carry their egg sacs with their chelicerae and pedipalps).

There are several genera of wolf spider, ranging in size from 1 cm to 8 cm. They have eight eyes arranged in three rows. The bottom row consists of four small eyes, the middle row has two very large eyes (which distinguishes them from the Pisauridae), and the top row has two medium-sized eyes. They depend on their eyesight, which is quite good, to hunt. Their sense of touch is also acute.

Wolf spiders are not aggressive but will inject venom freely if continually provoked. Symptoms of their venomous bite include swelling, mild pain and itching. Though usually considered harmless to humans, the bite of some species may be painful.

Wolf spiders can be found in a wide range of habitats both coastal and inland. These include shrublands, woodland, wet coastal forest, alpine meadows and suburban gardens. Spiderlings disperse aerially and consequently wolf spiders have wide distributions. Although some species have very specific microhabitat needs (such as stream-side gravel beds or montane herb-fields) most are wanderers without permanent homes.

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