First of all you have to make sure you have a canine track; four toes showing, claws usually showing, a triangular heel pad.
If we decide it is a canine track, how large is it from claw tips to heel pad? If it is in the four inch range or greater then you had better start thinking that it could be a wolf. There are only a couple dog breeds where large males have tracks 4 inches or larger. And they are not the type of dogs you normally see out on the trail.
Wolf tracks range from just under 4" long to 5 3/4" long for the front feet. And the smaller hind feet range from about 3 3/4" long on a small female to 5 1/4" long on a large male.
The tracks are longer than wide, especially in the rear tracks that usually don't splay as much as the hind.
Other things to look for in the tracks include the overall oval shape (longer than wide) in wolves. Yes, there are dog breeds with oval shaped feet but there are lots with overall rounded feet. You may be able to eliminate some dogs this way.
Also look for large forward pointing toes and claws and a large heel pad. The space between the toes and the heel pad tends to forms an H on the front tracks and an X on the rear tracks.
Wolves have very long legs which helps them travel great distances and helps them get through the snow.
They usually travel in a trot- either a direct register trot (pictured on the left) where each left front and hind track land in the same spot and each right front and hind track land in the same spot. The distance from where one foot lands until it lands again is the stride length. For the animal on the left the stride length is almost five feet long! Compare that to the short legged lab walking next to it.
Wolves also travel in a side trot a lot. You may have seen your dog do this. In a side trot the animal is facing to one side of its body and its hind feet are surpassing where the front feet land by going to the side of the animal. In the tracks, this shows as a pair of tracks side by side at a slight diagonal.
To verify that it is a side trot the front feet are always on one side and the hind feet are always on the other side in every pair of tracks.
Because there is a large front track next to a small hind track, many people mistakenly think that there is a large and a small wolf traveling together.
All the hind tracks are in front of and to the left of the much larger front tracks.
The front tracks (which are on the right) are leaving a disproportionately large disturbance in the snow. Because of the powdery, cold snow nothing showed up clearly in the tracks. For some reason the wolf was giving a flick of its foot as the track was made creating a larger than normal disturbance.
Don't jump to conclusions. Follow the tracks, look for other clues and other sign that can confirm what you are thinking. You may find other wolf tracks, a beaten down trail. You can usually find hair or scat or even a kill if you are lucky.
Wolf Scat is large as you can see on the left. It is usually has lots of hair in it and this is usually moose or caribou hair. Note that I say usually because there are always exceptions to learn.
When on a fresh kill and particularly when eating the organs, wolf scat may be liquidy and dark because it is composed of all protein. I have seen one series of scat that looked like someone duped out coffee with the grounds in it. A sure sign that a fresh kill is nearby.