"Man and wolf are the two most social of all terrestrial mammals. In wolves, family ties are valued above all." So says author, W. Wood. Wolves were greatly respected by Native American hunters as were eagles and bears. They wanted to capture the strength and endurance of the wolves' hunting skills. People have been fascinated by the mystery of the eyes of the wolf and their behaviour. The sound of their howling demands our attention!
Living in a village in the midst of "The Abruzzi National Forest" in Italy, the sound of the howling of the wolves was common at dawn. At times one could even see silowettes of packs of wolves as they howled. During the forties and early fifties, we children were both afraid and fascinated since we wondered what the wolves looked like up close. We were taught to never go close if we ever saw one and run for help. We also kept hearing how the wolves sometimes killed cattle, sheep, and other domestic animals in the village. It wasn't until I went to a zoo that I actually saw wolves and pups. I could not stop looking at them and I have continued to be drawn to them and be fascinated by their behaviour.
The irony that there are ads in newspapers selling wolf cubs is very sad, not only because they are very dangerous but to lock up a wolf in a home or cage is so very cruel since is is totally against their nature. The law should be protecting both the people and the wolves.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is dedicated to protecting wildlife and endangered wildlife around the world. Since it was created in 1961 it has helped to protect hundreds of plant and animal species and preserve millions of acres of habitat on five continents.
Wolves require large areas of undeveloped land in order to survive. Protecting the few remaining areas is crucial to the population of wolves and to people to be enriched by them. "With Wolves" (1995) is a children's book showing actual photographs of various wolves and their cubs in their natural habitat. Many of the photos are of the gray and red wolf. We also see the black, brown, white wolf, and some with mixture in their fur.
Next to a large photo of a huge wolf is a quote by Chief Seattle, l885, "If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, since whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth."
One time while a group of us were hiking in the mountains in Italy in Abruzzi National Park we were almost certain we saw a wolf but it made no sound. We were both afraid and anxious to see it again but we never did. Author J. K. Townsend explains why. Wolves are shy during the day and rarely approach but at night they are fearless and gather in groups howling. A photo of several wolves licking their long and red tongue touching their sharp and big teeth best describes their nature for hunting.
When we look at how beautiful and unique each wolf is we wonder why we have not learned to live with them, especially when we see how adorable the cubs are. Their fur varies from snowy white to dark brown and black. The eyes of the wolf certainly stand out in a black wolf.
On a cold winter night with a blanket of snow lighted by moonlight is the elusive setting for the howling of the wolves. Such a howl pierces through your heart and soul.
Author Samuel Williams says that wolves are fiercely loyal, intelligent, playful, and cooperative. He further points out that these are the same qualities we admire in people and in ourselves. Wolves seek the most hidden places in the wilderness to make their den and raise the young.
As we look at the many beautiful photos of wolves and cubs in different color of fur we understand what Author Samuel Williams says, " His eyes generally appear sparkling; and there is a wildness and a fierceness in his looks."
Cubs howl with the wolves late at night to gather their pack to hunt and early in the morning to sleep. When I returned to the village as an adult, I would make sure I would listen to the howling of both dawn and night. It was a beautiful sight with the moon and stars and the howling.
Author E. Duis points out that early Anglo-Saxon heroes and kings such as Beowulf added the suffix wolf to their names to denote their courage, tenacity, strength, and fighting ability.
All these qualities are associated with wolves. Wolves play in the snow by themselves and with their cubs. They are bold and impudent! Several photographs illustrate the fun they have.
"Their cunning has always been proverbial," so says the author McWhorter. Wolves have immense diversity in size and color. No two are quite alike. This diversity is expressed in cubs as one looks at one of the photograph of a chocolate brown cub with black eyes in the middle of yellow wildflowers. How could one not help picking it up and hugging it?
Their howling is also diverse. Henderson, the author, says that the wolves have music of six different cornets.
A photo of several wolves cuddling up to each other while one seems to be giving a gentle kiss to another expresses the fact that wolves are social and gregarious animals who live in a close-knit pack. The author Topsell points out that the lone wolf is a myth.
Wolves like to be in the cold more than warm weather so he hides himself until the sunny heat has abated as Topsell says.
The way wolves move is striking. Author Dr. J.K. Barnes says, "Their gait is a long and steady trot, or quick and vigorous run." A photo of a black wolf vigorously running on the snow illustrates that movement. His eyes are focused and his mouth is partially open and you see the sharp and long teeth contrasted by the red and long tongue. Who could keep up with it or run away from it?
M. Catesby points out that, "They go in droves by night, and hunt deer like hounds.." Many photographs show that wolves are big boned, lank paunched, deep breasted, have a thick neck and head, pricked ears,...and a great bush tail. This is how W. Wood describes their appearance.
Additional photographs show how elusive, intriguing, and even invisible wolves are even when they are nearby. Wolves are very secretive. This explains why our group never saw the wolf again. Topsell continues to say and illustrate with photos that the wolf is very bold, howleth fearfully, having fiery-flaming eyes. Wailes says the the wolf like the bear has been forced into retirement and is rarely seen in the older setteld parts of the country. A photo of a huge white wolf on a blanket of white snow with his mouth wide open howling illustrates how the wolf is the king of the wilderness. His red tongue and sharp teeth are a contrast to the dark blue sky full of stars and with the moon shining. The wilderness is his kingdom.
The last photo is of a gigantic arctic wolf with white fur on white snow. The wolf looks like he is smiling. Author Steele says, "A large whitish wolf made its appearance; then two more; their howls were answered by others. until the gulches echoed..It was a moonless night, but the stars shone out..."
According to the book of, "Wildlife Fact-File," the majestic arctic wolf lives in the silent vastness of the barren polar region, where darkness cloaks the land for up to five months of darkness a year. It is here he hunts every other living animal.
SIZE: The length of the arctic wolf from head and body is three to five feet. The height to shoulder is twenty-five to thirty one inches. The weight is up to l75 lb.. Females are lighter.
BREEDING: Males reach sexual maturity at three years old while females at two years old. Gestation is 61 to 53 days. The number of young is four or five.
LIFESTYLE: Their habitat is to live in family groups of up to 30 but usually 7-10. Their call is a chorus of howls. Their diet is mainly arctic hares, musk ox, caribou, and lemmings. Their lifespan is seven years of age.
The arctic wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf. Others are the timber wolf of America and the common wolf of Eurasia. Arctic wolves are found throughout the Arctic land mass but not in the permanent ice sheets of the sea ice.
CONSERVATION: Wolves in general have been under threat throughout history. The arctic wolf is the only subspecies found over the whole of its original range because it rarely encounters humans.
Their social status is expressed by a complex language of gestures, barks, and growls. High ranking wolves constantly assert their position making lesser members cringe or lie on their backs in submission. There is very little friction despite this behavior.
The arctic wolf is able to tolerate years of sub-zero temperatures, months of darkness, and weeks without food. The arctic wolf lives in one of the few places on earth where it is safe from the greatest threat of all, man.
It is one of the few mammals that can tolerate such conditions. In April it is 22 degrees F..
The ground is permanently frozen. The arctic wolf must roam a large area in order to hunt enough food to survive. They can go days without food but then can eat up to ten pounds of meat at a time. Food is scarce so it wastes nothing. It will eat every part of the arctic hare including the skin, fur, and bones.
The younger pack members will watch the cubs while the mother wolf is hunting. When hunting a large prey such as a full grown caribou and musk oxen, wolves must attack together as a pack.
Surprise attack are impossible in the open tundra. Its prey is defensive and will form a circle to protact their calves. The wolf must disrupt the herd and as the oxen scatter. The wolves isolate a young and weak animal. If one wolf catches a victim, the others will aid in killing it. A musk ox provides enough food to last the wolves for several days.
During the fall and winter, arctic wolves are on the move. After mating in March, the pregnant female leaves the pack to find a nursery den. She may even dig a new one. Whe the ground is frozen she is forced to return to an old den in a cave or rock cleft.
The cubs are born deaf, blind, and helpless. They are totally dependent on their mother. She relies on her mate to bring her the food she needs. The cubs are able to eat meat in a month.
Meantime the cubs suckle from the nipples of their mother. The whole pack shares in the job of feeding them with regurgitated meat from a kill. The cubs may stirke out on their own after a year.
Wolves usually live in small packs or family groups. It consists of a breeding pair, their cubs, and their unmated offspring from the previous two or three seasons. The dominant or breeding pair are known as the alpha male and the alpha female. The other wolves defer to them. All of the adults in the pack co-operate in feeding and caring for the cubs.
Lone wolves are usually young animals that have left the pack in search of their territory. They avoid other wolves, unless they are potential mates. If a lone wold finds unoccupied territory, it will claim it by marking it with its scent. It then attracts a mate and starts a new pack.
The eyes of the wolf radiate mystery and power. Its howl once heard is unforgetable. Its fur must feel wonderful but as humans we will never know. Most children and adults are amazed by wolves on how they resemble human beings in their social behavior. While we cannot have the close relationship we would desire with wolves, we must respect them and protect them. This great beautiful world does not just belong to people but to wolves and all animals.