A Wolf-dominated Wild: Something Lost but Not Forgotten

After watching the BBC documentary “Land of the Lost Wolves” I was compelled to write something about my true passion in life: Wolves and the future survival of them. I have always had a love of wolves, especially the Grey Wolf, but of all the species as well. There is just something which draws me to them as a truly wild, beautiful creature. Their intelligence is hard to dispute and the family ties are strong.

Wolves have a complex social structure, working as a team to survive. This behaviour is greatly effected when individuals are hunted and are missing from a pack. This was seen on the documentary when there were just 2 male wolves left from a pack after the others had been massacred. The alpha male in particular seemed to be mourning the loss of his family; the pain could be heard in the howls. The distress was clearly recognised by those listening before they even knew the rest of the pack had been killed. It is hard to ignore the similarities between human and wolf emotion and reactions in a close family situation. BBC Wildlife Magazine published an article about animals being able to feel very real emotions, and more research is concentrating on this. I believe it will also help to bring back the emotion related to conserving wildlife, rather than being so detached and only attracting political attention when it can boost economies.

It is argued that seemingly high levels of intelligence shown through wolves’ complex social behaviour is, in fact, just a chain of pre-determined reactions to a stimulating factor. This has been studied using models to simulate co-operative hunting in wolves, whereby a set of simple rules can explain the outwardly complex behaviour. The computer simulation was created using the known, main features of hunting behaviour: tracking, pursuit and then encircling the prey to stop it moving. The wolves’ movements are simply based on the positions of the other individuals. It was concluded that even though they may be socially complex and intelligent pack hunting behaviour is simple and does not rely on complex hierarchy or communication systems. This study, is very scientifically correct. Although the research acknowledges possible intelligence, I find it almost demeans the complex sociality by removing too much feeling from the way in which we look at wild animals. Another example would be a Mother feeding her pups; regurgitating food due to pups licking the female’s muzzle. However, I believe this entails complex associations and family bonds linked with emotion. The majority of scientific research either ignores or shows complete lack of understanding of emotion within other creatures as so little is known about it.

This can be found throughout science. To bring back the “masses” and connect human nature with wildlife, there needs to be more emotion in the way the information is portrayed. Emotion is the simplest way in which to make people think. Science sometimes becomes detached and means little or nothing to the majority of people who have no particular interest in trawling through scientific papers. Even though this is what I am interested in, it really can be difficult to determine meaning from scientific research in terms of how it makes me “feel” about a subject.

On Lost Land of the Wolves there was a good balance found between looking at the wildlife and then looking at the human, more political side of the issues. It is very difficult not to feel angry or upset when you hear others talking about how much they hate something you love. There are people who would rather see wolves exterminated than accepting it was somewhere close by and being controlled, having little impact on them. Gordon Buchanan found this difficult to understand, as do I. Why do people really want conflict rather than peace when peace can so clearly be found?

I can sympathise with the people who do get effected by “rogue” wolves, which take livestock and other domestic animals. I can understand why those wolves need to be removed to uphold the peace between humans and wolves. But I cannot understand the pure, unadulterated hatred for a creature which may or may not effect that person; not just a single animal but the entirety of the species. I cannot abide ignorance where people think they know the facts, but actually they have blinkered their mind to see and hear only what they want to and only what uphold their cause. These people take some information without looking at the whole. It is a bias unfounded in complete scientific evidence. “Shoot, shovel and shut up” is not the most encouraging motto to hear from the local people living near the returning wolves.

It is difficult to turn to  others’ way of thinking sometimes, especially when it is so against what you feel. I can see why the wolf biologist, Jasmine, went on a wolf hunt; to gain insight into their thinking. She did not enjoy it and you could see she was very distressed. However, you could also see what the effect of her going on the hunt had on the hunter’s opinion of biologists; he seemed to have just that bit more respect for her when she said she understood the reasons for wolf control. The hunter seemed a very selfish man, killing innocent wolves who were hunting their natural prey. I feel it is inherently wrong  for the hunter to hunt a hunter, where they could live side by side. But also, there is no getting away from the human politics, society and traditions when it comes to bringing back wildlife – especially a large predator. Middle ground must be found, otherwise there will be no progress.

Maybe, just maybe, with a little patience, understanding and learning, more people could support the wolves’ return. We can all live in hope, and I hope to see the wolves return, eventually living in peace. I also hope to do more that just see the return, I hope to help it along.

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5 thoughts on “A Wolf-dominated Wild: Something Lost but Not Forgotten

    • Hi Jasmine. Thanks very much for the lovely comments, I really appreciate it and especially so from someone who was on Lost Land of the Wolves. Do you have any tips for getting to work in wolf conservation? I would love to dedicate my time to the cause. Hannah. P.S. Your daughter has a great name! I say hello, from one Han(n)a(h) to yours.

      • Hi Hanna, Regarding tips for getting into conservation work – you are on the right path already – getting a degree in wildlife science will help a ton. NExt I would find an organization or project that inspires you and I would volunteer/intern for them. Experience is so important in developing your resume. If you want to talk more feel free to message me. Cheers, Jasmine

      • Hi Jasmine. Great to hear from you. I do a lot of volunteering at the moment and I love doing it. I try to cover a range of skills in the volunteering I do. I really want some experience in wolf conservation and with other large carnivores. Wolves are definitely my animal of choice though and always have been, I’ve always had a fascination with them.
        I’m doing my undergraduate dissertation research in Costa Rica, looking at differences between pollination in primary and secondary rainforest. Its really interesting and its given me a great opportunity to do my own original research. I did want to do it on camera trapping but I needed a guarantee of data to write about for this project to write up my paper. I have been doing camera trapping anyway, and in particular, I got on ocelot on one camera! First time its been recorded on the reserve, and it was incredible! I’m so glad they’re still around. I did camera reaping in Africa too, in the Gambia, and got lots of small cats there. Its so exciting!
        Any opportunities that come up in conservation for me I tend to put myself completely into them and work hard to get a lot out of it. Its always worthwhile whenI can be making a difference!
        Sorry for the really long message, just thought I’d tell you some of the things i’m doing.
        I hope the wolves are staying strong.
        Thanks, Hannah.
        P.s. Should I just keep messaging you on messaging here?

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