Archive for the ‘wolves’ Category

This documentary is about coyotes that have red wolf features and possible ancestry in East Texas. He could have gone with that angle and made me giddy.

Instead, well, you’ll see:


So red wolves speak of the creator?

But wait a minute…

There is a huge debate about what a red wolf is. The best genetic study I’ve seen on them suggests they are recent hybrids between a relict population of Southeastern wolves Canis lupus wolves) and coyotes. What made the red wolf was not God Almighty but the extinction of the subtropical American wolf, which was almost always black in color.

Everything about Canis speaks of evolution. Not only do we have the hybrid red wolf, but we have hybrids between golden jackals and African wolves (Canis lupus lupaster) in sub-Saharan Africa. Eastern coyotes also have a lot of wolf and dog ancestry.

Hybrid zones and muddled areas between species are exactly what we expect if there were common descent among similar species.

They are distinct species but they simply haven’t diverged enough from each other to lose chemical interfertility.

The whole red wolf debate is actually about evolution from this perspective.

I lean toward it not being a distinct species at all but a really recent hybrid. I don’t think proponents of its unique species status have produced enough evidence to suggest that is not a hybrid. Hybridization is extremely common in Canis species, and this seems much more parsimonious than the claim that it’s an ancient North American wolf– a living fossil or whatever else.

Plus, the DNA says it’s not. And by that I mean large samples of DNA, not microsatellites or just mtDNA evidence, which is actually all they have.

But the hybridization of Canis in the East is producing a new form of coyote. This is a canid that comes in many more colors, thanks to the sprinkling dog in its ancestry and much more able to hunt large quarry thanks to the bit of wolf blood coursing through its veins.

These are the questions that make wolves and their kin interesting.

But unfortunately, we didn’t get that here.

Plus, everyone knows that the Bible hates wolves. It was written by ancient herdsmen, whose livestock suffered under wolf depredations. It’s not an ecology book in the least.

European settlers killed wolves on this continent under the auspices of ridding it of a Satanic force. Wolves did prey upon man in feudal Europe, and our ancestors came here with a strong fear of the lupine.

Chester Moore and I grew up in very similar environments, but I’m glad my parents and grandparents were interested in Darwin. My dad got me watching Sir David Attenborough documentaries.

I am glad that I am comfortable with nature as it is.

Every time I look at a dog’s eyes, I see evolution.

Every time I look at a flying bird, I see a dinosaur.

I see every reason to accept the modern Neo-Darwininian synthesis. It’s all around me.

I don’t see any reason why I should accept the Bible– or any holy book– as true.

But that’s just me.










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short spine wolf

Reader Wendy Browne posted this photo of this wolf in my Facebook Group.

I did a reverse image search through Google, and it is a real image.

This wolf was killed in Russia, and it’s actually a good thing that the wolf hunters did kill it.

It was suffering from a severe spinal deformity–  an unusually short spine. This same condition does occasionally pop up in dogs.

This wolf was most likely able to survive because it could eat what its pack-mates killed, but at some point, there could easily be prey shortage.

And this poor wolf would be the first to go.

And my guess it would be as humane a death as a bullet.





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This is dubbed in English, so you can understand the method. They don’t believe in closed registries out on taiga. The dogs they use in the crosses don’t even have to be domestic!


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I don’t normally watch these sorts of “man living with wolves” documentaries, but this is excellent!


The very interesting part is where the German shepherd tries to tend to the cattle while the wolf tries to test them as possible prey.

A German shepherd is a very different animal from a wolf.

It’s a pastoral dog.

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Lessons learned from a pet wolf

A Saarlooswolfhond, not the wolf in the article.

A Saarlooswolfhond, not the wolf in the article.

Here’s a great article by James D. Felsen in today’s Charleston Gazette:

Recently, we buried our beloved wolf on a bluff at our cabin overlooking the Potomac. We trust he is running free on the tundra, a noble creature that never should have been confined.

I abhor the hatred, vitriol and “ad hominem” pejorative derision that accompany the polarization, chaos and intolerance plaguing contemporary U.S. society. Living over a decade with Nietzsche, our wolf, offers insight.

He never wanted us, nor, did we want him. Abandoned as a young pup at an animal shelter by a dolt who thought a wolf would make a good watchdog, he was to be euthanized. He could not be offered for adoption since rabies vaccine efficacy had not been adequately studied in wolves.

Bred by humans in captivity, environmentally, he never ran free or enjoyed the social order of a pack. Yet, he was intensely and innately distrustful and fearful of humans, seeking the most distant corner in which to cower. He was physically beautiful and the vet estimated genetically he was 95 percent wolf. We did not believe he deserved to die and took him home where we planned to construct a large fenced run.

Socially, home consisted of my wife and me, my wife’s daughter who often visited and an aging cocker spaniel. As his run was being constructed, it was obvious he did not want to be “trapped” in a house or garage, hiding behind an old couch in the basement. My wife was the only family member who could get near him and coax him to eat.

With time we believed we could build trust and have the big dog we always wanted to sit beside us in my truck and lay on the floor or deck at our feet as we watched the sunset or TV. It never happened. It became clear that if the wolf was going to survive, it would have to occur with mutual respect and accommodation for his social order, not ours. We were never going to train him. Survival demanded he adopt us within the paradigm of the social order of a wolf pack.

He never strayed from that social order until his death a dozen years later. He would tolerate and even enjoy a few of the practices and foibles of humans and domesticated pets, but never compromised on core wolf social values. Never a part of a wolf pack socially, we wondered how these behaviors became “hard wired,” since Lamarckian genetics had been scientifically disproved years ago.

I was designated the “alpha-male” of the pack. He would move away and drop his head when I approached and not eat when I fed him until I was out of eyesight. He would also spend several minutes checking around his food dish to assure there were no traps and he was not going to get swatted by the alpha male. He would accept food out of hand from his mother (my wife) and sister (her daughter). My wife enjoyed frequent hugs and kisses.

If he was allowed into the house, he would not move from the same spot where he could view all commerce if I were present. If only his mother was present, he would follow her around and observe what she was doing. If his sister babysat him, he felt he had the run of the house, including jumping on beds.

His run was his domain and no animal, wild or domestic, survived if they somehow managed to slip or burrow into it. The exceptions were the “pack member” cocker spaniel and a young pup we took care of for a short time. In the domain of the vet’s office he was completely docile and hospitable, personally greeting each cat and dog waiting to be seen.

One of our favorite stories of “missed” wolf-human communication involves a hunt episode. He had escaped from his run and headed for a pasture nearby where a horse, mule and pony were present. As we ran to retrieve him he decided the pack was on a hunt and began nipping at the back legs of the mule and horse in order to turn them aside and turn the pony (dinner) toward us. The scenario was repeated many times as we tried to get near him to grab his collar. Finally, as if to say you two are the worst hunters I have ever seen, he just sat down exasperated and let my wife put on his leash and head home.

In his run or the truck, we observed him exchange “whine” words with other large canines and a black bear. His talk enraged them but he paid no heed to a group of deer that bedded down near his run. We never figured out why. He was headstrong, and when my wife walked him it was usually a struggle as to pace and direction.

At first he would hide in his run and never make a noise when strangers would be present. His oral communication consisted of howling when he chose. However, he did develop a “wannabe” bark after awhile and would sometime use it when strangers came. We thought he might have believed the cocker spaniel had certain privileges he did not have and it might help his status to bark. He also started raising his leg to urinate and scraping the ground afterward, although he never could master the right leg or motion.

His favorite food was venison scraps hunters would bring or he would find on his walks. However, he discovered discarded fries and Frosties on his walks and became a fast food junkie. He would tire of his dog food and raw pork bones, picking out well-seasoned leftovers and scraps, being especially partial to Italian and Chinese food.

Our stories of human-wolf social boundaries and accommodations are many, memorable and often amusing. They are also a lesson of diversity and tolerance.

A wolf’s life expectancy in the wild is about five to eight years; Nietzsche lived twice as long. If wolves would evolve as did other domesticated canines they would have much longer and easier lives. Some might suggest that. I would resist such an evolutionary policy in respect of the value, beauty and positive aspects of social diversity. I’ll never coerce a wolf to sit beside me in the front seat of a truck. Wolves should run free.

Many individuals are ridiculed today for “selfishly” holding onto a social order that other factions within our diverse and pluralistic country finds archaic, dysfunctional, reactionary and anti-progressive. They assert these individuals — and all society — would be better off if they adopted the same behavior, practices and social order to which society has, allegedly, progressively evolved. They are entitled to their beliefs but can traditionalists be “trained” to behave within the precepts of a new social order that others have determined would benefit them? Or does such attempted coercion result in conflict and chaos?

Should, or can, these traditionalists, be trained by government to abandon the values of their social order without causing severe disruption and destruction? No doubt, analogies to the wolf’s situation will be greeted with ridicule and derision, noting that, unlike wolves, humans can “reason”. Perhaps, but what does that really mean?

Nietzsche adopted certain contemporary human and domesticated pet behaviors, e.g., love of Frosties and fries, but never abandoned his core social order values. They were “hard wired.” Are we to believe that all human social values are the result of contemporary social and religious environmental beliefs that can be disproved and discarded by science and “reason?” Are we to believe that over time social values can be “hard wired” into other species but not humans?

Are we to accept that it is natural for a wolf to refuse to abandon his social order values if he is to survive but humans can easily abandoned them when confronted with reason and science? Perhaps such coercion, real or perceived, significantly contributes to social chaos, conflict and acrimony.

Finally, Nietzsche prospered by accommodating certain human behaviors but retaining his core social values. Given the recent rise of violence and destructive behavior in U.S. human society, I am not convinced discarding many traditional social values has brought increased social prosperity.

In today’s contentious society one’s ideology will likely determine if one either accepts and embraces — or derides and discards — any potential lessons. That would be unfortunate but probably appropriate. On learning of Nietzsche death, my youngest brother sent a quote from his philosopher namesake, “And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.”

Wolves are not ideal pets.

The episode with the wolf running the horses reminds me of a story my grandpa told me of his favorite hunting dog, a cross between a “toy collie” and an elkhound named Blue.  A friend of his sent the dog out to bring in a mare and colt, and by the time it was over, Blue had the colt nearly hamstrung.

But it is in relationships with wolves like Nietzsche that we see how the human-dog bond could have started.

Some wolves are such intensely social animals that they are surprisingly quite tolerant of humans and other animals.

I don’t know whether he was actually 95 percent wolf or not, but one thing is clear– wolves cannot be kept under the same coercive conditions that so many dogs acquiesce to.

The animal must be allowed to be.

And most dogs would be better off if they were allowed such liberties, too.

But too many humans just aren’t into that.



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Another Jämthund (Swedish elkhound) killed by wolves– this time in Sweden.

Jämthund killed by wolves


I don’t post this for anti-wolf propaganda. I am, after all, not anti-wolf.

But this is one reason why there is risk about allowing hunting dogs run where wolves are present.

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Kentucky wolf

(Not the guy who killed it)

A wolf was killed in Hart County, Kentucky, this past March. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources released this statement:

Federal officials recently confirmed that an animal taken by a hunter near Munfordville in Hart County on March 16 is a gray wolf.

A DNA analysis performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research Center in Colorado determined the 73-pound animal was a federally endangered gray wolf with a genetic makeup resembling wolves native to the Great Lakes Region. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Oregon confirmed the finding.

How the wolf found its way to a Munfordville hay ridge at daybreak in March remains a mystery. Wolves have been gone from the state since the mid-1800s.

Great Lakes Region wolf biologists said the animal’s dental characteristics – a large amount of plaque on its teeth – suggest it may have spent some time in captivity. A largely carnivorous diet requiring the crushing of bone as they eat produces much less plaque on the teeth of wild wolves.

Hart County resident James Troyer took the animal with a shot from 100 yards away while predator hunting on his family’s farm. Troyer, 31, said he had taken a coyote off the property just two weeks earlier.

But when he approached the downed animal he noticed it was much larger. “I was like – wow – that thing was big!” he recalled. “It looked like a wolf, but who is going to believe I shot a wolf?”

Because a free-ranging wolf has not been seen in the state for more than a century, biologists were skeptical at first. However, wildlife officials were aware that a few radio-collared northern wolves have wandered as far south as Missouri in the past decade.

Wolves resemble coyotes, except they are much larger. From a distance, the size difference is difficult to determine.

Troyer convinced Kevin Raymond, a wildlife biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, to look at the animal. Once Raymond saw the animal was twice the size of a coyote, he contacted furbearer biologist Laura Patton, who submitted samples to federal officials for DNA testing.

Because state and federal laws prohibit the possession, importation into Kentucky or hunting of gray wolves, federal officials took possession of the pelt. Since this is the first free-ranging gray wolf documented in Kentucky’s modern history, federal or state charges are not expected because there were no prior biological expectations for any hunter to encounter a wolf.

This animal may have been introduced by someone who had a pet wolf and got tired of it.

Or it could have walked from Great Lakes population into Kentucky.  There was a wolf from this population that was killed in Missouri last year that clearly wandered down on its own volition. And another one was killed in the same state in 2010.

It is interesting that all three of these wolves would be Great Lakes wolves. That population is actually the healthiest population in the Lower 48, and they clearly are moving south.

My question is why are none of these animals reported in places like Illinois, Iowa, or Indiana, which lie between the core wolf habitat states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Kentucky and Missouri?

If they are dispersing this far south someone has to be seeing them in those states, too, but I never hear of anyone shooting a big coyote that turns out to be a wolf in any of those states.

So it’s an interesting question if this wolf came to Kentucky on its own.

But someday, there will be wolves in Kentucky. There will be no argument about where they came from.

The wolf is one species that is very likely to thrive in the twenty-first century, provided we don’t lose our minds and start trying to exterminate them again.

And that’s the big if.

But if we just leave them alone, they will return.

They are doing so in Germany and much of Western Europe right now.

It will just take some time.

And restraint.


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