A greeting howl to all of you coming in for the Call of the Wild Wolf Lore seminar. Today I will post an Introduction and basic Natural History about the wolf. The wolf and the raven are my power animals so I’m always surrounded by their energy. I’m a zoologist and educator but most importantly an author of paranormal and fantasy romance novels. No surprise that my heroes are lycans and I created a universe where they live amongst us. My series The Wolf Maiden Chronicles stems from my passion for the wolf. Learn more from my website http://www.ravenauthor.com . On each full moon on my blog I interview famous werewolves and like creatures. Last moon I interviewed Luna the Alaskan wolf. http://evagordon.blogspot.com>>
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On Thursday I will discuss Wolf Classification and on Friday Wolf Behavior. Next week I will discuss wolf lore.>>
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I currently volunteer at a sanctuary and get to hear and see wolves at least once a week. I have a book shelf of books just about wolves and werewolves. If you are a biologist or really detailed do get a copy of Wolves, Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation by David Mech who is the world’s authority on wolves. It’s a university style text and expensive but if you are obsessed as I am it’s a good book to have. The web is filled with great wolf sites and youtube has excellent videos about wolves as well. I might list a few I recommend watching.>>
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Come in and comment on the thread about the subject of the day. I love talking wolves. If I don’t know the answer I will direct you to someone who might.>>
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Introduction>>
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The wolf is a member of the dog family Canidae. Other members of this family include the fox, coyote, and of course, our beloved pet, the dog. Canis lupus, or the gray wolf, is one of many species and subspecies of wolf found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The wolf is one of the most widely distributed land mammals. The wolf is found from artic regions to the deserts of Israel and the tropical rainforest of India. There are thirty-eight subspecies of wolf in North America and twenty-eight sub-species of wolf in Europe and Asia combined.>>
The wolf normally travels in packs and it preys on large mammals. It also feeds on smaller mammals, scavenges and can even feed on berries and other wild fruits. An important part of the food web, wolves help keep the environment in balance by preventing the overpopulation of prey animals and by feeding on the weak and the old. Many still see the wolf as a threat to livestock despite the facts that feral dogs and car accidents kill more cattle and sheep than wolves do. In America, wolves account for only one percent of livestock kills. >>
The howl of a wolf, which can be heard as far away as ten miles, evokes deep-seated emotions from awe to fear. This call of the wild reminds us of our ancestral past. People have a love/hate relationship with the wolf. We see the good and bad in us in them. The wolf has powers we wish to emulate such as pack loyalty and hunting prowess. For the romantic reader we like the fact that generally wolves mate for life. Their social and intelligent behavior mirrors our own. The wolf also reminds us of evil, death, darkness and blood lust savagery as depicted by legends of werewolves and childhood tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Peter and the Wolf. It is no surprise that wolves were hunted to near extinction. Fortunately, there is a consciousness to save the wolf. >>
In order to dispel fact from fiction we will briefly explore the natural history and behavior of the wolf. You will learn why the wolf went from valued archetype and totem to despised creature of darkness. >>
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Wolf Natural History (Basic Biology) >>
The wolf can be classified as a super dog. Their structure, strength, health, sense of smell, sight, and loyalty to their pack is superior to that of the dog. Over the last fifteen thousand or less years breeders have selected dogs for herding, hunting, swimming, tracking and speed from the ancestral wolf. Now imagine a dog having all those attributes and you have the wolf. >>
The wolf’s physical characteristics make it adaptable in any environment. The average size of wolf is the size of a German Shepard, and their weight ranges from 60 to 200 pounds. Northern wolves are larger than southern wolves. The Arctic wolf can weigh up to 200 pounds while the rare Arabian wolf weighs only 30 pounds. Its thick double layer of fur is designed to protect the wolf against freezing temperatures. Wolves are so well insulated that snow does not melt on their fur. Their fur is thickest during the winter. In the spring and summer the undercoat is shed in sheets unlike dogs. Wolf colors range from black to white, but the average wolf tends to be gray with streaks of silver, black, golden, white, or brown.>>
Wolves are designed to be ideal predators. The wolf is a carnivore with a powerful jaw with the strength of between 1,500- 1,800 lbs. of pressure per square inch. (PSI). Wolves have forty- two teeth in their long, narrow mouths while dogs have thirty-two teeth. Their four canine teeth can be up to two inches long. They use the canines to slash at the hide and muscle of prey, producing lethal lacerations and bleeding. Four carnassials, molar like teeth toward the rear of the wolf’s mouth are meat-shearers.>>
Wolves also make excellent hunters because of their ability to run and their extraordinary senses. In pursuit of a prey the wolf can reach a speed of forty miles per hour and can travel up to seventy miles in one day. They find prey by scent, sound and sight. Their sense of smell is 100 times that of humans. A desired smell can be picked up 1.75 miles away. Wolves use this highly attuned sense of smell to detect signs of infection or weakness in prey urine or feces. Once a weak prey is identified the wolf stalks it. Their hearing also helps the wolf find both its prey and companions. Wolves can hear six miles away in a forest and ten miles away in an open field. Their hearing is at 80khz (we hear at 20khz). Wolves have black and white 180-degree vision that is able to detect the slightest movement in prey, danger and understanding the nuances of pack behavior.>>
Wolves hunt in family groups called packs. A lone wolf would have a difficult time bringing down a large prey. As a pack, the wolves work together as a cunning team to bring down an animal such as a 1000-pound moose. They use a variety of strategies such as spooking a herd to expose the weak or young. Wolves hunt at night, dusk or at dawn using dim light to their advantage. Once a vulnerable prey such as an older animal is chosen they often exhaust it with a long chase before moving in for the kill. One wolf will usually grab the prey’s muzzle while the others bite the hindquarters and sides. Once the animal is killed the wolves will eat as much as they can. They can “wolf down” as much as 20 pounds of flesh in one feeding. Wolves often go for a long time without eating so they take advantage of eating as much as their gut can hold. If they can they will guard the carcass for a few days. They are no match for a foraging bear or a flock of ravens swooping down and stealing meat from the wolf’s meal. When starving, wolves are resourceful and will often eat small prey and even wild berries. >>
Wolves have an important role as keystone or top predators in an environment’s food chain. They help keep the ungulate (hoofed herbivore) population down thereby keeping the system in ecological balance. Removal of this important predator has caused the dramatic overpopulation of their prey species. For example without their presence in the Isle Royale in North America, the balsam fir tree growth was reduced due to over browsing by moose (Mech, McRobertset et al.1987; McRoberts et al. 1995). >>
The wolves’ only competition for deer, elk or moose is the human hunter. When the prey animals are scarce, wolves on rare occasions may turn to killing sheep and cattle. Encounters between ranchers and wolves also happen due to habitat encroachment by man. As mentioned earlier most livestock kills are due to feral dogs, cars and even weather. >>