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Fun Facts About Wolves

Anthropomorphism, Wolves, Native Ways and Isle Royale: May 28th, 2023

Seems like a very random set of words, right? But there really is a connection.

I recently finished reading a book called 'Braiding Sweetgrass' by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which I highly recommend. One of the very important points in her book has to do with the relationships of plants, animals, and humans. She points out Native cultures view humans as the "younger" beings on the planet (humans) who benefit by learning from the "older" beings (plants and animals). She speaks of the animacy of the world which is "the life that pulses through all things". Kimmerer puts forth the idea that changing our grammar to reflect the animacy (using 'they' instead of 'it' when speaking of a tree or a bird) could propel us into "whole new ways of living in the world, other species a sovereign people, a world with a democracy of species, not a tyranny of one--with moral responsibility to water and wolves, and with a legal system that recognizes the standing of other species. It's all in the pronouns."

In a nutshell, respect for other species as having their own communities and levels of communication.

John A. Vucetich wrote a book titled 'Restoring The Balance-What Wolves Tell Us About Our Relationship With Nature'. In it, he touches on anthropomorphism when speaking of getting to know the wolves and moose of Isle Royale. There is a negative connotation to the word since it seems to imply we are trying to turn a thing into a human. He goes further to suggest that maybe the word anthropomorphism could mean turning a thing into a person. Vucetich explains the word "person" comes from the Greek word "prosopon" which refers to a mask worn on stage. He comments on this in the following way..."A person is a character on the stage of life. A person has stories that can be told and interests that can be cared for. "Homo sapiens" is a narrow and exclusive category in Linnean taxonomy. But "person" is not. "Person" is a moral category that includes beings who have needs and desires deserving of our concern.

Wolves, like people, are characters with stories to be told and are deserving recipients of compassion. So a wolf is, sensu strictiore, a person. There, I said it. Wolves are people. They are one of millions of different kinds of people living on the planet. There are roaring people, peeping people, feathered people, scaled people, cold-blooded people and warm-blooded people. While many are powered by mitochondria, I think some people might be fueled by chloroplasts. Leastwise, I have met trees with stories and interests. And so have you."

Two different authors coming at the subject from two different viewpoints but nearly the same basic principle. Vucetich is a professor of wildlife conservation at a Michigan University and is the leader of the Isle Royale wolf-moose project. Kimmerer is a professor of Environmental and Forest Biology, a member of the Citizen Potowatomi Nation, and a botanist.

Maybe taking some of these views of the world around us could lessen the strain on the Earth that humans have caused. I know I am going to try...

Speaking of the animacy and anthropomorphism reminds me of the following canine, Cinder, who became quite the hospice caregiver at Wolfwood. Cinder passed away quite a few years ago now but she had a heart of gold. She protected scared animals by being very calm and bringing them food. She, several times, was paired with an older animal whose passing she seemed to be able to help in a very calm way. She just had that something that calmed other canines down. She was a hospice nurse in a furry body. We loved her and thanked her for that.

What's In A Name? May 21st, 2023

It was shot day at WolfWood Refuge and we were all quite busy. I got curious about the name for 'wolf' in other countries. I find it interesting and hopefully you will, too. Unfortunately, FB makes it hard to put accent marks over words so bear with me, please.

LOBO--Brazil, Portugal, Spanish
CHO SOI--Vietnam
MAC TIRE--Ireland

I would also like to add some of the Native American tribes' names for wolf...
BEYA ISH--Shoshone
SUNKTOKECA--Dakota Sioux
AMAROG--Greenland Inuit

Some of these names could be inspirational in naming a new dog in the family, right?

The photo below is of Liri who is a beautiful wolfie resident at WolfWood Refuge:

Can't We All Just Get Along? May 14th, 2023

Well, maybe not. Wolves get along well (usually) with their family groups. However, challenges for territory do result in wolves killing wolves.

What about interactions with other predatorial species?

For the most part, wolves will kill coyotes, especially over a food source. Coyotes tend to abandon their own territories when wolves are in the area...avoidance is probably the best way to survive for them. Wolves do have a history of 'remodeling' a coyote den for their own purposes. Coyote population in Yellowstone post wolf reintroduction declined by 50% due to wolves killing them, mostly at prey kill sites. While most encounters between the two competing predators are violent, there a re some examples of 'friendly' interactions in Minnesota, Ontario (the Tweed wolf), and the eastern U.S. (coydog).

Grizzly bears and wolves tend to kill each other's young at den sites. But there are many sightings of adult wolves and adult grizzlies feeding at the same spots concurrently.

Almost all interactions between black bears and wolves are violent episodes, although one case of a female black bear building her den within 330 yards of a wolf rendezvous site in Minnesota was noted by L. David Mech.

Wolves and cougars do not attempt to play nice. From what I have read, the wolves usually lose their lives on a one-on-one match without pack power.

Although there is some evidence of wolves killing foxes, it seems wolves mostly ignore the tinier predators unless there is a food shortage.

Wolves and lynx seem to completely avoid each others' territories.

Wolves will kill wolverines around the wolf dens and over prey.

Alligators....no match. Three of the rare red wolves in South Carolina have been killed by gators.

Domestic dog and wolf interactions are complicated. Romeo, a wolf in Alaska, was known to have made friends and played with a local dog (read the book 'Romeo'...a good one!) Humans have force-bred wolves and dogs for a very long time. Historical forensic evidence does not support that happening much in a natural setting. After examining the skulls of over 250 southwest wolves, two researchers determined only two were possibly wolfdogs. Another study by two researchers performed in Minnesota came away with proof that small-to-medium dogs that are yappy and excitable "are more likely to provoke attack by wolves."

The most well-known inter-species relationship? Ravens and wolves, of course! The occasional raven is killed but their interactions are mostly quite symbiotic and playful. WolfWood Refuge has a large permanent population of ravens that do interact with the animals at the refuge.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you!

The following photo is of Aldo (RIP) who was a wonderful wolfdog at WolfWood Refuge.

The Call Of The Wild[erness]: May 7th, 2023

Most people probably think of wilderness when they hear wolves howling. You might agree with me in thinking that wolves raising their voices is one of the most delightfully goosebump raising sound of any wild animal (although I confess to also loving the sound of loons as a wilderness call.) Wolfsong is so hauntingly beautiful.

There are many reasons why wolves howl but sometimes it is for the pure joy of singing. Many prominent observers have had that opinion.

Some of the know reasons for howling, other than for pleasure, are listed here as found in the 'The Wolf Almanac' by Robert H. Busch.

*to notify other pack members or other packs of their whereabouts, or to reassemble a scattered pack
*to attract a mate
*to stimulate and rally the pack before a hunt
*to startle prey and cause it to come out of hiding (Although this is disputed by Dan Strickland, who wrote in 'Wolf Howling In Algonquin Provencial Park' that "prey animals simply fail to make a connection between howling and its source.")
*when disturbed, but not sufficiently alarmed to run away
*upon awaking
*after intense sessions of play or other social interactions
*to announce alarm at the presence of an intruder
*when stressed; lonesome wolf pups often howl their distress

I have read a few varying opinions on the length of howls. Busch states from a half a second to about eleven seconds. Fred Harrington and Cheryl Asa state a howl lasts three to seven seconds. It sure seems like Majesty, at WolfWood Refuge, can hold a howl longer than eleven seconds!

In 'The Lives Of Wolves' by Stan Tekiela, he writes of people being able to successfully imitate the howls and wolves will howl back if they are within hearing distance--unusual because wolves don't usually answer wolf howls that are not from their own family. Wolves can hear human howls up to 2 miles away. In the American West, without the disruption of too many trees, a wolf can hear another wolf up to 10 miles away!

Humans....power up those lungs!

The following photo is of Ramsey who enjoys howling at WolfWood Refuge:

May 1st, 2023

Article below was written by Michael W. Fox and is a portion of his work called 'Wolf Kin & Humankind'

"Wolves, like American Indians, lived at peace with nature for thousands of years. Both were hunters, but neither would overkill or hunt for sport. Biologically, and for the Indian also spiritually, these hunters were an integral part of the ecosystem. Prey, such as deer, caribou, and moose, produce excess young, an evolutionary adaptation to anticipated disease and predation. Wolves regulate their numbers, killing off the sick and inferior, and so maintain herd quality and prevent overpopulation and ultimate overgrazing and death from starvation.

To preserve the wolf in captivity because he is such an intelligent and social animal--perhaps the most highly evolved land mammal in North America--is not enough. The ecosystem of which the wolf is an integral part must also be conserved wherever and whenever possible.

Wolves and Indians were exterminated when they ate the settler's stock; but there was nothing else to eat since their natural prey had been eradicated to make room for the domestic stock. Indians were given reservations and the interests of white settlers were protected. Wolves need sanctuary and protection from trophy and fur hunters and trappers. In some wolf-free wildlife areas, surplus deer are killed off each year by wildlife management personnel: wolves could be put back in such places in order to restore the ecosystem. They are certainly more appropriate "managers" of deer and have a greater right to hunt than has modern man.

Once, all men supported themselves by hunting, but since modern man has domesticated livestock, hunting is no longer a necessity. It is a sport, a luxury, a service where excess deer must be culled, a crime when predators like wolves and cougars that have never killed farm stock and live miles from human habitation are killed for sport or fur. A crime against nature, because removing such predators upsets the ecological equilibrium and can destroy the ecosystem.

In 1856, the chief of the Duwamish Indians foresaw the white man's demise---"He sees and claims the world for himself and fails to see that he is an integral part of the world."

When modern man can perceive that this is in fact true, he may be able to save the ecosystem of which he is a part but which today he is destroying and making into an impersonal global ecosystem. Man is linked with wolf and with all of nature. To break this link is to destroy the spirit of the earth and the essence of humanity within it."

The following photo is of Bruja, full wolf and one of the original Alaska 9 wolves at WolfWood Refuge:

Where Do You Stand In The Pack? April 23rd, 2023

Wolf family social ranking is really very complicated. One part of that rests on the fact that the social structure of the pack is not a fixed thing. Family members age, illness or injury may occur, some will disperse and others may hit sexual maturity...all possible reasons for shifting up or down in hierarchy. Regardless, there are jobs for all and the most important job for the entire family is caring for pups.

For a long time, biologists stuck to the theory of "alpha" pairs. I have read, very recently, that such a view may be out of fashion. Scientific American magazine published an article on February 28, 2023, titled 'Is The Alpha Wolf Idea A Myth?' It points out that the term 'alpha wolf' resulted from early studies of captive wolves. In studying wild wolves, researchers realized they are simply family groups led by a breeding pair. In captive packs, bloody battles for supremacy were witnessed whereas this is rarely seen in the wild.

L. David Mech put this theory in very simple terms by saying "What would be the value of calling a human father the alpha male? He's just the father of the family. And that's exactly the way it is with wolves."

So...wolf pack structure is a lot like human families. Mom and Dad (breeding pairs), sisters and brothers (offspring that haven't dispersed yet from previous years) and babies (new pups) make up most packs. Occasionally there may be an aunt or uncle, cousin, and even a grandparent.

Squabbles happen in wolf families, just as they do in human families. But wolves constantly reinforce the positions in the family with body language. Submissive behavior is displayed by the appropriate members regularly and, while it may look to us like aggression by the more dominant animal, it is really harmless affirmation of station in the pack.

I really liked John Vucetich's summary of pup life in his book 'Restoring The Balance.' "Pups are born each year around the end of April. They are mostly full-sized by about the following January, but they don't know much, and they aren't useful for getting much of anything done around the pack. A pup's role in a pack is a little like that of a six-year-old human in a family--and both cases are as they should be, insomuch as packs and families exist for their young children, not the other way around."

Pups usually need to get to the 2 year stage before they learn how to hunt. It takes time for pups to mature and that, naturally, leads to family units sticking together. Some 3 and 4-year-olds will stick around to help both in hunting and in helping raise the pups.

Generally, the older wolves (who could be acting as babysitters) and the pups are benefiting from the hunting skills of the middle-aged wolves of the pack.It's a family affair!

The following picture is of 4 of the 9 wolves of the Alaska 9: Oakley (RIP), Bruja, Torq (RIP), Kweo (RIP).

Smellivision: April 16th, 2023

The sense of smell in canids is the most powerful of all their senses. Wolves (along with coyotes and foxes) have a sense of smell about 100 times more powerful than that of humans. Having about five times more surface area than an adult human's nose, a wolf possesses 280 million olfactory receptors... humans have a puny 500 to 750 but only 100 to 200 of them are functional. Not only that but the part of a wolf's brain that interprets smell is 40% greater than a human's.

Wolves use this sense of smell for gathering information about other wolves (friend or stranger, male or female, health, approximate age, etc.) and for hunting food sources along with communicating.

John Vucetich, in his book 'Restoring the Balance', phrased wolves' sense of smell in a really great way. "Wolves don't smell with their noses--they see the world with their noses."

There is a theory that captive wolves seem to feel more comfortable around women. R.D. Lawrence wrote that, with their sense of smell, the wolves may be able to tell the gender of humans approaching an enclosure long before even meeting closely. Male and female hormones, no matter how faint, can be detected. He also theorized that his captive wolves could smell the blood ties between human family members because of the way a particular wolf reacted to Lawrence's daughter, Alison.

There have been some people who have experimented with wolves and dogs in the area of scenting. In Germany, a zoologist created a test with covered trays of food. In his test he found the wolves were able to figure out which tray had food in FIVE minutes versus the domestic dogs needing an HOUR or so!

Roger Peters wrote, in 'Dance Of The Wolves', of a wolf able to scent a long-dead chipmunk from about ten yards away and it was laying under at least a yard of snow.

R.D. Lawrence wrote of a wolf pup, only about 5 months old, being able to smell a porcupine in a meadow about a mile away.

There are so many stories of the incredible ability of wolves to smell things over long distances. Miles away, smelling a moose with jaw necrosis or an elk with wasting disease. Just as important...the ability to smell a female wolf possibly ready to mate.

Wolves can tell gender, approximate age, social status, physical condition, individual identity (wow) and even the dietary habits of the animal leaving the scent.

Up at Wolfwood Refuge, it is very common for the wolves and wolfdogs to wait until the volunteers and the visitors leave. Even the most shy of them will do this. As soon as the humans are out of the enclosure, the animals can be seen sniffing where the humans walked and sat.

The following photo is of Billy (RIP), Ginger, and Sita (RIP) at Wolfwood Refuge.

The Wolf/Raven Relationship: April 9th, 2023

Ravens learned, long ago, that watching and following a wolf pack will sometimes lead to free meals. And wolves, coincidentally, watch the skies for the circling presence of ravens over a possible carcass. In fact, ravens almost always find the animals that have died from natural causes before the wolves do! But the symbiotic relationship based on food isn't the only interaction. Many people have witnessed what seems to be a real friendship between the apex predator and one of the smartest avian species.

Lois Crisler wrote, in her book "Arctic Wild', of watching a play session between two socialized wolves and a raven sometime in the 1950's. The raven would playfully swoop down just out of reach of the jumping wolves and fly back up to a branch high up. This went on for 10 minutes, with the raven attempting to get the wolves to play again if they got tired of the game.

L. David Mech also observed and described what looked to him like play with the two species on Isle Royale.

Rick McIntyre wrote of spotting a yearling Druid wolf in Yellowstone who was resting but staring off towards an area of significant raven activity. The young wolf got up, crossed the road and the river, going straight to the ravens. They had found a dead cow elk that had not been fed upon. The ravens could not pierce the thick hide and benefited from the wolf opening the carcass.

Barry Lopez noted a small flock of ravens following a wolf pack. When the pack stopped to rest, the ravens began to pester the wolves, diving at them, waddling up to grab a tail and landing just out of reach of the wolf retaliating to the raven harassment. This story was told by Lopez in 'The Wolf' and was an incident leading Lopez to believe both species have a deeper relationship with each other than previously thought.

In the Native American world, legends exist linking wolf and raven and they were often both endowed with spiritual, and sometimes, godlike qualities. Eskimo clans would adopt either or both animals as their totems.

It wasn't long after the wolves were introduced back into Yellowstone that ravens rekindled that relationship on some of the very first hunts....after all that time apart!

At Wolfwood, even though the wolves, wolfdogs and dogs are in enclosures, there is a rather large permanent population of ravens. We often observe the wolves eating their fill and then laying down to sleep. The ravens swoop in and out of the enclosures, trying to snatch morsels. There is, occasionally, an animal who jumps up to chase, half-heartedly, the offending raven from the trough.

The following picture is of Bruja (pure wolf) who is one of our beloved senior ladies at Wolfwood Refuge.

Let's Get Ready to RUMBLE!!! April 2nd, 2023

Wolves of all ages love to play. At a very early age they learn, as puppies, the play behavior that they retain well into old age. The mechanisms of play are on display in the bumping of shoulders, slamming of bodies, leaping up with forepaws around each other's neck, flopping tails over their sibling's backs and the ever popular sneak attack. All this chasing and wrestling prepares the pups for hunting skills necessary to survive.

Franklin Russell says, in 'The Hunting Animal' that, besides the obvious development of hunting behavior, the play skills show a sense of humor which led to domestic dogs being able to endear themselves to humans.

R.D. Lawrence once, upon hearing some excited sounds, witnessed 8 wolves playing chase and skidding around on the iced-over lake. They kept this up for 17 minutes sliding around while chasing the lead wolf.

Pups can be exhausting in their play. Farley Mowat wrote of spotting a mother wolf (Angeline) putting up with a rambunctious rumble for quite a while until she finally had it. She ran far away and gave out a strange howl. Farley then spotted a wolf he had named Uncle Albert come running in to intercept the pups trying to catch up with their mother. He tackled and grabbed tails until they all chased him back to the play area. Uncle Albert gave them a full hour of tag, tumble, bumps and leaps until the pups finally needed nap time.

Farley also wrote of an incident of Angeline using puppylike play behavior as a means of fooling some nearby ducks. He initially thought Angeline had lost her mind when she was rolling on her back near a marsh with all four legs pedaling the air then chasing her own tail and leaping into the air, snapping her jaws at nothing. The ducks, fascinated with her behavior, drifted closer watching her antics and when one came within 15 feet of the clownish wolf, Angeline quickly leaped toward it, missing it by only a few inches before it took to the air!

Rick McIntyre in 'The Reign of Wolf 21' noted that 21, who was over 6 years old at the time (about 50 in human years), enticed his Druid Pack pups into a game of chase. He tempered his strength and basically acted as though he was a submissive puppy in this particular romp. He would tuck tail and run from a pup to keep it chasing him. Rick speaks of Wolf 21 as being a very strong pack leader but also being one of the most tenderly playful adult males during his tenure. He also wrote about 21's mate, Wolf 42, using play behavior by picking up a stick and getting the pups to chase her across the river since they were too afraid to be coaxed in to the swim across. It worked beautifully.

I read, and now cannot locate which book to point you to for the story, about one wolf observer who watched an adult lone wolf (or one whose pack was off somewhere else) toss a piece of caribou hide into the air like a frisbee, catching it over and over again, for an entire hour of self-entertainment!

My final story from books is from Rick Bass' book 'The Ninemile Wolves'. He witnessed a game of king-of-the-mountain. Without other wolves seeing how he did it, one wolf jumped up on a giant tree stump and proceeded to make an ambush game out of it by jumping down onto an unsuspecting wolf milling around the trunk. Bass realized this puppy-like play behavior is just for the pure joy of it.

Now for my personal tale of wolf play interaction with a human--me! I was in a pen with a fellow volunteer who was hunkering down next to me against the fence. We do this to signal to the six wolves in the pen that we are open to them coming to us for petting and kisses. Torq came over and licked my face first and then switched to kissing Donna. Bruja casually walked over to me and started intensely licking my face. As I turned my face towards her, Torq, who was kissing Donna, took advantage and very quickly but also very gently pulled the scrunchie (a puffy hair band) from my hair while I was distracted. I sincerely believe this was a set up and very well planned out by those two coconspirators! Torq quickly swallowed the scrunchie whole before caretaker Ben could catch him. Trickster! Just an FYI...the hair tie was discovered whole in some wolf scat later. Thank goodness, because that could have turned serious. Since then, no scrunchies...only thin hair bands!

I apologize that I could not readily locate a picture of the Alaska Nine pups when they were little. I am having to post a stock photo that actually does show the attempt at a sneak attack below:

Till Death Do Us Part: March 26th, 2023

When wolf pairs bond, it is usually for the rest of their lives...and they are better at that than humans. Their loyalty is only broken when one of them dies. The surviving wolf will, eventually, find a new mate. The relationship between pairs is so strong that there are many, many writings by biologists and wolf-watchers of the lengths wolves will go to in order to stay together. So many witnessed moments of affection between pairs, also.

Muzzle-licking, mutual grooming, playing like puppies, laying quietly together...all signs of affection. Rick McIntyre's books are littered with such observations. If I could wish it so, it would be mandatory reading for anyone involved in animal husbandry, lawmakers, and federal/state employees of the Fish and Wildlife services.

Gordon Haber, in 'Among Wolves', wrote about a male wolf, whose female partner was caught in a trapper's nightmare device, staying with her for 2 weeks while she struggled to get free. After the trapper finally showed up to end her misery, he took off with her body on a snowmobile. Gordon returned the next day and observed the male mournfully howling for her at the trap site, returning repeatedly for several weeks and howling over and over for her.

Stanley Young, a biologist from the early 1900's, once trapped a male wolf whose mate revisited the site 16 nights in a row. She was also trapped after that. So strong is this bond, this love, that often the mate of a trapped wolf will end up with the same fate...simply by sticking around, not being able to understand the loss.

[I find it hard to fathom, in this day and age, that biologists of the past were pressed into service by the federal government specifically for the purpose of trapping animals...and not for relocation purposes, either.]

Rick McIntyre tells of watching what started out as a chance friendly greeting of the pups of female Wolf 9 and the yearling brothers of male Wolf 8. Wolf 8, also a yearling, had just been accepted as 9's new mate after her previous partner died. The pups and the yearling were happily wagging tails and muzzle-licking. Wolf 9 didn't know Wolf 8's brothers. She warned the pups to get away and then attacked the black yearling brother. Wolf 8 clearly chose his new mate over his brother as he helped her chase him off.

While it is somewhat common for the strongest female wolf of a pack to suppress other couplings in the pack, it is not always the case. One of the Yellowstone packs had three active dens in one season and another pack in the park had multiple active dens that very same year. A biological response to losing pack members is to have more pups (think of early family farms when having a bunch of kids was beneficial to help out with the chores.) In this way, those who kill wolves thinking that they are making their ranches safer are actually making things worse for themselves.

I would not be quite honest with you if I neglected to include this thought by Robert H. Busch. He stated that some wolf males may bond with different females in different years. Again and again, it seems like wolf social behavior kind of parallels human social behavior.

The photo below is a recent one of Danu (on the left) and Archie (thanks, Emily) at Wolfwood Refuge. They are in love...

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? March 18th, 2023

Humans have very little to fear from wild wolves. There are so many historical documents that speak of this. And yet we continue to see the senseless and baseless fearmongering that has become a battle cry for the anti-wolf faction of the human population.

Captain Meriwether Lewis [Lewis and Clark] recounted to others that thousands of wolves they chanced coming across while exploring the plains of America were "extremely gentle."

L. David Mech, in his book 'The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species', wrote of the wolf as "one of the .... shyest of all the animals in the northern wilderness."

There is even documentation by a Canadian wolf biologist (Francois Messier) of having stated wolves "have a high fear of humans and they will walk away, even if you approach one of their kills."

Farley Mowat once, unknowingly, pitched a tent only about 10 yards from a major path that a wild wolf pack was currently using to go from their den site out and back on their forays. They pretty much ignored him while passing by daily. The only reaction they had to him was when he decided to experiment with them. He decided to "mark" about 3 acres as his own, including a football field long portion of the actual wolf path. (It's humorous to relate that he had to continuously drink tea in order to produce enough urine to mark that much!) The lead male eventually came down that path and Farley was positioned with binoculars to watch. "His attitude of fatigue vanished and was replaced by a look of bewilderment. Cautiously he extended his nose and sniffed at one of my marked bushes. He did not seem to know what to make of it or what to do about it. After a minute of complete indecision he backed away a few yards and sat down. And then, finally, he looked directly at me. It was a long, thoughtful, considering sort of look." The staring contest, from 50 yards apart, kept up until Farley felt uncomfortable, not knowing what transgression he may have committed, cleared his throat and looked briefly away. Connection broken, the wolf proceeded to re-mark every spot that Farley had staked out as his own.

Robert Busch wrote of a large pack of wolves moving into the suburbs of Anchorage, Alaska in 1900. The population at that time was over 250,000 humans. Guess what? Not a single person was harmed.

In 1925, despite the hefty offer (in those days it was huge) of a $100 reward, no one could produce documentation of a wolf attack on people in Ontario, Canada.

As far back as records have been searched on the North American Continent, there have been only 2 fatal attacks on a human by healthy wild wolves. Even then, there were abnormalities. The first one was believed to be because the animals were habituated, purposefully or inadvertently, to being fed by humans in the area. The second one was a woman jogging in Alaska and the cause for the attack was never discovered.

Looking back over 100 years, two wolf-caused fatalities is less than five pig-caused fatalities and, would you believe, cows cause 20 to 22 human fatalities EVERY year?

I would like to relay one of my own personal experiences here. In 1993, my husband and I took our two young kids to Isle Royale. At that time, there were 37 wolves on that island and that is specifically why we went there. We backpacked inland about 9 miles to a beautiful lake where we were the only humans there for 4 nights. We were hoping to at least hear the wolves, since the island is not very big. We never saw or heard them....so disappointed. But the first morning in the tents, we were very nearly trampled by 4 large moose that stumbled through our campsite, between our two tents that were pitched about 10 feet apart. Imagine that as a 6am wake up call! That was a close one.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Moose? Me! Give me wolves, anyday!

The photo below is of Oakley (RIP) arguably the best ambassador as a wolf that Wolfwood Refuge has ever had. He stole the hearts of thousands of humans!

Ramble On: March 12th, 2023

[Tell me you don't have the song stuck in your head after reading the title!]

Wolves were built for running. If you've been lucky enough to see one run, or better yet, a pack...then you've seen how graceful they are and how they make it look effortless.

Wolf pack territories can range from about 18 square miles to over 1,000 square miles. That pack's territory was noted by L. David Mech on Canada's Ellesmere Island. But wait, that's not the largest on record...Adolph Murie reported, in Denali National Park in the 1940's, a pack that had a territorial range of 1,800 miles! Can you imagine how much running that pack did just to mark their boundaries? An outlier is the 2,300 square miles by lone wolves that have been observed. Perhaps due to finding enough old or sick prey animals for one wolf to handle? Or looking for a mate?

The average pace of a pack is about four to six miles per hour, although much higher speeds have been recorded. Desmond Morris wrote in 'Animal Watching: A Field Guide to Animal Behavior' of a wolf that was recorded at a speed of between 15 and 30 miles per hour for a whopping 12 miles.

It isn't unusual for a wolf to cover 20 miles or more each day to search for food. Depending on the scarcity of prey, wolves have been known to travel 120 miles in one day to find food in Europe. Biologists believe that no other modern terrestrial mammal matches these distances.

Dispersal is one of the reasons wolves will travel so far. Dispersal in wolf families is when individuals from previous litters leave the family unit to find mates of their own. They may join another pack or find a mate who is another lone wolf to start a pack with. Rick Bass noted in 'The Ninemile Wolves' that a single wolf from Canada traveled over 829 miles. Perhaps the most famous of the modern dispersers was the trek of OR7 leaving his pack in northeastern Oregon and traveling over 1,000 miles to Northern California before returning to southern Oregon's Cascade Range to establish his pack.

Truly amazing feats (and feets!)

The photo below is of our beloved Ginger at Wolfwood Refuge.

Native Connections: March 5th, 2023

Before Europeans claimed the North American continent as their own and wiped out most of the bison, deer, elk, and predators (along with many tribes), Native Americans had a long and positive history with wolves.

Robert H. Busch, in his book 'The Wolf Almanac' (which I highly recommend to wolf lovers), states that there are many early records of Native tribes that revered the wolf for its devotion to family, hunting skills, high intelligence, and survival skills.

- The Sioux called the wolf 'shunk manitu tanka'--the "animal that looks like a dog but is a powerful spirit."
- The Cherokee would NOT kill a wolf. They were sure that the dead wolf's brothers would exact revenge.
- The Nootka performed rituals to strengthen their bond with wolves.
- Cheyenne medicine men used to rub wolf fur on arrows to create luck in hunting.
- The Pawnee and the Cheyenne identified very strongly with the wolf. The Pawnee had such a close connection that the Plains hand signal for the wolf is the same as for Pawnee. A very cool belief of the tribe was that they saw the appearance and disappearance of the Wolf Star (Sirius) as signifying the wolf's coming and going from the spirit world, running down the bright-white trail of the Milky Way, which they named the Wolf Road. Coincidently, Canada's Blackfoot tribe also called the Milky Way the Wolf Trail.
- The Bella Coola tribe refused to eat bear meat but they revered the wolf so much that they would remove the hide of the bear (to use) while singing a song to invite the wolves to come eat the meat of the bear.

I leave you with this Cree origin story, The Earth-Maker Wolf:

When all the land was covered with water, the trickster Wisagatcak pulled up some trees and made a raft. On it, he collected many kinds of animals swimming in the waters. The Raven left the raft, flying for a whole day, and saw no land, so Wisagatcak called Wolf to help. Wolf ran around and around the raft with a ball of moss in his mouth. The moss grew, and earth formed on it. It spread on the raft and kept on growing until it made the whole world. This is how the Earth was created.

Photo below is of baby Jinn, a wolfdog at Wolfwood Refuge that has stolen my heart!


Hand-me-downs: Ancestral Behaviors: Fedruary 26th, 2023

So many things our companion dogs do are hold-overs from wolf behavior. If you have been on a tour at Wolfwood, you will have heard about the connection between wolf puppies licking adult wolves around the muzzle to get them to regurgitate and our dogs greeting us with kisses (licking) our faces as a greeting when we walk in the door. Paula likes to say this is the equivalent of your dog asking you to "throw-up for them!"

I once gave my dog Jake a shrimp to see if he liked it. He proceeded to "roll" on the shrimp, full-on rubbing both shoulders onto it. Wolves do this to pick up the scent it might be to take information back to the pack about food or it could be a way to disguise their own scent....like a perfume.

The play bow...dropping the front quarters into a crouch position, butt in the air, wagging tail, grinning face...yup, wolves perfected this!

The prosocial behaviors of dogs are thought to come from wolves. This is according to a study by Rachel Dale working with the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, Austria:
"This study shows that domestication did not necessarily make dogs more prosocial," said Dale. "Rather, it seems that tolerance and generosity towards group members help to produce high levels of cooperation, as seen in wolves."

Most dogs willingly submit to their humans since they see us as alphas. We provide food and shelter them from harm such as the wolf family dynamics do.

From Rick McIntyre:
"As I watched the Druids that January, I learned how fussy wolves are in making beds in the snow, especially 42. One cold morning, I watched her spend two minutes fastidiously pawing out a depression in the deep snow, then tramping down the bed by making several tight circles before finally lying down and curling up. The crater kept her out of the wind and minimized heat loss. As she made those circles in the snow, I thought of how dogs, even poodles inside warm luxury Manhattan apartments, go through similar motions when they get ready to bed down, a remnant of their wild wolf ancestors' adaptation to wintry conditions."
Photo is of Akula and Samoa, at Wolfwood, displaying their own play bows

What's for dinner? February 19th, 2023

While ungulates (deer, moose, elk, and caribou) make up most of the wolf diet, they are able to hunt--and can survive on--small rodents, insects, nuts and berries, shellfish, and even earthworms. Much like our dogs, wolves will also eat grass to clear digestive issues.

Wolves are not always making a kill to eat. They are opportunistic scavengers, also. In a study of thirty moose carcasses in Algonquin Park, only four of the thirty were killed by wolves. The others had died of natural causes. Dave Mech, a top world-expert on wolves, once stated to Rick McIntyre while Rick was working in Denali, that he believed if an autopsy was done on every adult prey animal that wolves killed, each one would be found to have health issues.

Some of us have dogs who display the habit of caching their food, just as their wolf cousins do. Digging a hole with their front feet and using their noses to bury "a little something for later." Wolves will stash food in this manner for up to half a mile away from the den site for easy access while feeding pups.

Wolves do not tend to get sick from spoiled meat or from eating animals that died from disease. They have acidic stomachs and a shorter digestive tract that absorbs food nutrients quickly and produces waste at a rapid rate. This process lowers the chances of bacteria multiplying in the gut.

Without predators and scavengers such as wolves, the stench factor while on hiking trails would be an assault on the senses!

Photo below is of Kweo who lived at Wolfwood Refuge until he passed at a grand old age. RIP, handsome wolf.

Wolf family dynamics: Febuary 12th, 2023

All wolf enthusiasts are aware that the main unit of the wolf social system is the pack...formed mostly as an extended family unit. Members of packs are extremely close. Wolf biologist John Theberge stated "Their social bonding and care-giving behavior are second only to humans and other social primates."

Wolf packs can range in size from less than ten to more than fifty. Most wolf packs are four to seven individuals.

Rick McIntyre, in his book 'The Reign of Wolf 21' [Yellowstone wolf] noted that he witnessed a wonderful observation of the loving nature of a wolf pack:

Two days later, I found some of the young Druids returning to the rendezvous site from a fresh elk carcass in Lamar Valley. The lead wolf, a black pup, was carrying a leg from the carcass. When it arrived at the rendezvous site, that pup dropped the leg next to the injured yearling, wagged his tail, then greeted him submissively. The pup moved off, leaving the leg for its packmate. That pup was used to adult wolves giving it food and now it had maturedto the point where it was giving food to its injured older brother.

Many people have observed the act of mourning in a pack that loses a member to death. Jim Brandenburg wrote of arctic wolves visiting the body of a yearling wolf. "One by one they would sniff his body then curl up beside him."

Such is the admirable nature of a wolf family.

Photo below is of Majesty who lives at Wolfwood Refuge.

The Specter of Rabies: February 7th, 2023

There are many people who, in modern times, falsely believe that wolves are common carriers of rabies. It is actually very rare in the modern wolf. According to the CDC, 98% of rabies today in North America occur in skunks, bats, raccoons or foxes. And if wolves do contract rabies, it is usually from foxes or skunks.

Over about a 20 year time period, only a handful of rabies cases were confirmed in North American wolves. An example of how rare this is comes from Alaska, a state with over 6,000 wolves. Only 4 cases of rabies have been verified since 1987...a time period of over 36 years.

While wolves in modern times are widely rabies free all over the world, it was not always so historically. Rabies among wolves in the Middle Ages was very common and probably gave rise to many of the wolf myths that persist even today. Wouldn't it be wonderful if common sense would allow humankind to shed the myths now that we know the reason behind them?

As a testament to how reactive humans are to cases of rabies, in northern Alberta in 1952, ONE wolf was found to have rabies. The resulting poisoning of the area over 4 years caused the death of 4,200 wolves, 50,000 red foxes, 35,000 coyotes, 7,500 lynx, 1,850 bears, 500 skunks, and 764 cougars as a result of the paranoia.

About Wolf Colorization: February 1st, 2023

Some wolves have dark patches on their faces. The Koyukon Indians have a story about this. They believed the patches came about in Distant Time. The story they told was that this happened when Raven tricked a Wolf by throwing the guts of a Caribou in its face.

Although the gray colorization is most common, variations in color within a litter is not uncommon. Black wolves are less common the farther south they appear in their range. The creamy white color of the high Arctic wolves is the result of an evolutionary event. White hairshafts hold more air pockets than coloration and therefore are more insulating.

Although most white wolves are often found in far northern latitudes, in the past that was not so. The Lewis and Clark Expedition reported that they saw large numbers of white wolves in the 1800's on the plains. There are many confirmations of this in historical records. White wolves do occasionally appear in the Minnesota region.

Although there is one anecdotal event of a white wolf with pink eyes who was killed by a hunter in 1957, there are no documented cases of the true albino wolves.

Interesting, right?

The Origins of Canid Families:January 23rd, 2023

About 60 million years ago, wolf ancestors appeared on the planet. Robert Wayne, a researcher at the University of California, suggests that two to three million years ago a number of wolf-like canids arose from a common ancestor, miacids.

It is believed Canis lupus probably appeared first in Eurasia around one million years ago and then migrated to North America around 750,000 years ago.

Dire wolves, Canis dirus, were a bit larger and heavier than the gray wolf. The former evolved earlier on and the two species coexisted for about 400,000 years in North America. The main source of prey for Canis dirus had an extinction crisis around 16,000 years ago due to climate change. This led to the gradual demise of the dire wolf and the gray wolf was crowned the prime canine predator in North America around 7,000 years ago.

Long live the gray wolf!

About Wolf Communication: January 17th, 2023

Wolves howl in chorus, some of them changing pitch to project the illusion of many voices. General Ulysses S. Grant wrote in his memoirs of hearing wolves in his travels. His guide asked the question of Grant to estimate the number of wolves ahead. Grant replied, "Oh, about twenty." They rode on to discover only two sitting on their haunches and howling.

A man named Roger Peters, writing his doctorate on wolf communication, believed that "wolves enter a fifteen-minute refractory period, during which nothing in the world can get them to howl again," after a howling session. His conclusion was that this silence was to allow time for listening for a response from other packs. Smart!

What is the maximum distance wolf howls can be heard? A possible 10 miles if conditions are right!

I found it somewhat sad to read that wolves in southern Asia rarely howl and the theory behind that is the long-term persecution of wolves by humans pushing the evolution of a quieter wolf.

Wolfie Tidbits: January 10th, 2023

One reason wolves are so curious about their world is due to their high level of intelligence. According to biologist V. Goerttler, wolves possess brains 31% larger than domestic dogs. (Yes, humans have dumbed our furry friends down.)

You can ask anyone at Wolfwood Refuge who spends time in and out of the enclosures "Have you ever witnessed the intelligence of wolves?" and you will get many, many answers pointing to the overwhelming knowledge we see on a regular basis.

A statement that struck me about wolf intelligence was told by Michael W. Fox, an animal behaviorist who wrote 'The Soul of the Wolf.' He stated in an article in the Journal of Mammalogy that "a captive wolf that moved its cubs indoors when the keeper hosed down the outside pen, and then shut the door behind the cubs [did so] by pulling on a pulley rope."

How about some interesting wolf information? (January 2nd, 2023)

Wolves have a high curiosity level. But they don't see very far...according to R. D. Lawrence. Their eyes don't have a foveal pit which allows for sharp focusing. Lawrence estimated that they cannot discern packmates, by sight, beyond 100 to 150 feet.

I brought that up because this plays into the fact that they will watch humans out of curiosity and will follow them at a distance to be able to smell our footprints and scent. Their desire to figure us out has made some people think they were 'being hunted' and is very much a case of mistaken perception on the human's part.

I decided to do this kind of information thing about once per week. Paula asked me to share this one and possibly future ones. "Of course" I said.
( Lenette De Forest: January 2nd, 2023)

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