Wolves abound in North America and Eastern Europe. England no longer has wild roaming wolves like the 17th century, although a few ‘roam free’ in Bristol’s Bear Wood (but the project is owned by a Bristol Zoo which Born Free charity has questioned over bored animals and small enclosures, so the jury is out on that one. But we can still help wild wolves in Europe and North America.
Dogs are not descended from grey wolves, as often said. They are evolutionary cousins, so similar, rather than directly related. Wolves in the wild keep deer moving (trying to hunt them) so prevent overgrazing of tree seedlings, and can therefore turn grasslands into forests. If you leave nature alone. Most wolves get along with feral dogs, although of course this would not work with domestic dogs. Wolves do attack lambs, which is why it is not good to introduce them into the wild in England.
Living around the same age as dogs, wolves live in packs and take care of pups. They howl (rather than bark) and roam up to 12 miles a day. They are very powerful but like dogs are scavengers, preferring to eat large sick and injured animals, and tend to hunt together in packs. Just like dogs, they have pack leaders and will defend their territory, when under attack. And yes, wolves howl. But as a social call, not at the moon!
How We Can Help Wolves
- Wolves need a lot of space to roam, and are miserable in zoos, so don’t support them. Packs have been shot dead in the UK, after trying to escape. Freedom for Animals reports that out of several animals culled in zoos, this included a whole pack of wolves (their social structure broke down) and two cubs and a female adult (selective culling). If you want to help endangered wolves, give to a small charity instead: Born Free (Ethiopian wolves), Wolf Watch (rescues captive wolves in Europe), Wolves and Humans (helps wolves survive in the wild, and helps farmers protect sheep with fencing) and UK Wolf Conservation Trust (keeps wolves in the wild).
- If you see a wolf (or other zoo animal) that looks distressed or unwell, report it to the police and tour operator. You can send a Red Flag Report to Born Free, who will try to help. Contact Freedom For Animals with any concerns.
- Run a clothes shop? Put a free sticker in your window to show you are a Fur Free Retailer. Some ‘fake fur’ has been found to be real fur in DNA tests (wolves are used for fur). Donate old fur coats to your wildlife shelter who will use as surrogate mums.
- Help charities in British Columbia to ban the annual cull. Just like badgers, wrong science has led to wolves being shot from helicopters (left to die in the snow), but it did not recover caribou numbers.
- Only choose responsible wildlife-watching holidays. Responsible Travel run wildlife-watching tours, and have strict criteria on what they won’t sell, so it’s the best bet. Or volunteer at a wolf sanctuary.
Wonderful Books about Wolves
- Bringing Back the Wolves is the story of how in 1926 (with no wolves left in Yellowstone Park), the landscape was in distress. So in 1995, the government brought wolves back and a remarkable restoration took place. Accompanied by beautiful nature art.
- A Wolf Called Wander is the story of Swift, a wolf who lives with his pack in the mountains until one day his home and family are lost. Alone and starving, does he stay on the borders of his old hunting ground, or find a new home? Inspired by a true story.
- Spur: A Wolf’s Story has a gentle message to help wolves worldwide. Spur is a young brave wolf who is looking for food with her brother, when suddenly a flying beast appears. What was it, and where did her brother go? The next time the helicopter appears, she knows what she must do to save her wolf pack, and reunite with her brother.
- The Wisdom of Wolves is a beautiful book on what wolves can teach us. A naturalist draws on 25 years of working with wolves in Yellowstone Park to draw draw comparisons with humans. Wolves care for their elderly, play with their children and put family first. Can we learn something?