Wolves have always been synonymous with nightmares: shining eyes in the dark of night, spooky howls and sharp fangs. In the past, when humans roamed through wild forests, these animals could be a real danger, and that is one of the reasons why we are so fascinated by the marvelous world of wolves than in it.
But today the situation is different. Folklore and fairy tales have given historical license to an indiscriminate hunt for this species. Either to protect livestock or to hang their traps on a wall. It has gone so far that our wolves are now living under a threat of extinction. Knowing their true nature is important to prevent these magnificent animals from disappearing permanently.
The marvelous world of wolves
The wolf ( Canis lupus) is a carnivorous mammal belonging to the family Canidae. It is currently estimated that there are about 50 subspecies of wolves, although this is a topic that is currently being discussed due to the similarities between some of them.
Its height varies between 60 and 90 centimeters and they can be up to 130 centimeters long – including the tail. Males are usually larger than females and can reach a weight of 90 kg.
They can adapt to different ecosystems depending on the species: tundra, rocky or mountainous environments, grasslands, forests and even deserts. We find them all over the northern hemisphere.
Their diet is basically meat based and they are opportunistic hunters. They hunt large prey when they live in herds and small mammals when they are alone.
The character of the wolves
Wolves live in strongly hierarchical groups. They are intelligent animals, with a rich and varied communication that is typical of herds with complex family relationships. Wolves are also territorial, so they can be aggressive if they feel threatened.
They are mostly nocturnal and during this time of day they can move long distances in search of food. They may also be active during the day but are more likely to rest then.
The Marvelous World of Wolves: Communication
As with all social animals, communication is of great importance in the marvelous world of wolves. There are three main communication pathways that this species relies on: scent signals, auditory communication and visual signals. Below you can read about them in more detail.
Wolves have a very well-developed sense of smell that allows them to perceive smells and smells over several miles. With the help of volatile chemicals and pheromones in urine and feces, they can mark their territory and convey information about their health, identity and reproductive status.
Wolves have a wide range of vocalizations: they howl, growl, bark, whine and growl. Usually the loud noises act as a warning or marking of territory at long distances. When it comes to social interactions within the herd, they tend to use growls, moans and other sounds with lower volume.
Howling is specifically a way of communicating over greater distances to find their flock or other individuals. It is also speculated that this is a marking of their territory at a longer distance.
The wolves’ behavior has a strong visual component in the form of postures and gestures. While vocalizations can communicate with competitors or intruders on their territory, visual, non-verbal communication is primarily related to socialization and the establishment of hierarchies.
The hierarchy is established through behaviors that show dominance and submission, usually this is manifested through gestures. For example, a wolf lying on its back in a tense posture shows submission to a higher ranked individual.
The Marvelous World of Wolves: Behavior
Studying the wolf’s behavior is based on observing their social life in detail.
Herds are usually family groups that are dominated by a breeding pair, called the alpha pair . There are also younger individuals of different ages and other relatives. The size of the flock can vary greatly, between 2 and 40 specimens. The most common, however, is that a flock has between 8 and 9 individuals, which is the perfect number so that everyone can eat their fill when they make a change.
Since the dominant pair is usually the only one that reproduces, one sees a certain dynamic in large groups, where some members tend to divide into smaller groups and migrate to other territories. However, they can also choose to stay in the same flock for the rest of their lives.
Some specimens may leave their family group and flock in search of a partner or their own territory. Sometimes they form a new herd with another solitary wolf or they join an accepting herd. In some situations, they may continue to live alone and spend the rest of their lives as lone wolves.
Wolves have been shown to devise specific hunting strategies to capture their prey. When it comes to animals in herds, they can separate and travel many miles, while communicating with each other about their results.
This behavior is explained as an adaptive function to be able to compete effectively with other predators. When wolves hunt in packs, they have an advantage over other solitary species, such as foxes and bears. At the same time, movement in a group gives them greater protection against possible attacks from other carnivores.
Wolves are intelligent, complex creatures. The fact that their behavior sometimes makes them awkward, or even dangerous to humans, does not take away their right to life. Perhaps mainly because they play such a crucial role in balancing many important ecosystems. When a wolf goes down to trap sheep on livestock farms, ask yourself the following question: would you risk doing so if you had enough food and space?
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