Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Wolf Issue; Volume IV

I've thought for years about the reasons man fears the wolf. I think there are numerous reasons, not the least of which is misunderstanding. From the time humans are youngsters, they're taught that wolves are to be feared. There are countless legends about werewolves, a monster which is a man-wolf hybrid. Little Red Riding-Hood had a bad experience with a wolf, dressed as her grandmother. And the Three Little Pigs were afraid that their houses would be blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. I cannot recall a book or nursery rhyme about a good wolf. Many books, pictures, and movies portray wolves as scary, bloody creatures, with huge fangs and an appetite for babies. An interesting research topic is the number of sharks killed shortly after the Jaws movies were released on the big screen. And such was the wolves' fates, nearly to the point of their extinction, until the 70s when attitudes finally began to change.

I think another, more obscure psychological reason for hating or fearing wolves, is that wolves are so similar to men. Man has made the mistake, time and time again in history, of killing that which he has not understood, or those by whom he has felt threatened. And wolves were no exception. How are people and wolves alike? Well, lets start with the obvious; they are social, living in family units, called packs. Humans seem to get joy, happiness, or fulfillment from their families and friends. A wolf's very survival depends on his relationship and bond with the pack. People get all giddy and full of joy when a new baby is born into their family. And the birth of new pups is the most exciting time of the year for a pack of wolves. As I have stated previously, only the alpha male and female reproduce, but the new pups belong to the entire pack. Each member from the alphas to the omegas, has new joys and new responsibilities with the babies. The adult wolves all take part in feeding, baby-sitting, teaching, and playing with the pups. And before the pups are born, there is the job of caring for the pregnant female. At some point, she becomes unable to go out and hunt, but still has to eat. It has been witnessed many times that the other pack members will bring food to the mother in her den. The pack truly works like a family, everyone looking out for everyone. Again, their survival depends on it. (Sound a lot like your family?) By the way, that member to member care and loyalty doesn't stop at the alpha female. It's been witnessed of wolves in captivity when a wolf becomes old, sick, or injured, that other healthy wolves will bring food to that wolf. At any rate, it doesn't take long to see just how alike wolves and humans are. It's unfortunate that this fact has been cause for fear, rather than respect and understanding.

The following is an excerpt from the research of L. David Mech, probably the most well-known wolf biologist in the U.S:

Very few mammals have symbiotic relationships with other creatures. One
of the few exceptions is the *wolf*:

"The *wolf* seems to have few relationships with other animals that
could be termed purely social, though he apparently takes pleasure in
the company of ravens. The *raven*, with a range almost as extensive as
the wolf's, one that even includes the tundra, commonly follows hunting
wolves to feed on the remains of a kill." (Barry Lopez, Of Wolves And
Men, p. 67)

The *raven* is sometimes known as "*wolf*-bird," and some zoologists
speculate that its *relationship* with wolves may be assisted by their
psychological make-up:

"It appears that the *wolf* and the *raven* have reached an adjustment
in their relationships such that each creature is rewarded in some way
by the presence of the other and that each is fully aware of the other's
capabilities. Both species are extremely social, so they must possess
the psychological mechanisms necessary for forming social attachments.
Perhaps in some way individuals of each species have included members of
the other in their social group and have formed bonds with them." (David
Mech, The *Wolf*: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species)

The relationship between wolves and ravens is so interesting to me. Sort of a, "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" thing.

Well, this was a short entry. Probably a relief to most of you. I think this may be the final entry on this topic, unless I decide to post updates on wolf numbers and other stats, such as numbers of killed wolves or pack and pup numbers from year to year. Unless any of you have specific questions that I haven't yet addressed.

Thanks for your interest in one of my greatest passions.


Kari said...

Well I wasn't relieved. I could read anything you wrote about it. Personally I was a little surprised when I was reading the book I did and they talked a lot about how the wolf has been demonized even being referred to by religions as proof of Satan. I guess I just never felt that way. Mystical yes, but not evil. Maybe that just says more about the way I grew up though than anything else.

The book also talked about how "man" tends to be scared of things they can't control and wolves are very good at adapting and changing their behavior, making it harder and harder for man to predict and control their behavior. That's just sad to me. That we can't just look at them and respect them for what they are. And realize that we all have value in the world.

Overall a very interesting topic, and I appreciate you teaching me something about it.

Wade The Rascal said...

That part about how man tends to be scared of things he can't control is very true. I couldn't agree more.

Wade The Rascal said...

This article printed in the SL Trib today. It's got me all excited. Although, it's sort of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, that's more opportunity for people to see wolves, which will usually excite them in a way that they'll fight for their protection. On the other hand, it's usually bad to have predators, or any wild animals become habituated to humans. It sort of ups their chances of liking human type food so they end up aggressively pursuing food from humans. It also ups their chances of hanging out closer to roads and being hit by cars.

Wade The Rascal said...

This one printed in the Billings Gazette this morning. On it's face, it seems like an almost reasonable compromise. The problem is, as it has been, there are those who won't obey the laws and will go ahead and "shoot, shovel, and shut up," as I've heard so many rednecks chant. We'll see what happens. (Was sort of surprised that Obama didn't reverse the Bush decision. But Interior Secretary Salazar is a cowboy, so it's not all that unexpected.)

Wade The Rascal said...

This is from Boise's paper, the Idaho Statesman. This is just the thing that you don't want to hear. But, it also fits the trend. The two wolves caught on camera were juveniles--teenagers, basically. I don't know why they aren't with a pack. They may be doing some exploring, away from home, or they may have been pushed out of their packs. At any rate, it is usually not healthy, adult wolves involved in these predation cases, nor on attacks or run ins with humans, as is consistent with this story.

Kari said...

I'm glad I read that book, because I felt like I knew more about what these articles were talking about.
1) Yeah, probably not a good thing. But it was cool to see it was Doug Smith who was one of the writers of the book I read. And I also read about the Hayden pack. 2) There were some interesting comments in the book about the fact that eventually wolves would need to be taken off the list as proof that the ESA works. But I just don't like the idea that they can be shot. 3) Definitely sounds like juvenile behavior and very rare from what I've read.

I may need to read more than one book a year.