The original ancestor to domestic dogs, wolves are highly social and loyal animals, forming tight-knit wolf packs that live and hunt together throughout their entire lives.
About six to ten wolves comprise a wolfpack, lead by a dominate male and female. Usually, the dominate male and female are the only members of the pack to breed, with the rest of the pack taking turns caring for the young pups when the group hunts.
A wolf pack is a family in full meaning of that word. They are social caring family animals, a lot like us. They are devoted to one another, they really look after each other.
Communal animals, wolves howl to attract the attention of their pack or to warn encroaching packs of their territory. Wolves also howl when they hear another wolf howling nearby, much like domestic dogs.
Wolf behavior indicates that wolves are highly intelligent animals with the cognitive ability to coordinate, plan, and strategize within their pack. For example, wolves systematically try to isolate the weakest member of prey herds for their attacks, thus minimizing the risk of any pack member getting injured in case the prey fights back.
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Wolves = Healthy Eco-System
Wolves Strengthen Elk and Deer Populations
Because wolves target mostly weak members of a pack, they reduce the number of inferior and injured elk and deer, allowing only the strongest gene pools to repopulate. Contrary to what many hunters want you to think, the elk and deer populations have actually increased in areas where wolves have been re-introduced after regional extinction.
Wolves Increase Vegetation Growth
Wolves help migrate elk and deer populations across territories, allowing for vegetation growth in areas in which those animals otherwise overgraze. The improved vegetation in these areas provides more food for beavers, which creates ponds better for tree growth, which in turn shades the rivers, making them better a better habitat for trout.
Wolves Provide Food for Scavenger Animals
Many scavenger animals rely on the carcasses wolves leave behind for food. Grizzly bears, bald eagles, and wolverines all benefit from the wolf discards.
Wolves Regulate Coyote Populations
Wolves help reduce coyote populations, which frequently feed on young antelope and residential animals.
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Are Wolves A Threat?
Can Wolves Attack Humans?
Although wolves are predatory hunters, capable of taking down large mammals, wolves tend to have a natural fear of humans. In fact, in the domestic dogs kill 10 times as many humans every year than wolves have killed in the past 100 years.
There have only been two cases of of wolves killing humans in the past 100 years, and both cases occurred in illegal garbage dumps that attract many scavenging carnivores.
Since hunters in the US and Canada kill nearly 100 people and injure 1,000 each year, you are far more likely to be attacked by a hunter in North America than a wolf.
Do Wolves Endager Wildlife?
Although wolves do hunt elk, the elk populations have actually increased in areas like Montana and Wyoming where wolves have been reintroduced, likely due to the wolf’s role in strengthening the elk gene pool.
Can Ranchers Protect Their Flock from Wolves?
Wolves are a very minor threat to cow populations. Wolves are actually responsible for less than 0.2% of cattle losses with 94% of losses due to non-predator related causes. To put things in perspective, domestic dogs killed almost three times as many cows as wolves did in 2010.
That said, livestock can face many dangers on the range today, including weather, disease, and yes, even predators. It may seem like it would be easiest to just remove the predatory populations entirely, but these predators also play an essential role in the ecosystems in which many of the livestock live.
Instead of attacking or removing wolf populations, ranchers can easily protect their livestock from predator encounters by simply educating themselves on the behavior of the predator populations in their areas. Simple techniques like night penning and fladry, and removal of food attractants can dramatically increase the safety of rancher flocks while allowing the predator populations to coexist in their natural habitat.
Data source: “Cattle Death Loss,” a report by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (see chart on pg. 5)
Threat: The War on Wolves
The wolf is the only species driven deliberately to near extinction by human hunting.
Before American settlements, between 250,000 – 500,000 wild wolves lived viably with Native Americans and the rest of the ecosystem in the United States. But roughly 100 years ago, the US government started to implement policies for “wolf control” that drove the native wolf population to near extinction.
President Roosevelt labeled wolves, “the beast of waste and destruction,” and called for their eradication. Wolf skulls and skins were displayed in photographs and hunters were given “victory bounties” for their kills. By the 1960s, only 300 wolves remained in the lower 48 states, hiding out in the deep woods of Michigan and Minnesota where humans couldn’t hunt them.
Endangered Species Act – 1974
By the 1970s, some Americans had begun to take notice of rapid decline of the native wolf population and demand measures to protect the northern gray wolf population in Michigan and Minnesota.
In 1974, the gray wolf was added to the Endangered Species Act and by the 1980s, the first pack of wild wolves from Canada safely crossed the boarder to the United States.
Reintroduction – Yellowstone
Following the success of the Endangered Species Act, 31 Canadian gray wolves were released into Yellowstone. Despite the illegal murder of one wolf outside of Montana, a litter of wild pups was eventually born in Yellowstone and the total US wolf population grew from 300 to 4,000 in just three decades.
Endangered Species Act Removal in Some States – 2011
In April of 2011, wolves lost their federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in a number of states in the Northern Rockies, North East and North West, leaving wolf populations in the hands of individual states. While state of Oregon continued protection established on state-level, other states like Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have allowed aggressive hunting seasons to massacre their wolf populations.
As of February 2014, over 2,700 wolves have been killed in just those states, putting wolves in danger of extinction at human hands once again.
US FWS Proposal to completely remove wolf from Endangered Species – 2013
In opposition to the country’s leading biologists and US FWS own scientific panel, the US Fish and Wildlife Services proposed to remove Grey Wolf protection from all of the 48 lower states in 2013. While California took measure to ensure local protection of wolves, other states like Utah (which does not currently have any wolf population) and North Dakota have already prepared a wolf-eradication plan and are lobbying heavily for wolf delisting to move forward. Such an intolerant approach to the wolf in Utah would greatly inhibit wolf migration from Oregon to California – two states where wolves have state-level protection. Wolf migration is essential for the genetic health of the species.
Between 2004 and 2011, Wildlife Services killed over 26 million animals purportedly to “protect” agribusiness or “bolster” hunting opportunities – a contention based on unsupported myths.
The agency spends over $100 million each year on wildlife-killing actions.
trapping • snaring
• aerial gunning • poisoning • denning
In the process of such ‘management’ many cruel and barbaric methods are used. Wolves are allowed to be trapped in a steel-jaw leg traps, full body traps or snares. A trapped wolf can spend up to several days in it – injured, scared, without food and water and unable to take shelter from the elements.
It is not uncommon for hunters to further torment the trapped animal by using it as a shooting target or clubbing it to death or setting dogs to tear it apart. See this article by Wildearth Guardians
The state of Wisconsin allows dog hunting, where dogs are trained specifically to chase wolves, attack them and tear them apart. Needless to say, both the wolf and hunting dogs suffer greatly.
The use of poisons is also allowed. The poisons do not end a life of animal instantly, but instead cause him prolonged suffering and painful death.
The practice known as ‘denning’ targets wolf pups, where they are buried alive in their dens. The little pups are also sometimes staked to the ground alive in order to lure in family coming to rescue to their babies.
Any of these practices would qualify as animal cruelty if done to a domestic dog. But towards a wolf, these practices are not only allowed, they are subsidized and funded with tax-payer money.
How You Can Help
Today the survival of the wolf is in question once again. Wolves come under attack on both federal and state level and their survival is in question once again.
You can help by being a voice for the wolves – get educated further, stay tuned on the latest petitions, participate in the local and national events demanding reformation of wildlife management, demand humane treatment of wildlife and balanced and non-lethal approach to management.
- Follow Living With Wolves on Facebook
- Project Coyote
- CA Wolf center
- Predator Defense
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Wildlife Guardians
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