There is a world somewhere between reality and fiction. Although ignored by many, it is very real and so are those living in it. This forum is about the natural world. Here, wild animals will be heard and respected. The forum offers a glimpse into an unknown world as well as a room with a view on the present and the future. Anyone able to speak on behalf of those living in the emerald forest and the deep blue sea is invited to join.
--- Peter Broekhuijsen ---

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Wolf (Canis lupus)

United Kingdom Sully Offline
Ecology & Rewilding

More Yellowstone

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United Kingdom Sully Offline
Ecology & Rewilding

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United Kingdom Sully Offline
Ecology & Rewilding

Wolf vs moose: Mother fights tooth and nail to save newborn from killer's clutches in the Alaskan wilderness
By Damien Gayle
Published: 10:59, 7 May 2013 | Updated: 15:19, 7 May 2013

These incredible pictures show the scene as a titanic life-and-death battle unfolded between a mother moose defending her calf and a ravenous pack of wolves.
The enormous moose dwarfs her attackers in this thrilling sequence of images taken in the Alaskan wilderness as they attempt to kill her newborn.
As she makes her stand in a small pond in the chilly tundra the mother fights ferociously to save her youngster from the hungry predators.

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Life-and-death struggle: This mother moose charges at a wolf as she desperately tries to defend her week-old calf from becoming lunch

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Surrounded: But as more members of the pack arrived, the situation became increasingly desperate for the beleaguered mother and child

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Grave danger: The nervous calf hides by his mother's side as the ravenous pack of wolves enters the pond where they she is making her stand

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Savage nature: The water splashes beneath her huge frame as the mother moose launches an attack on the first hungry wolf to stray too close

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Fury: A wolf is caught in the tumult as the moose stamps down with her hooves, causing water to fly all around her

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Attack from all sides: But even as she sees of one wolf, another slips into the waters behind her to prey on her child

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Mortal combat: The wolves slink into the water as the mother and her frightened child wait for the onslaught

She uses all her strength to try and repel the attack, charging and pounding at the carnivores with her hooves.
But despite her desperate efforts the persistence and skill of the hunting Grant Creek wolf pack was just too much and her baby was finally dragged away.
Patrick Endrews, a wildlife photographer from Alaska, watched in awe as the action unfolded before his eyes in the Denali National Park.

The 45-year old said: 'When exiting the park about 8pm, after a very slim day of photography, we stumbled upon a cow moose defending her calf from a lone wolf.
'Her success at chasing off the wolf was quickly challenged when five more of the pack showed up, and absolute organised chaos broke out as the pack strategically lunged at the one week old moose calf.
'Back-lit in a small tundra pond, the cow moose charged, stomped and splashed. Water was flying everywhere as the wolves attacked them from all angles.
'It was a real-time spectacle of nature unfolding before our eyes. The calf sought protection under the mum's belly, as she chased off the pack with her deadly hoofs.

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Fury: A close-up shows just how close one of the wolves comes to being squashed beneath the moose's lethal hooves

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Fearsome: Sensing that this could be her child's last moments, the desperate mother fights on all sides to try to beat off the wolves

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Inevitable conclusion: Despite her bravery, however, she is unable to match the numbers and cunning of the wolf pack and they eventually start sinking their teeth into the youngster

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Not giving up yet: She warns one of the predators by delivering a stout kick to its head with her rear leg

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No hope left: Eventually she gives up the fight, as the pack manage to kill the week-old calf and subsequently drag him away for their dinner
'But the wolves were cunning and relentless and over time they dragged the calf away from the mother.
'It was amazing how many times, after thinking the calf was surely dead, it got back up again once the mother fended off the attack.
'Besides frantically photographing and cheering on the cow moose in her vigilant defence, the odds of survival were obviously slim, and in the end, the wolves were successful in the kill.
'It was a scene of mixed emotion, adrenalin and lots of shutter clicks. I've heard of similar predator-prey encounters from colleagues over the years, but I've never had the chance to see one myself.
'After nearly 30 years of visiting the park, I guess my turn finally emerged. The attack lasted about 10 minutes from the time the wolf pack surrounded the moose until they killed the calf and dragged it to the tundra.'

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Argentina Tshokwane Offline
Big Cats Enthusiast

Great post SVTIGRIS. Wolves are such amazing hunters.
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Luxembourg Spalea Offline
Wildanimal Lover


Great post ! But nature law is so cruel...
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United States Pckts Offline
Bigcat Enthusiast

There's actually a video of this as well, it's pretty sad but it's the way of the wild.
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India brotherbear Offline
Grizzly Enthusiast

From National Geographic - Yellowstone - The Battle for the American West - Vol. 229, No. 5, May 2016.
"Look at those eyes," Smith said. They are wide open, blazing a coppery brown. "That is what our world is trying to do away with. Right here, that look. We want to keep that look. That's what Yellowstone Park is all about."
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Argentina Tshokwane Offline
Big Cats Enthusiast

Wolf pack kills hunting hounds

Note: This situation is senseless. The bear hounders during their barbaric, inhumane and cruel practice have set dogs running in attack mode through the wilderness. This is pupping season and all wolf packs as well as bears are protecting their young. Of course, the dogs will be attacked! Idaho is well known for their overwhelmingly and excessive barbaric, inhumane and cruel treatment of wildlife, especially wolves. The remark by Losinski about taking out 10 wolves at a snap of the finger is the exact blood thirst that is seen throughout the state within hunting communities.

It is unconscionable to hunt bear during this season as the orphaned young are too young to survive on their own, in addition endangering ones hounds. This is no less than legalized dog fighting, as is baiting wolves to attack so that you can kill them, at the same time fatally jeopardizing your own hounds. Idaho continuously proves to be a true barbaric state from hell for wildlife and animal abuse.
~Robin Chriss, Wildlife Biologist

Please read this article keeping the above in mind:

Wolves killed four hound dogs valued at several thousand dollars near Moody Bench earlier this month.
Idaho Fish and Game official Gregg Losinski reported that wolves killed the dogs while they were hunting for black bears. The owner had allowed the dogs to run off in search of the bears.
“These were not dogs in a person’s yard or with an individual on a trail. These were dogs that were let loose to track down a black bear and to tree a black bear,” he said.

Wolves prove notoriously territorial and will kill hunting dogs thinking they’re part of a rival pack, Losinski said.
“Wolves don’t see hound dogs as dogs but as other wolves. In their world, they kill the other pack that’s there. It’s not about emotions. It’s about survival. They’re programmed to do that,” he said.
Fish and Game believes the wolves responsible for killing the dogs are part of a wolf group called the White Owl Pack. There’s not much that Fish and Game officials can do about the attacks other than to warn dog owners that there is a wolf population.
“All we can do is alert people that Idaho is a wild place. When you go out there, things happen. Hopefully you’re in control,” he said. “If you know there’s wolves in the area, we encourage hunters not to release their dogs in the area.”

If a dog owner caught a wolf attacking his pet, the owner is within his rights to shoot the wolf. But you can’t just shoot a wolf unless it is hunting season. The state gives residents the chance to do that by summer’s end. It’s allowed wolf hunting for the past five years.
“Depending on where you’re at, you can harvest five wolves through hunting and five through trapping,” Losinski said.
The wolves’ hide is often highly sought after, he said.
“The pelt of the wolf is in its prime during the winter and is a desirable pelt on people’s walls,” Losinski said.
It’s often difficult to successfully hunt and kill a wolf, but that’s what often motivates sportsmen, he said.
“Hunting is oftentimes not about food but for the sport of it,” he said.

Photo: Running Wolf Nature Photography

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peter Offline
Co-owner of Wildfact
( This post was last modified: 05-29-2016, 11:31 AM by peter )

Yes, 'sportsmen'.
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United States Polar Offline
Polar Bear Enthusiast

Damn humans who consider hunting to be a sport instead of a way of life.
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Argentina Tshokwane Offline
Big Cats Enthusiast

A very interesting article about what we learn about our language by listening to wolves, about the evolution of communication, as well as studies about the “dialects” and “accents” of wolf howls.

The songs of the wolves: By Holly Root-Gutteridge. Pic by Jim and Jamie Dutcher.

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As the heroes fled the dark castle for the darker woods, Count Dracula’s ‘children of the night’ began to make their ‘music’: a distant chorus of lupine howls, echoing through the Transylvanian night. I paused the movie. ‘That’s not a European wolf, the howl’s all wrong!’ I told my long-suffering companion. ‘That wolf belongs in the backwoods of California!’

After hundreds of hours listening to thousands of wolves for my PhD, the difference between howls was obvious. The voice of a Russian wolf was nothing like that of a Canadian, and a jackal was so utterly different again that it was like listening to Farsi and French. I believed that there must be geographic and subspecies distinctions. Other researchers had made this proposition before, but no one had put together a large enough collection of howls to test it properly. A few years later, my degree finished, I told my Dracula story to the zoologist Arik Kershenbaum at the University of Cambridge. He promptly suggested we explore how attuned to wolves I really am. Are there differences between canid species and subspecies and, if so, could these reflect diverging cultures?

When animals call to each other, they are communicating in a single stream of information from caller to listener. Until modern recording technology was invented, any acoustic communication lasted only as long as the echo. So while we can hear difference in modern human speech, with more than 6,000 extant languages and an unknowable number of local accents for each language, we can’t trace the origin of language from before writing or know how ancient peoples would have sounded. Before 1860, when de Martinville made the first acoustic recording, the world of speech must remain silent to us, though we can sometimes hear scattered fragments of dead languages still alive in our own.

The question of when and how language first emerged is the topic of tremendous controversy – it has even been called ‘the hardest question in science’. My work is on what information can be extracted from vocalisations. It is a first step in understanding where the physical body dictates the shape and form of the call, and where the caller has control. For example, a piano player is limited to combinations of a piano’s 88 keys, but a song played on a Steinway will have different sound qualities to the same song on a bar’s upright. In addition, different tunes can also be played. Separating the characteristics of the instrument from the choices of the player is essential before we can understand what meaning those choices might convey.

Behaviour is not purely instinctual, bred in the bone and performed from birth without thought or flexibility. It is often learned socially. Chimpanzees are a fascinating example: their use of tools spreads from one individual to another as they copy the successful tactics of their troop-mates in breaking apart nuts, catching ants or cleaning their teeth. They’re shown to prefer cooked food over raw, and are even able to learn US sign language. All this has increased interest in how other species develop shared cultures and knowledge. Whether it’s tool use in birds, farming by ants, or dancing in parrots, activities that were previously believed to be specific to humans are now being found in a variety of species. This means that animals can be used as a model for humans, allowing us a window into an otherwise cryptic part of our own evolution.

Perhaps the most fascinating area of this research is the evolution of language and speech. It was once believed that only humans used language and that animal sounds were nothing more than instinctive responses to behavioural cues, such as cries of pain. Now we know that many species have flexibility in their vocal production, allowing them to choose when to call and what sound to make. Researchers have found that monkeys use different calls for different predators, and that prairie dogs can encode the colour and shape of an approaching predator in their alarm calls. Songbirds display particularly complex rules to the order of their singing notes. The hope is that studying animal calls will shed light on the way human speech developed. It’s a step toward solving the hardest question in science.

Dialects, or regional differences in the form and use of vocalisations, have been observed in birds, bats, chimpanzees and now an increasingly long list of other species. This has been most beautifully heard in whales, where the songs of humpbacks are transmitted across hundreds of miles, telling a listener which part of the ocean the whale lives in, and tracing its family group by the influences on song formations. The bioacousticians Katharine Payne and Roger Payne first listened to the whales on underwater microphone recordings in the 1960s, and used musical notation to explore the changes that occurred in each male’s song, year on year. Whalesong, heard by humans as long ago as Aristotle, became the subject of intense study and public interest. Their research showed that there were geographic differences in humpback whale songs and that we could tell apart populations just by using those songs, which change throughout their lives. So the whales were controlling their singing and subject to cultural influences. The Paynes had found dialects in whale song. Would we find the same for canids?

Despite their cultural popularity, wolf howls haven’t been the subject of focussed research until recently. Now, following the lead of marine biologists and ornithologists, and with improved sound recording equipment and analysis programs, researchers can study them in depth. The first step in understanding what animals are saying to one another is to figure out what aspects of the voice are functional and what parts are formed by the structure of the throat and mouth, or what is the piano and what is the tune. Studies since the 1960s have shown that the howls that have haunted our dreams for centuries can tell us a lot about the particular wolf vocalising. Like humans, each wolf has its own voice. Each pack also shares howl similarities, making different families sound distinct from each other (wolves respond more favourably to familiar howls). This much we knew. What we didn’t know was whether the differences seen between packs were true of subspecies or of species, and if an Indian wolf howl would be distinct from a Canadian one.

More questions follow. If howls from different subspecies are different, do the howls convey the same message? Is there a shared culture of howl-meanings, where an aggressive howl from a European wolf means the same thing as an aggressive howl of a Himalayan? And can a coyote differentiate between a red wolf howling with aggressive intent and one advertising the desire to mate? Even without grammar or syntax, howls can convey intent, and if the shape of the howl changes enough while the intent remains constant, the foundations of distinctive culture can begin to appear.

The wolf species were like music bands with preferred styles of playing: riff-filled like jazz or the pure tones of classical

To explore this, Kershenbaum brought together a group of researchers to share data and ideas. We compared howls across 13 different subspecies and species of coyotes, dogs, wolves and jackals (collectively known as canids). The howls came from my own recordings on chilly evenings in Poland and Russia; from UK zoos and conservation sites (where I howled at the bemused wolves and listened in awe as they responded); from our co-authors in the US, Spain and India; from historic recordings taken across continents and time; from the public, in the form of hundreds of YouTube videos of howling pets. Our canine voice collection represented was one of the most comprehensive ever.

We then stretched all the howls to the same length, using a process called dynamic time warping, to compare the changes in the tune without including the tempo it was played at. We found that each species had its own favourite howl shape, a preferred set of changes to their howls to raise and drop the pitch, but that they also used howl shapes preferred by other species, and varied the shapes as they pleased. The species were like music bands with preferred styles of playing, whether riff-filled like jazz or the pure tones of classical, but were flexible in what they actually played at any given time. So while they had a favourite style, the tune itself varied.

Like musicians, the wolves were influenced by their forebears in the genre, and species shared traits with other canids that were closer to them geographically and genetically. An Eastern grey wolf, recorded in the US, sounded more like a North Carolinian red wolf than a European wolf, and an African jackal sounded quite different again. Small and delicate compared with their cousins the European wolves, golden jackals have high, rising howls, running up and down the scales in bravura performances of control and speed, but with less variation in overall shape, whereas the European wolves used a slower style of deep and steady long notes ending in falls that seem to drift away into the night. New Guinea singing dogs earned their names with a large vocal repertoire and a wide selection of howl shapes. While sometimes the different species achieved crossovers to other shapes, most had a style that dominated their repertoires.

If these differences across species sound familiar, they should. We’ve known for thousands of years that birdsong is distinct to each species, and sometimes even populations, with a nuthatch’s wha-wha-wha very different to a robin’s whistling call. We’ve seen that birds have adaptable repertoires, literally changing their tunes as new sounds become popular and spread through populations. Humpback whales sing new songs when they hear them, collecting new patterns of song throughout their lives and passing them on to others in their population. Our canid study showed that they had different howls for their species, but we have yet to answer whether they can change their howls with time or exposure to different howl patterns. Now that we’ve seen there are differences, the next question to answer is whether they are innate or learned, and how far a wolf can change its howl.

To understand how well wolves maintain their own styles when exposed to others, we did a smaller analysis of red wolves, Eastern grey wolves and coyotes. Wolves across the world are subject to conflict with humans, and red wolves are critically endangered with numbers that were once as low as 20 individuals in the 1970s. Huge effort has been put into saving the red wolf and returning it to its old hunting ranges of the southeastern US. But these wolves have a worrying propensity to mate with coyotes and interbreed with Eastern wolves, resulting in fertile hybrids. We hoped that the red wolf would have its own robust howl shape, separate from its neighbours’ and as distinct as the blues are from pop, which might mean that wolves could create their own communicative barrier to reproduction.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Like any good musician, the red wolves were not averse to using novel styles, and we found that they fitted at a midway point between coyote and Eastern wolf howls, showing that the howls wouldn’t form a barrier to their breeding. As the red wolves we studied were as genetically pure as possible, this suggests that they might be influenced by both coyotes and Eastern wolves, copying the sounds they hear around them. Or perhaps they never had a distinctive, red wolf howl shape and simply shared that of their near relatives. We will never know if there were other howl shapes of red wolves that were overwhelmed by hearing coyote and Eastern wolf howls too often – as lost today as early delta blues recordings – but the modern differences aren’t stopping cross-pollination for both sound and puppy creation.

The range of howl shapes we found is enough to encompass a large number of possible meanings. However, a howl is by its nature a public shout, not a private whisper, and that limits what is likely to be communicated. We can guess, but don’t currently know, what these meanings are. Perhaps there are subtle differences between ‘All pack come here’ and ‘Brother wolf here’, and potential vast differences between ‘Stay away, stranger’ and ‘Good food here, sister’. Beyond the interests in language, this matters to conservationists, some of whom have tried to protect livestock by playing recordings of wolf howls to scare away local wolves, but they might be using howls that ring the dinner bell instead of sending a keep out signal.

Is the territorial ‘get off my forest’ howl different to the lonely hearts ad of a lone wolf?

Some of these howl shapes were shared across species, while others were distinctive. While some of these differences between species might be the result of genetic drift, random mutations leading to changes that spread throughout a population, they might also develop in response to need, or to the shaping influence of the animal’s habitat. Where calls are flexible and shift with new experiences, as in the humpback whale song, they can be used to illuminate the possible evolution of language. Human accents and word usage shift as the speakers come into contact with new ideas and they adopt new sounds, sometimes a little mangled, into their own vocabulary.

The next step is to show whether there are behavioural contexts to howls, demonstrating if wolves, like other animals, can convey emotional states and information to their listeners, whether a territorial ‘get off my forest’ howl is different to a lonely hearts ad of a lone wolf searching for a new mate, whether a call to the hunt differs from the advertisement of a successful kill, and whether pups must learn these shapes or know them by instinct. We’ll also explore how long these differences persist through time and why some howl shapes are shared.

The howl isn’t an example of true language as humans understand it, with syntax and grammar where a single additional sound or stress can change a phrase’s entire meaning. However, if we can show that howls are not an instinctual but a learnt display, it will give us another potential piece of the puzzle of language evolution. Wolves and humans both act cooperatively, living in complex societies with multiple individuals in close association and where there are great advantages to communicating complex meaning. Humans use language to convey meaning through a huge variety of sounds, but proto-words probably developed in association with very basic ideas and intents that then evolved towards complexity. More closely related languages tend to be more similar, with French and Italian sharing enough words to be intelligible, but incomprehensible to speakers of Hindi, yet they can still all be linked back to a proto-Indo-European language.

Isolation and geographic distance have meant that human language has diverged multiple times, creating thousands and thousands of dialects, many with words distinct to the environment in which they arose. Yet certain words are so basic that they have barely changed over thousands of years, eg the word mother, which is ‘matar’ in Sanskrit, ‘mater’ in Latin and ‘meter’ in Ancient Greek, and ‘mzaa’ in Swahili. The word shows its original roots in a possibly universal proto-language even today, while the words for more complex ideas are more typically unrelated. Perhaps the wolves mirror us, the shared howl shapes representing a similarly universal concept as mother, with the more divergent howls relating to local concepts. By exploring this, we can explore the first steps towards true language.

Have wolves evolved to convey meaning in their calls? I don’t know for sure, but I think so. To my ears, a happy wolf surrounded by a pack has a very different howl to a lone voice crying in the wilderness, and a love duet with a mate does not match the chorus howl made with the new pups raising their tiny heads to the sky, but all the sounds are beautiful. Perhaps one day we will even understand their meaning. For now, I can only do as the wildlife ecologist Durward L Allen described, and listen ‘for a voice crying in the wilderness, and [hear] the jubilation of the wolves!’
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Italy Ngala Offline
Wildanimal Enthusiast

Canis lupus italicus

Photo and information credits: A. Ravelli from "Centro Faunistico Uomini e Lupi", Maritime Alps National Park, Italy

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Italy Ngala Offline
Wildanimal Enthusiast
( This post was last modified: 06-26-2016, 07:45 PM by Ngala )

From Scandlynx:
"Watch rare videoclip of two wolves hunting mice in Østmarka, just outside Norways capital Oslo. The cameras are used by Norwegian Institute for Nature Research to study Eurasian lynx and other wildlife."

Click it on play.
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Argentina Tshokwane Offline
Big Cats Enthusiast
( This post was last modified: 07-17-2016, 10:37 PM by Tshokwane )

A great article. Enjoy.

Male #755: The Wolf With Nine Lives:
He’s lost everything a wolf can lose, and still this resilient Yellowstone male thrives.

By Carl Safina
Guest contributor

Wolf 755. He had lost his brother, his mate, and his territory as a brutal winter was setting in. But he surprised everyone with his resilience…and luck. Photo: Alan Oliver.

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Eight years is a very long time to be a Yellowstone wolf; average life expectancy is only about 4. To avoid fatal injury while hunting elk, to endure gang-like fights with rival packs, to evade the human enemies who ring the park, to cope with the loss of your family—to do all this and survive eight years is exceptional.

Meet an exceptional wolf known as “755.” (His research collar number is his name.) He’d lost essentially everything a wolf can lose—except his life. Yet he’s put his pieces back together.

I would have bet against him. His survival seems a near miracle. But wolves don’t get miracles. They get luck. He’s had a lot of luck—most of it bad. Yet he’s thriving.

I chronicled the tumult of his early life in my book “Beyond Words,” in which the true stories of real wolves, elephants, orcas and others reveal them as individuals whose lives matter deeply to them. Dedicated wolf watchers Laurie Lyman and Doug McLaughlin have helped update me on recent events in the life one particularly amazing wolf. Here’s his story.

Years ago, as clumsy and hapless young two-year-old wolves, 755 and his brother got their big break in life. They met an extraordinary she-wolf born in 2006, whom wolf-watchers knew as ’06. Before she met 755 and his brother, she’d already turned down more talented and accomplished suitors. But over seemingly better competition (and, as often in human attraction, even she probably didn’t quite understand why), she chose 755 and his brother. And together they founded the Lamar Valley Pack.

The wolves 755, his brother, and his mate ’06 established the Lamar Valley pack. Photo: AP/Wolves of the Rockies.

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The she-wolf, ’06, earned a reputation as both a super-hunter and master tactician. As matriarch of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley Pack she became the world’s most famous wolf—so famous that The New York Times would eventually publish her obituary.

Yellowstone Park is really too small for its bigger animals. Its straight-edge boundaries were delineated for the tourist appeal of geysers and peaks. Animals weren’t much considered. The area needed by the park’s larger creatures, the “Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” is eight times larger than the park. For deer, elk, and bison, the park is mainly high summer pasture, not year-round range. Winter at 7,000 feet is just too brutal.

Come autumn, the whole high interior plateau empties. Six of Yellowstone’s seven elk populations migrate out. Most deer and many bison drain into lower valleys and surrounding plains, for the food to sustain them through winter. But when they get there, they have walked into a place of bullets.

In 2012, a tougher-than-average winter began to lock down the park in November. Elk and deer migrated directly down to lower elevations seeking better food outside the park.

Seven Fifty-five, his brother, ’06, and their offspring ventured to their territorial borders. But they no longer found the resistance of other packs. They traveled unopposed to lower elevations, miles outside the park’s borders. It was all new terrain; they had never before in their lives been there. It was more profitable territory—a lot more elk.

The Lamars could not have known the reason they found no resistance from other wolves at the eastern borders of their usual territory: Congress had recently deleted the word “wolf” from the Endangered Species List. The Lamars had just gone from being protected by a national park to targets in a new open-season on wolves. The wolves hadn’t changed. Human promises had.

Wolf 755 (left) with his then mate, the superstar she-wolf 832AF (known as ’06, because she was born in 2006). Photo: Doug McLaughlin.

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Because they’d lived in Yellowstone, the Lamars were used to seeing people, and weren’t particularly cautious to remain unseen.

On November 13, hunters thirteen miles outside the park, in Shoshone National Forest, shot a large male wolf weighing perhaps 130 pounds. He was 755’s brother.

The pack retreated to the park. But only briefly. The brothers had been together every day of their lives; his absence was obvious to the whole pack. The Lamars ventured out again—right near the place where 755’s brother was last alive.

On December 6th, someone killed ’06.

In the span of two bullets, Seven Fifty-five had lost his brother and his mate. Everything would now unravel.

Without their mother, the Lamar daughters descended into violent sibling rivalry. In seeming jealously they ejected their most precocious sister. Seven fifty-five’s daughters had attracted two prime males who would not tolerate 755 in his own territory.

Losing his mate and brother thus cost 755 his hunting support and his hunting territory. Seven Fifty-five had nothing left. An ironclad winter was about to deep-freeze the park. I’d have bet that he was doomed. I also would have bet that his precocious daughter would pick up her pieces. I was wrong. She left the park and was shot. He kept himself alive. (I wrote about watching him figuring out how to survive.)

Meanwhile: One of 755’s daughters, wolf 926, was a pup when her uncle and her famous mother got shot and her father 755 got banished by her older siblings’ new suitors. Now 926 is matriarch of her own Lamar Valley family. But as always for wolves—life ain’t easy.

In the spring of 2015, she and her mate, male 925, and their pups from 2014 were all, “strong and strappy,” according to veteran wolf watcher Laurie Lyman. They were awaiting birth of her second litter.

One day after they had traveled a bit outside their usual territory, Laurie says, “926 made a spectacular kill, driving an elk off of a high cliff.” The family feasted. Then they headed for home.

Sitting pretty: Wolf 755 in 2013. Three years later, he’s still  beating the odds. Photo: Carl Safina.

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Little did they know where their route home was taking them. But the wolf-watchers could see: the Lamars were heading right towards a rival pack, the Prospects.

They stumbled upon the Prospects. The Prospects might have thought this was an attack. They might have felt that they had to defend themselves. It might all have been a misunderstanding. It was bad timing and bad luck. Immediately several big Prospect males charged. Pregnant 926 ran for her life. Their year-old pups scattered in all directions.

The Prospect males caught 925. “I am not sure if 925 put himself at risk to protect his family, or if he was just the slowest, ” Laurie says. In seconds he was fighting furiously for his life.

The year-old pups rushed back to the fight, got the Prospect males to chase them, thus set their father free.

But poor 925 didn’t get far. The next day, he died of his wounds. Nine twenty-six visited her mate at the spot of his death. The following day she and her pups returned to their den area, their home.

“The grief was all over them,” Laurie wrote to me. “I have never seen such a thing in all my years watching wolves. The incredible sadness. All 926 could do was lie down. It was something. Her yearlings went off to the west and she was on her own. It was so sad watching her have to get food for herself. And it looked as if she would give birth alone.” If that happened, her pups would most likely not survive.

A week or so later, four males who had killed 925 showed up. But the dynamic was entirely different. A male called Twin, about six years old, had come courting. She became smitten and accepted him. They became a new pack. Her two female one-year-olds returned to her. But her year-old males either weren’t tolerated by the new males or just didn’t want to be around them. They headed north out of the park. There, they were killed by bullets.

These new males, especially Twin and one named Mottled, hunted and provided for 926. But then the mite-caused disease called mange ravaged the pack. All of them with the exception of Twin got mange. “It was horrible,” Laurie remembers. “Some lost almost all their fur.” Her pups disappeared.

That wasn’t all. Mottled got killed by the Junction Butte wolves, whose large territory abuts the Lamars’ west border. And then Twin disappeared. Laurie observes sympathetically, “Nine twenty-six’s life has been a nightmare since her mother was shot, and yet she trudges on.”

So you see, it really is amazing that 755 has survived. After nearly two years of false starts, 755 has found a new place in Yellowstone, and a new mate. His pack is called the Wapiti Lake pack. And for the second year in a row he again has pups.

His mate is a beautiful almost-white female who herself was born in the den she now uses. (Her grandmother was white and her mother is white. And 755 who was strikingly two-toned when I watched him cope in 2013, has turned white with age.) In each year 2015 and 2016 she gave birth to two black and two grey pups. Of the four 2015 pups only a grey female yearling is with the pack. The other three disappeared. They’re in a part of the park with tough winters, and luck did not favor those pups.

Despite his age and how difficult it is to be a Yellowstone wolf, 755 is still hard-charging. Recently he killed an elk solo, prompting Laurie to write that ’06 “would be proud. She taught him well.”

So that’s the way it is with wolves. They don’t’ get miracles; they get luck. Some of it is bad. But sometimes their luck is so good it seems miraculous.
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Yellowstone Science looks back at 20 years of wolves: By LUKE RAMSETH
Yellowstone National Park released its latest Yellowstone Science publication last week, which takes an in-depth look at the 20-plus years since wolves were reintroduced.

The issue includes research findings and articles on wolf genetics, predation habits, infectious diseases that have struck wolf packs over the years, and even a section on “why wolves howl.”

“The restoration of wolves to the Yellowstone area was a transformational event because it completed the restoration of native, large carnivores in the ecosystem, which is a remarkable, though controversial, achievement,” said P.J. White, the park’s wildlife and aquatic resources branch chief.

Some 41 wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were brought into the park between 1995 and 1997. They have since been the focus of much controversy between wildlife advocates and hunters and ranchers — and gone through many delisting, and relisting, efforts over the years under the Endangered Species Act.

“It’s complicated,” wrote Yellowstone wildlife biologist Doug Smith in an introduction to the issue. “Everything with wolves is that way. Most people rate wolves among the most controversial wildlife to live with; a colleague from India rates them as more controversial than tigers — a species that occasionally kills people.”

Here are a few takeaways from the issue:

1. Wolf population growth has leveled off. Since reintroduction, scientists put the wolf population growth into two phases. In phase one, their numbers grew rapidly each year, reaching more than 170 in the park in the mid-2000s. After 2008, the second “saturation” phase began, where numbers have mostly hovered around 100 in the park.

Disease, limited habitat space, and an equilibrium between wolf numbers and those of their prey may have contributed to population size leveling off, scientists wrote.

2. Scientists know a lot about wolf genetics. Researchers write that “few non-human species have been at the frontiers of genetic research as have wolves and their relatives.” Genetic research was crucial when the wolves were reintroduced: Scientists carefully selected certain wolves from different packs in different parts of Canada to make up the new Yellowstone population.

Today, scientists collect genetic material each time a wolf is captured to be radio-collared, extracting DNA from the blood, tissue or scat. They are using the resulting information to study everything from genetic lineages of Yellowstone wolves, to wolf coat color and aggressive wolf behaviors.

3. Wolves are only so-so hunters. Previous research has shown that wolves often struggle to catch the ungulate they are teaming up on — whether it’s a moose, bison or deer — a fact that runs contrary to the popular view that wolves are some of the most savvy, and successful, hunters around.

It turns out wolves usually are only able to kill young, old and debilitated animals, scientists said, “a small fraction of the total prey population.” Many of their skeletal features, including their front teeth, their skulls and their long snouts aren’t that great for killing, researchers wrote.

To read the full Yellowstone Science issue, go to
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