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Posts Tagged ‘European wolf’

jan fyt wolf

The Revierjäger’s daughter wore a red hood when she went flower-picking in the forest. It kept the sun and rain off her freckled face.

And every day, she’d ask her father if she could walk to see Oma.

But Revierjäger knew there was danger about the forest. Two years ago, there had been a big peasant rising in the land, and when the king’s men crushed the rebellion, renegades hid out in the forest. They poached the deer and wild boar. Even after the rebels were starved out of their sylvan retreats, the game remained scarce.

The wolves of the forest found themselves without much to eat, so they slipped among the villages, lifting suckling pigs from the sows and running amok among the flocks.

The Revierjäger spent much of his time hunting down predatory wolves. He knew as well as anyone that wolves could hold back the recovery of the red stags that once roared in the rut in the green oak wood. But he also knew that wolves were a constant menace of the peasants, and their killings could spark another rising. Wolves take meat that could be sold or butchered, and bare peasant larders and coffers are the makings of revolution.

But what was worse was that a few wolves had taken to hunting people. No peasant legally owned a gun. Guns were instruments of the state only. Armed peasants could easily turn rebellious, and guns would be the perfect tools of poacher-fed revolt. They could off the margaves and the militiamen, then go deep in the beeches and drop a hind for a bit of supper.

So the wolves learned that peasants, especially young children and women, were easy prey. Every month or so, a story would spread through the villages about some child who disappeared while tending sheep or swine. Bandits or Roma were often branded as the culprits, but virtually every time, the child would disappear along a trail heavily marked by wolf tracks.

So the Revierjäger could not let his daughter go alone to see her Oma, but every sunny morning, the girl would ask her father. And every time, he turned her down. He could not risk his beautiful child’s life in a forest where wolves hunted people. Her mother had died at the hands of rebels, and their daughter was the only family he had left in this world.

Yet his guilt burned within him. Every other Sunday, he would take her to see Oma, and they would eat a fine feast of roast pork. They would visit a bit, but as the afternoon shadows grew longer, Revierjäger would summon the muster to tell the little girl that it was time to go, and they would cut back through the forest to his home cottage. Most times, she would cry piteously about the decision to leave. Great gushing tears would rush down her cheeks, which would flush as red as her hood from her anguish.

Every other Sunday was a great joy followed by a great sorrow, but he knew he had to let his daughter see her mother’s mother. She was the last remnant of his late wife’s side of the family, and he knew he must keep the family ties connected, even if he had to see his little girl cry.

So after one Sunday afternoon visit came to an end, the Revierjäger realized that he could no longer refuse his daughter her requests. As they rode home through the green wood, he knew that if the little girl asked him in the morning, he would grant her that wish to go see Oma.

He knew that there was risk involved, but he could no longer stand to see the little girl cry so much. He had to put her at risk just so that she could be happy.

Plus, no one had seen even a wolf track along that forest road to Oma’s house. It wasn’t that much of a risk, the Revierjäger reasoned to himself.

And so he made his decision. He slept little that night, but when his daughter asked that glorious Monday morning, he gave the answer that he knew he had to give. But he had some regulations:

2″You shall stay on the forest road. You must not wander from it. You will walk to Oma’s house and nowhere else. You will not speak to /strangers. And above all, if a wolf shows up, make yourself look big and tall. Lift up your red hood to make you look like a giant and shout at it. Do not run. The wolf will be on you in seconds if you do.”

The little girl stared up with her father. He expected fear to rise across her face, but instead, he saw hard resolve.

“Yes, father, I will stay on the road. I will not speak to strangers. I will go right to Oma’s house, and I will make myself look big if I see a wolf. I will be safe.”

“You must wear your hood. I feel a hint of rain in the air.”

He handed her a basket full of bread to carry on her way.

“If you get hungry, eat some this bread, but keep most of it for Oma. She will be thrilled to see you arrive with such a nice bit of food.”

In the basket, the Revierjäger placed a note to Oma. It was a note expressing his permission for the little girl to make such a journey and instructions on what to do with that bread in the basket.

And so the little girl headed down that forest road on the way Oma’s house. The Revierjäger fretted the whole time, and he was sorely tempted to follow the girl down the road. But something made him stand still, something that he could not explain.

But when he made the decision to follow her, a local blacksmith came rushing up to the cottage. The blacksmith said he’d found a poacher’s camp in the far end of the forest. and any Revierjäger worth his salt knew he had to check it out. And so the Revierjäger rode off in the opposite direction to inspect the poacher’s camp.

The daughter made her way down the road until she got to the point where the trees grow thick along both sides of the road. They shaded this whole bit of land, making the whole scene dark as if it were dusk even in the sunny days of July.

A raven croaked in the canopy of the trees. The wind was still, but the air was dank even for summer.

The little girl drew her hood in more tightly to keep out the chill, and as she proceeded down the road, the sounds of the forest seemed to dissipate. It was an eerie silence that now befell the forest road

She walked on and on. Her face showing strong resolve as she marched along the forest road.

But at that point, the leaves on the right side of the road began to rustle. She stopped and stared into the forest, but the growth was so thick she could see nothing. She told herself it was nothing and continued down the road.

At various points along the trail, shadows would move in the gloom, but she could not make out their shape. She told herself it was just her imagination.

She continued on and on until she came to where a massive boulder had rolled down to the edge of the road. As she came upon the boulder, a wolf leaped upon the boulder then bounded off it, landed in the middle of the forest road, and loped toward the girl. 

The wolf’s left ear was hanging down, an old injury from an errant boar tusk, and his face was all scarred from the fighting he did with his pack-mates over the last scraps of meat they could scavenge from forest.He.

He was a ghastly, demonic sort of wolf. And his amber eyes were fixed upon the girl. She was now his prey, and an easy kill at that.

But as the wolf approached with such menace in his eyes, the girl remembered her father’s words, and she lifted up the red hood off her shoulders. She made herself look tall and powerful, and she shouted at the wolf. She marched toward him with the swagger of a sailor, and the wolf was taken aback by such a display. He tucked his tail between his legs and scurried back into the thick brush.

The girl knew she had done something powerful. She had made the wolf back down. She now marched down the forest road, confident that she had stood up to such a terrible beast.

She continued down the path to Oma’s house, but what she could not know is that the night before, a pair of wolves slipped into Oma’s bedroom. They were skilled man-eaters, and they made short work of her corpse. 

The two wolves were resting in the front room of Oma’s cottage. They growled when they heard the approaching footsteps, but their bellies were too full of meat to get them that excited. 

When the girl walked up to the house, the wolves stood and stared at her. She was shocked to see them standing there. She noticed that their muzzles were covered in blood, and they stared at her so hard and intently, that fear took over and she ran. Her decision to run was not wise, for it stimulated the wolves’ predatory instinct. They chased after her, and after only short run, they were on her. They easily tore the girl apart, but because they weren’t particularly hungry, they just rolled around a bit and moved into the shade of an oak tree that lay just beyond Oma’s cottage. 

As the pair of wolves rested beneath the oak,  a man’s form appeared along the edge of the wood.  It was Revierjäger. He had tried to track down the poachers’ camp, but he then began to worry about the fate of his daughter, he decided to walk over to make sure everything was okay. 

He saw wolf tracks in the dirt in the road. So he loaded his musket.  His years of forest experience had honed his instincts. He seemed to know that fresh wolf tracks could mean something bad had happened. He was ready for the worst.

As he came upon Oma’s cottage, he saw the mutilated form of his daughter in the lawn.  Tears shot down his face. He dropped to his knees and wept, but as he wept he saw movement below the oak at the far edge of the lawn.  There were two wolves. 

Feeling horrific rage, the Revierjäger fired his gun. One wolf fell, but the other ran before he could load again. 

The wolf fell dead and hard on the ground.  The Revierjäger had the last of his family to bury.  

But in a few days, every villager within miles would be out with every barking dog, beating the forest for wolves.

Revierjägers from all around would fill the wood with firing guns. The wolves fell hard on the ground.  Wolves were trapped with iron footholds and with pit traps.  Dogs tore them apart.

And after four months of revenge, scarcely a wolf existed in that wood.  The peasants could graze their sheep and allow their swine pannage once again.

But the Revierjäger had a life to put together again. And everyone knew about the horrors of wolves in the deep forest. They would tell their children, who would tell their children, and so the fear was known long after the last wolf howl rose from the oak wood in that region.

Some of their descendants would come to North America, and they would kill every wolf and coyote they saw, simply because they knew what happened when wolves were allowed to live upon the land. They never saw a wolf attack anyone, but they knew that they would, simply because that is what they were told. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wolves come in many colors. The black ones, as we know, have their origin in domestic dogs, which crossed with wild wolves. The revelation intrigued me when it came out in early 2009, and I am always thinking of what color might mean when it comes to the evolution of wolves and dogs.

I have noticed that there are many photos of wolves from Finland that have an unusual color. Most European wolves (Canis lupus lupus) are dark gray sable, the classic “wolf color,” but in Finland, there seem to be more than a few wolves that appear to be golden in color. The wolves have varying amounts of sabling on their pelts, and some are what we would call “clear sables” if they were domestic dogs, as we can see the photos of “Susi,” the famous Swedish wolf that came from Finland or Russia.

It is possible that this coloration also has its origin in domestic dogs. There are rumors that the Russians turned out wolfdogs on the Finnish border, but there are always rumors about Russians and their deeds.

Of course, the Finns have always owned dogs of this color, and it is now known that some of these hunting and herding spitz breeds are derived from wolf and dog crosses. It is possible that the gene flow has worked both ways between these spitzes and Finnish wolves. Indeed, it is probably quite likely.

However, there is another possibility that is also worth considering.  In late 2013, Olaf Thalmann and Robert Wayne published a paper that compared samples of ancient mitochondrial DNA from the remains wolves, dogs, and possible transitional forms between wolves and dogs from Europe were compared to modern dogs and wolves. In this analysis, samples from dingoes and basenjis were included in order to get samples from dog populations that had long been isolated from the main dog population.  All modern dogs, including dingoes, are very close to these ancient European wolves in terms of their mitochondrial ancestry. Mitochondrial DNA alone can lead people astray when tracing evolution and ancestry, but the fact that dingoes were closest to these European canids really does point to a strong possibility that dogs were domesticated by European hunter-gatherers at some point between 18,800–32,100  years ago.

It is also interesting to me that almost all dingoes and many, many pariah and primitive dogs are red or yellow sables like these wolves. I wonder if these yellow Finnish wolves represent a sort of throwback to the ancestral European wolf population that gave rise to domestic dogs. Perhaps the majority of the ancient European wolves were golden in color.

Yellow wolves do occur in the Middle East, China, and South Asia,  and China and the Middle East have been suggested to be places where dog domestication first happened.  However, none of these wolves have been linked to dogs through ancient DNA samples in the same way the ancient wolves of Europe have been.

Of course, the questions about the yellow wolves of Finland could be answered in much the same way the questions about the origins of the black wolves of North America were.

But there is something to these golden wolves that does need some exploration.

Maybe they are the result of dog and wolf gene flow. Maybe they are just a local unique mutation.

Or maybe they are a flash of gold that tells us a bit about the past.

DNA nalysis on ancient remains has already revealed that dappled and black horses were in the wild Pleistocene horse populations, but no similar studies have been performed on the remains of ancient wolves or dogs.

Maybe there really is something to these yellow Finnish wolves that just a pretty coat.

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

Source.

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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death of a wisent

This comes from Brehm’s Tierlauben (Life of Animals) (1893).

It shows a pack of European wolves killing a wisent, also known as a European bison.

The wisent was already extinct in Germany by mid-eighteenth century, but wolves held on in Germany until the beginning of the twentieth century.

Brehm would have known about wolves hunting wisent from accounts from Eastern Europe.

However, wolves have been steadily recolonizing Germany from the east, but wisent have been gone a long time.

But they were recently reintroduced to a forest in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The wolves are largely concentrated to the eastern part of the country, so scenes like this one aren’t going be seen any time soon.

But the potential is there.

Some day.

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A pretty good-sized animal.

 

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From Science Daily:

Scientists of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Görlitz have been investigating the feeding habits of wolves in the first eight years since their appearance in Germany. The results are reassuring: The proportion of livestock on the menu lies at less than one percent. The related study was published recently in the journal Mammalian Biology.

For a long time, wolves had been wiped out in Germany, now they are slowly getting back home. But not everyone is happy at the return of the wild animal. The feeding habits of Canis lupus are the subject of many legends and fables. Wolves that tear sheep apart, eat household pets and even attack people — the return of the predators to German regions awakens fear and generates conflict amongst its inhabitants, hunters and farmers.

“The dietary habits of wolves has been the greatest point of contention with their return to Germany and it induced us to examine in closer detail the feeding habits of the wolves that migrated to Lusatia over ten years ago,” explains Hermann Ansorge, head of the Zoology Department at the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History in Görlitz. “We took a look at what was on the menu for the wolves and how this has changed since the appearance of wolves in East Germany.”

For this purpose the scientists collected over 3000 samples of wolf scat and tested them for undigested evidence of the animals’ prey, such as hair, bones, hooves or teeth.

Using this information, supplemented by the findings of the remains of prey, it was possible for the Görlitz zoologists to determine the nutritional intake of the carnivores in detail. Wild ungulates accounted for over 96% of the wolves’ prey, according to the investigation. The majority of these were roe deer (55.3%), followed by red deer (20.8%) and wild boar (17.7%). A small proportion of the prey was accounted for by the hare, at almost 3 percent.

“Less than one percent of the prey analysed was of livestock origins” adds Ansorge, continuing: “As long as sheep and other livestock are well protected and there is a sufficient supply of wild animals, the wolves will not risk confrontation with electric fences and guardian dogs.”

The Görlitz zoologists investigated not only what the wolves are eating nowadays, but also how their feeding habits have changed over the years. Wolves are highly adaptable in terms of their dietary intake. For example, it is known from Canada that the wolf packs there feast on salmon in the autumn time.

“We were interested to find out how, why and how quickly the dietary composition of the wolf has changed in Saxony” explains Ansorge. The wolves in Lusatia came to Germany from Poland. There, the packs lived primarily on red deer, in contrast to the German wolves. During the early years of the study, the proportion of red deer eaten was considerably higher, whilst the ratio of roe deer was accordingly lower than in the subsequent five years. “We asked ourselves why the wolves changed their behaviour or whether the initial conditions had changed,” the Görlitz zoologist continues.

In comparison to the Polish forests, those in Lusatia tend to be smaller and crossed by paths and fields. They offer the perfect expansive living space for roe deer and wild boar, whilst red deer tend to retreat to the more spacious wooded areas. Roe deer are therefore a simple and frequent prey from the wolves’ perspective.

The shift in eating patterns therefore resulted from the change in the environmental conditions. The wolves quickly adapted — they required less than two generations to become used to the new conditions of the landscape in East Germany.

Since the legal protection of wolves was introduced in 1990, it has taken more than ten years for the wolves in Germany to make themselves at home and bear pups on the Muskau Heath (a military training area). At the present time, nine wolf packs live in Lusatia with around 34 young. “The potential for conflict between man and wolf is very low” Ansorge sums up the results of the study. “There really is nothing standing in the way of the wolf returning.”

Germany is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Although this part of the country isn’t particularly heavily populated, it is definitely more so than many places in North America.

North America has lots of anti-wolf paranoia.

I’m not talking about legitimate concerns about wolves possibly putting too much pressure on ranchers and game species.

I’m talking paranoia.

The wolves in Germany are showing that they can adapt to living in a modern country.

They are capable learning how to avoid conflicts with people, as people are at learning to find ways to adjust their agricultural enterprises and wildlife management strategies to fit the wolf.

Wolves are not endangered anymore. The future of this species looks better than it has in the past 500 years.

If only other threatened species were as charismatic and adaptable as wolves, this conservation thing would be easy.

Oh, but it’s not.

 

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Wolves attacking an aurochs by Heinrich Harder. Such scenes would have been common in German forests, where both wolves and aurochsen once roamed. The wolf is now making a comeback to Germany, but the European aurochs, the ancestor of the domestic taurine cattle, is now extinct.

From The Telegraph:

One hundred years since hunting nearly wiped wolves out in Germany, they are moving out from their last bastion in the forests on the Polish border.

While 11 years ago there was one pack, there are now 12, and the return of the wolf to all of Germany, said Professor Beata Jessel, head of Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, is now “unstoppable”.

The two-year study by the agency has surprised experts by revealing that far from requiring vast forests, the grey wolf has started to adapt to the modern environment.

“Wolves do not need wilderness, rather they can rapidly spread in our landscape and fit into the most varied habitats,” said Prof Jessel in an interview with the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

GPS tracking of one female wolf revealed that she built her lair just 500 metres from a busy road and raised her young undisturbed by the traffic.

Two packs, comprising 18 animals all together, now live just 40 miles from Berlin.

“One should thus be prepared for the appearance of wolves across Germany, and use management plans to establish the most conflict-free relations between people and wolves as is possible,” the professor added.

The study also showed the huge distances wolves can travel. One male animal, called Alan by researchers, travelled the 963 miles to Belarus in two months, crossing countless main roads and swimming the Oder and Vistula rivers. This tendency to wander, wolf specialists say, should aid the spread of wolves across Germany.

But canis lupis [sic] also face dangers.

Wolves have struggled to shed a reputation forged in centuries of folklore and stories that casts them as sinister and ruthless killers, prepared to hunt down man or beast. This has made them a target for hunters.

Official figures put the total of illegally shot wolves since 1990 at 13 but experts believe the true figure is much higher owing to hunters hiding the carcases.

Road accidents also inflict an annual toll on the population with 17 reported deaths since 2000.

If wolves can thrive and recolonize a country as densely populated as Germany, they will have virtually no problem recolonizing much of the United States.

Wolves will live near people.

However, that can cause problems. Wolves normally don’t consider people prey, but they will kill dogs over territorial disputes.

And it’s a myth that don’t kill livestock.

This means that Germany will eventually have to develop a problem wolf management plan. The country and its state governments should be working on these plans now.

Wolves are intelligent animals. It’s very dangerous to make too many generalizations about them. Some wolves can be quite bad about killing livestock and dogs, while others never bother stock at all. And there are some that try to join up with domestic dogs as social partners

After all, it wasn’t too many years ago that I read that wolves were incapable of living near human settlements or agricultural enterprises.

This simply isn’t so.

My guess is the majority of the German people are excited to have wolves back. This is, after all, the country with one of the most successful Green Parties in history.  It’s been so successful that even the two major ruling parties in the country know they must please a Green constituency. It’s as important to their political economy as labor unions and business lobbies.

My own ancestors likely joined in some of the slaughter of German wolves. It’s good to see that their error is finally being corrected.

 

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