Monday, 8 August 2016

Getting to know the wolf

Adirondacks Wildlife Refuge

7 August 2016

There is a wildlife refuge in the Adirondacks that we visited on our second day back in the US. Steve who runs the refuge gives an incredible talk for about an hour on the history of the wolf. He walked us through man leaving Africa after the Ice Age and moving up to the northern hemisphere. How man changed from eating fruit and learned from the wolf how to

The domestic dog and the wolf share a common ancestor. A pack of wolves always includes an alpha female (usually the mother) and alpha male (usually the father) and the pups (children). When the pups want to breed, they need to leave the pack and start their own.

We were able to see how the wolves reacted to two of their handlers. Just like a domestic dog. Giving affection. Getting jealous when one was getting more attention than them.

Some people brought their dogs to the refuge. Why would you do that? Anyway the wolves went berserk, understandably. One of them howled. It was an amazing sound. Howling is like a language. Barking is a warning of danger.

There were a few other animals at the shelter

DDT, a pesticide which was used for insect control was poisoning the bald eagles as they would feed off the animals which died from the DDT. For a long time the scientists wanted the government to ban DDT which the company who made it said the DDT was not responsible for the reducing number of the bald eagles. The government took the scientists view and now the numbers of the bald eagles have greatly increased. In a similar situation, wolves are suffering from lead poisoning. They are eating the animals that have been shot by hunters who use lead bullets. The NRA say that there is no proof. Hunters have a choice of a number of types of metal for their bullets but lead is cheaper. Lead bullets need to be banned.

They feed the wolves on deer road kill. The wolves eat everything (though I’m not sure about the fur and skin), but they do eat most of the bones.

If a wolf is protecting itself it’s bite can be up to 1500 pounds per square inch, on the other hand a Rottweiler (who has the strongest of any dog) only has a bite that is 328 pounds.

Government bounty programs initiated in the C19th up until the 1960’s effectively wiped out the grey wolves from the lower 48 states in the 1800’s, because they posed a threat to livestock. The wolves learned quickly that docile animals such as cattle and sheep made an easy meal. The wolf controlled the white tailed deer population which has exploded. Many wolves only last about five years in the wild as hunting is a dangerous profession. In captivity they can last the same as a dog. So if possible, a wolf would much rather that their prey is already dead, as they can’t fight back. Often wolves will find a bear that has killed some prey. Bears are actually scarred of wolves, but will often wait until the wolf is “drunk” on protein and goes to sleep, and then they will step in and steal the wolves’ prey.

Snowy owl

We wondered if the Australian dingo was a descendant of the grey wolf. Steve didn’t think so, he thought it was originally a domestic dog. We had been told by the Stockmen’s Hall of Fame in Queensland in 2002 that they had come to Australia 60,000 years ago. It seems the thinking has changed. A quick search on the internet suggests that they came somewhere between 4,000-12,000 years ago. Way before the English settled and way after Aborigines inhabited our country. It was thought that they may have been domesticated dogs from South East Asia but are now wild again. But research has concluded that they are not a dog but a separate species. Unlike dogs, they cannot process starch, so they don’t think they ever lived with agriculturists. So in a nutshell, no-one really knows. They have double joined bones near their paws which allows them to pick up eggs and open doors and they can survive for three weeks without water. They can also turn their head around just past their spine, a bit like the owl. Like wolves, they howl.

An Australian Dingo in the Simpson Desert, South Australia


  1. Such beautiful photos of the Snowy Owls and wolves. I agree, lead bullets should be banned. Lead poisoning kills many birds of prey, too.

    1. so true, it doesn't take much to be responsible hunters, if you must hunt