We live within driving distance of a wolf refuge (Mission: Wolf) which we occasionally visit. The curator of the refuge is usually present and only too willing to educate anyone about wolves. Many of the myths we have heard are dispelled when we learn the actual facts and habits of wolves. We have learned from several trips to the refuge that misunderstanding about wolves has created multiple problems for the wolf. I am not an expert on wolves and don’t know much except what I have learned visiting the wolf refuge and taking the time to talk to those who have more knowledge than I possess.
Myth vs. Fact
Wolves are a subject that seem to bring out the worst in some people and the best in others. My personal experience with wolves may be limited but I have found that when misinformation has been repeated over and over, many times it ends up being published as fact. I have always understood if you repeat a lie often enough that it does not change the initial facts. Apparently when dealing with wolves that is the exception and a truth can be over powered by myth or falsehood if repeated enough times. This blog does not provide the room to discuss all the myth-versus-fact distortions but visiting the wolf refuge and speaking to those who actually live with the wolves each day certainly helps make a distinction between fact or fiction.
Personal Wolf Experience
My wolf experience started when I was given a dog that actually turned out to be about 90 percent wolf. She was a genuine challenge to say the least. She ultimately bonded to me but not so much with other family members, friends or neighbors. She had the typical large feet, pale green-to-yellow eyes and was brought down by a military friend from Alaska as a puppy. When she became too much for him to handle he gave her to me. She was so intelligent that she was taught the four basic commands in less than one-half day and never forgot them. She was gentle with me but not so much with family members or others. She was so strong she could easily overpower dogs twice her size. She was unfriendly to domesticated dogs—unless they were more alpha and stronger than she was. She challenged every one including myself. I was barely able to subdue her and prove my dominance, which is the only thing she seemed to respect and understand. When she tested me she was clearly intent on killing going directly for the throat. Her traits and behavior were definitely 100 percent wolf. Our veterinarian believed she was at least 90 percent or more pure wolf.
Leave Wolves in the Wild
I, personally, believe trying to domesticate a wolf or cross-breeding one is very cruel to the wolf. A wolf in the wild knows it is a wolf and lives within its traits and instincts as a wolf. Placed in a domestic situation it becomes unsure of what it is and it has to put its natural instincts aside to mimic a domesticated animal in order to fit in. The wolf may partially adjust to being with humans but the basic wolf is still there albeit restricted. There are exceptions but in general altering the behavior of an animal that was meant to be wild and free and which relies on its instincts for survival is wrong in my opinion. Sort of like the old saying, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy."
Face Grabbing: A Wolf Trait of Affection
When a wolf puts your face in their jaws, the natural tendency is to pull back. They will then grip tighter and skin can be broken. If you have children, that can be daunting to say the least when you see your child’s head and face in the jaws of a powerful wolf or dog. To the wolf, however, face grabbing is an intimate sign of affection. Failure to understand their traits and behavior can be scary, and the partially domesticated wolf ends up being euthanized or—if it's lucky—it ends up at a refuge like the one near us.
Fierce but Gentle Animals
One time, when we visited the wolf refuge, we were privileged to participate in "the circle." We sat on logs placed in a circle and an ambassador female wolf was introduced on a stout lead. What I found interesting is that the ambassador wolf, which weighed over 125 pounds, quickly checked out every person in the circle and determined which ones were friendly and worthy of her affection. She was then quickly taken around the circle of people and would kiss each person on the mouth that she felt comfortable with. I was happy to have been one of those few she kissed having received her approval. I have to add that when a large wolf that is capable of crushing your head comes up to you with a big smooch on the lips it is a little nerve racking. A wolf's jaws can exert about 1500 lbs per square inch. When they bite, they don’t just rip and tear skin; they crush bones. They have incredibly strong jaws but they can also be very gentle.
Balancing Nature of the Species
Wolves are unique animals which are meant to remain wild. Their instincts are finely honed and flawless which has enabled them to survive in the wild and have been genetically instilled in them over the ages. Again, I am not an expert on wolves, but, in my limited experience, I have learned they are valuable in balancing the environment. They are both unique and important in maintaining balance in elk and deer herds. While some may disagree, I believe these animals play an important part in our environment, and trying to eradicate them or domesticate them seems horribly tragic and unfair to the species. These are highly intelligent animals that have strong family bonds and don‘t deserve to be hunted, trapped or shot from airplanes.
Photo courtesy of morguefilefreephoto.com.
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