Howl of the Hunted Part III

Continued from and

copyrighted wolf in river

“Lone wolves are rare. Normally wolves live in packs ranging in size from three to thirty members, but averaging less than eight. The pack is essential for the species’ survival and its size is determined by the abundance of prey in a given area. A single wolf can rarely bring down an animal as large as a deer or elk, but a pack–working together with each individual taking a role–can usually, procure enough food for all members. Wolves often have great difficulty overcoming a hoofed animal contrary to older beliefs. This well known by the wolf himself and is reflected in the way he chooses his prey. If the prey does not run at first rush but holds his ground, he’s usually left alone. A good example of wolves ‘testing’ prey comes from L. David Mech’s book, The Wolves of Isle Royale, a study of wolf/moose relationships on a large protected island in Lake Michigan:

‘Seven wolves encountered three adult moose standing a few yards inland among sparse conifers and heavy blowdown. The wolves ran fifteen yards to the nearest moose, but the animal stood at bay and threatened the wolves. Immediately they headed for the second moose, which started running. However, they soon abandoned pursuit, for the animal had a head start. Then they turned to the third moose, which had watched them chase the others. This animal ran upon their approach and when during the pursuit it charged the wolves, one got ahead of the moose. The moose charges this wolf and chased it down the trail for fifty yards while the rest of the pack pursued it. Finally the moose stood next to a spruce and defied the wolves. Within half a minute they gave up.’

“On Isle Royale, Mech regularly observed moose from the air. Of the 160 in the range of the hunting wolves, 29 were ignored by wolves, 11 discovered the wolves first and eluded detection, 24 refused to run when confronted and were left alone. Of the 96 that ran, 43 got away immediately, 34 were surrounded but left alone, 12 made successful defensive stands, 7 were attacked, 6 were killed and 1 was wounded but escaped. These cases he observed over several winters in the 1960s.

“Wolves must be very economical in their energy expenditure if they are to survive. A healthy adult moose has a good chance of escaping and the wolves know they can’t afford to chase for long distances without results. Also a wolf knows he can be seriously injured or killed by his hoofed prey, if it is strong and healthy. Weaker individuals, logically, are easier to catch and the wolves–not caring about making trophy kills or obtaining fine hides–go for the easiest prey possible. Wolves often stare down their prey before deciding which one is healthiest and which one is weakest. The weaker usually show some sign of nervousness not exhibited by healthier individuals.

“The personality of wolves was summed up by Adolf Murie, who spent long periods of time with wolves in Mount McKinley National Park. In his 1944 book, The Wolves of Mount McKinley, he writes, ‘The strongest impression remaining with me after watching wolves on numerous occasions, was their friendliness. The adults were friendly towards each other and were amiable toward the pups.’

“His social nature contributes greatly to the wolf’s personality traits. One of the strongest traits is his capacity to make emotional attachments to other individuals. This is very important to the formation of a pack as the unit of a wolf’s society. Another characteristic necessary for wolf pack system cohesion is the aversion to fighting. This non-violent nature is advantageous considering they must spend much of their time together.”


to be continued…


8 thoughts on “Howl of the Hunted Part III

  1. Adolph Murie knew wolves so very well. From his decisive experience to be shared with all humans, with all the world. Wolves are endlessly fascinating and beautiful beings.

  2. Unfortunately, L. David Mech, get his kicks from “Recreational Trapping, among other “game management” strategies of wildlife manipulation:

    Mech View of Wolf Management (Nov. 13, 2012) (David

    “Now that wolf populations have recovered and have been delisted from the U.S. Endangered Species List in the Upper Midwest and the northern Rockies, wolf management has reverted to the states in those regions. Thus I believe that the way wolves should be managed is how ever each state decides.

    Individual citizens have individual opinions about wolf management. State legislatures and Departments of Natural Resources must balance all these many conflicting views while ensuring that their wolf populations survive but conflict minimally with humans. As long as the wolf is no longer endangered in a particular state, I support that state’s approach to managing its wolves.”

    So, let us never think that L. David Mech is for wolf protection. He is just another proponent of the antiquated, cruel “game management” ideology.

    • Exactly, Rosemary. The older Mech is certainly no friend of wolves. That Mech would dare to write that however each state decides to manage ‘their’ wolves is fine with him (no matter what they do!!??) says about all we need to know about this shithead trapper.

  3. Note: I mentioned this because L. David Mech is mentioned in this article. Too bad Murie, does not get more coverage than he does, as he apparently appreciated and respected The Wild for its own sake.

    • I agree Rosemary. When I wrote this piece back in 1981, Mech wasn’t going around talking down wolves like he is now. Had I known he would later speak against them, I would have limited the quotes to the likes of Adolph Murie or his brother Olaus (who I knew to be pro-wildlife). Then again, I would not take a college course in wildlife “management” if I knew then what know now,

  4. Dr. Mech and others do not want to acknowledge the capacity for abuse of hunting laws, which we can see unfolding before us dramatically. We as a species don’t want to acknowledge it, which we can also see playing out by the Obama Administration and saluting lieutenants Jewell and Ashe. There should be a cooperation and mutual respect – for example, if hunting cannot be stopped, at least give something in return such as respecting national park wildlife and collared animals. But nope, it has to be winner take all and speaks to a larger, anti-government and anti-environment mindset. Science is not perfect. Just my observations. I pray that we remember the wolf delisting debacle before delisting grizzlies, but we cannot learn from the past, even the recent past.

    • “We” certainly can and do learn from the past. A huge problem is that our federal and state governments have historically defaulted to physical violence, exploitation, commodification and slaughter of native wildlife, instead of ethical concerns, respect for the rights of living wildlife and their habitat, and the growing desire for decency and co-existence. We’ll have to fight harder and much smarter and greatly expand the circle of compassion if we are to save wolves, bears, whales, sharks, bison, wolverines, birds and every other living being.

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