Wolves were nearly wiped out of the lower 48 states do to mans fear. He was considered the creature of our nightmares and the monster in fairy tales and legends.But this is not the horrific salavating beast of our dreams, in fact this image of the wolf couldn't be further from the truth! Wolves can live in tightly structured packs of up to 20 or more in the wild. Wolves have a definate pack structure. At the top is the Alpha male and female. These animals are the leaders of the pack and leaders are dominate over all others. This means they are usually the only ones to mate, and get first choice in feeding. When interacting with other pack members, Alphas hold their tail high and ears perked up. They stand tall while others crouch down, lower their tails and flatten their ears as a sign of submission. A pecking order is established while wolves are young. The top pups of each sex are dominate over the others. They are called the Beta animals. At the bottom of the pack are the Omega male and female who must behave submissivly to all other pack members. As years go by and wolves get older the pack changes. New pups become part of it. Animals move up and down the hiearchy. Animals lower down may challenge the pack for leadership. If an Alpha loses it is likley to go off on it's own. If it finds a new mate and start a new pack. Omega animals that are picked on by others may leave the pack and become a lone wolf. Now and then a pack may allow a wolf to join in. Breeding season occurs from late January through March depending on where they live. Pups are born approximatley 63 days later after mating in dens dug in earth. Usually there are 4 to 6 pups each litter. Pups are about a pound at birth and look very similar to domestic puppies. Young wolves grow very quickly. During spring and summer the whole pack cares for the pups. When pups are young, they stay with thier mothers while the pack goes hunting for food. When a pup licks the jaws of the hunters the adults regurgitate for them to eat. They also bring food for the mother. The pack cooperates in hunting enabling them to bring down large game. Wolves try for the easiest prey, often the sick, elderly of the very young. This also ensures the strength of the herds of other animals. When a wolf finds a vulnerable animal, the chase begins. Wolves can reach up to 40 miles and hour in a sprint! Hunting isnt easy, only 1 out of 10 trys results in sucess. Wolves can be injured or even killed in chases and attacks. After the prey is down, the Alphas eat first followed by the rest of the pack. When pups are big enough, the den is abandoned by 6 months of age. Most pups are almost as big as adults and are old and strong enough to learn how to hunt and join the pack as it wonders in search of game. Wolves talk to one another by howling. A pack can tell if a neighboring pack is too close to thier boundries when they hear them howl. When one separates from another it may howl to indicate it's location and the others may howl back to show they are there. Each voice is different as with humans. Boundries are clearly marked by urine. The pack members, especially the Alpha male and female urinate on bushes, rocks, trees around the territory edges leaving a clear scent as to where boundries are. In past wolves were shot on sight and blamed for the dwindling game populations, but as we learn more about this magnificent animal and grow to understand their place in our world we are seeing conservation measures finally coming in to play. Today in national parks wolves have finally been making a comeback so that our childen and our childrens children can hear the howl of the wolf.
The Wolves...Meet the members of the Powder River Pack