Spring 2021

Features


Montana’s New Wolf Hunt Regulations
By Ilona Popper

This year’s controversial changes in Montana’s wolf-hunting/ trapping regulations will almost certainly reduce the number of wolves in that state. Read about the legal process and the response by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, pros and cons being argued, and some of the research on which arguments are based—along with this author’s view of the eventual effects. 

Hungry as a Wolf: What Wolves Eat
By Debra Mitts-Smith

Wolves are opportunistic carnivores; they prey on ungulates, but also hunt smaller animals, scavenge carcasses or garbage, and occasionally attack domestic livestock. So—exactly how much do they eat? And just how flexible is a wolf’s diet? As you’ll discover, “what’s for dinner” depends pretty much on where wolves live and what’s available. 

The Ancient Indian Wolf
By Lauren Hennelly

Scientists’ ability to look at DNA from a historical perspective—not just to identify an animal, but to see where it came from and how it evolved—has revealed some fascinating stories. One of these involves the Indian wolf, which, it turns out, is the oldest branch on the gray wolf tree. And this ancient, genetically distinct canine is now the world’s most endangered gray wolf. Download article.

Wolf Reintroduction in Colorado
by Rob Edward

2021 marked the first year in over half a century since wolves last inhabited Colorado. In 2020, the people of Colorado voted to reintroduce wolves, mandating “paws on the ground” by the end of 2023. Success will depend on collaboration, public education, and some ecological and cultural adjustments. But, our author says, coexistence with wolves is attainable. 

 

Departments


From the Executive Director

The Strength of the Pack 
by Grant Spickelmier

For the strength of the pack is the wolf  and the strength of the wolf is the pack. 

This quote from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is engraved near a door at our interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota. While little was known about wolf natural history at the time Kipling wrote this, he clearly understood that the pack structure of wolves made them different from other predators. Scientific observation of wolves over the decades since have demonstrated the truth of Mr. Kipling’s statement. A pack of wolves can more efficiently take down prey much larger and stronger than an individual wolf could overpower alone—and so the pack survives and thrives. 

Tracking the Pack

What did the Behavioral Data Reveal?
by Lori Schmidt, wolf curator, International Wolf Center

When introducing a non-related pup to adult wolves, we are always concerned with pack compatibility and the pack’s ability to form a cohesive group. We look to behavioral data to reveal traits about interactions related to social dominance and food, prompting the following questions:

  • Who instigates, participates in or receives interactions?
  • Social compatibility: Who spends the most time together?
  • Is a wolf leaving interactions? What stimulated the wolf to leave?
  • Weather correlation (hot/humid, cool/dry)
  • Age structure (Does age difference affect amount of social interaction?)
  • Howling in a rally – Who leads the howl, and how long does it last?
  • Placement of wolves during howl—do they come together?
  • Does a wolf climb to a higher vantagepoint to howl?
  • Confidence in defending food and comfort in eating
  • Intensity of interaction— Hard or soft muzzle bites?
  • What is the tail posture? Tucked tail (T-4 ethogram code) is a fearful response.
  • Who is the instigator and who is the receiver of a chase?

WildKids

Who’s What at the International Wolf Center 

Did you know that gray wolves (Canis lupus) once lived throughout the entire northern hemisphere? Many different types of gray wolves, called subspecies, are found across the globe, and they each have their own scientific name. 

Five different subspecies of the gray wolf are found in North America. These are the eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon), the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), the Great Plains wolf (Canis lupus nubilus), the arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), and the northwestern wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis). At the International Wolf Center, we have the arctic and northwestern subspecies represented by our current ambassadors. Grizzer, of the Great Plains subspecies, recently died at age 17½. 

Wolves of the World

Research Points to Origins of Japanese and Indian Wolves; in Europe, Solutions Sought for Competing Interests 
by Tracy O’connell

PORTUGAL

Conservation groups say wild-boar hunting threatens the survival of the Iberian wolf, an endangered, protected species here. Concerns have resulted in a compromise on the boar-hunting measures that were instituted to address fears that the wild pig population would bring African Swine Fever into Portugal’s swine-farm population. 

BELGIUM

What is acceptable prey and what, in the fickle minds of humans, is not up for grabs seems to be a hard distinction for wolves. The wild canids killed 15 of 40 deer in an enclosed meadow at a vacation resort here, upsetting a spokesperson who told the Brussel Times the wolves apparently crawled under a fence, creating an ugly scene for families in search of pastoral beauty. 

JAPAN

A team of researchers here is saying the Japanese wolf, believed to be extinct, was the closest known relative of domestic dogs. (See Wolves of the World in the Winter 2021 issue of International Wolf for more on an enduring controversy on this point). 

By comparing its DNA with that of other canids, researchers found that the Japanese wolf resides on “a unique evolutionary branch of wolves—one that arose sometime between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.” They also noted that “some of those ancient wolves evolved into Japanese wolves and others evolved into dogs,” contributing to other canid species, as well, reports phys.org, an online science news site. 

INDIA

Research published in the journal Molecular Ecology shows that the Indian wolf is distinctly different from other subspecies with which it had been previously grouped; as a result, its numbers are much lower and its distribution more limited than was believed. It lives in the grasslands of lowland India and Pakistan—areas 

SPAIN

Farmers and other rural populations seeking to coexist with wolves here will need a pocket full of solutions rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Such was the finding in a study by researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK who looked at communities with a permanent presence of wolves—some where they have returned recently and others where they are likely to return soon. They found “massive” differences between these communities, noting that “the main problem was often less about wolves, but about economic and social pressures threatening the livelihoods, cultures and autonomy of local communities. For different reasons, the wolves often came to represent these pressures.” 

SCOTLAND

Rewilding, or the return of endemic flora and fauna, elicits different reactions in different people—and among some, the idea raises alarm. The plan that has developed a following here has five parts, including setting aside funds for urban parks and establishing marine reserves. Voters generally support it, according to polls, as do a consortium of 20 nature organizations. But the return of apex predators such as wolves, lynx and sea eagles—a result that is presumed in other aspects of the plan—has some people worried. Beavers thrived so well here after an earlier rewilding experiment that they are now being culled following overpopulation. 

A Look Beyond

Mexican Wolves Released at Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch
by Mike Phillips

It took us a while—24 years to be exact, but persistence paid off. 

In April 2021 we— the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF)— learned that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had decided to release a family of wolves on Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in southwestern New Mexico. The decision was based on our persistent support of Mexican wolf recovery, and keen and justifiable desire for wolves to occupy the ranch. 

Book Review

A Must-Read Book Takes Us to Isle Royale
by Nancy jo Tubbs

Restoring the Balance: What Wolves Tell us about our Relationship with Nature

In ten top-notch chapters, John Vucetich takes the reader on a deep dive into the wilds of Isle Royale in Restoring the Balance: What Wolves Tell us about our Relationship with Nature. Here, you will follow the explorations of earlier key researchers and delve into the relationships of moose, wolves— and, yes, ticks—on the rugged Lake Superior island.