Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

Greg Gianforte must RESIGN after murdering a federally protected Yellowstone wolf.

[Giantforhead must go!!!]

Petition detailsCommentsUpdates

aislinn h. started this petition to Montana and 7 others

Not only did Montana Governor Greg Gianforte poach an elk in the year 2000, but recently he has trapped and murdered one of the most federally valued and protected animals in America: Yellowstone wolf #1155. He has gotten off the hook with a slap on the wrist and shows no remorse for his sickening actions. Additionally, he recently signed a bill to ban sanctuary cities in Montana even though there aren’t any sanctuary cities here. Not only is that a waste of time and tax money, but it threatens our county-by-county government system. 

Another proposal of Gianforte’s is to remove a hefty amount of funding from Montana public schools, which threatens Montana’s history of having the highest high school graduation rate in the nation. He also wants high schoolers to take computer programming instead of a foreign language. After working in Montana retail myself and having to ask another employee to translate for a customer and I multiple times, this does not seem like a well-thought-out proposal, especially since Montana’s economy heavily relies on tourism. We should be prioritizing Mandarin and Spanish education over computer programming, especially since today’s high schoolers already know LOTS about technology.

Please sign and share this petition if you believe Greg Gianforte has disgraced Montana’s culture and needs to resign. It has been made clear that his intentions for Montana are not in the people’s interest, but in his own.

Wolf caught in downtown Victoria is celebrated Takaya, say conservation officers

known to live on a group of nearby islands, was subject of a documentary

Conservation officers are working to determine whether a wolf that’s set to be released back into the wild after being tranquilized in downtown Victoria is Takaya, the lone wolf pictured here, who was featured on CBC’s The Nature of Things. (WILD AWAKE IMAGES)

Conservation officers on Vancouver Island say they’re confident a wolf that was caught Sunday in the backyard of a Victoria residence is the same animal known to live alone on a group of small islands off the coast of the capital city.

According to a statement posted on the B.C. Conservation Officer Service’s Facebook page, the animal was assessed and is believed to be Takaya “due to several factors.”

The wolf was first spotted living on the Discovery and Chatham Islands in 2012 and was the subject of a recent Nature of Things documentary.

The service says the wolf is a mature male in good health with no apparent injuries.  It was released back into the wild Monday, but not back to Discovery Island.

This is because officers believe it left the island for a reason — likely looking for food or resources.

Officers picked a wild, coastal habitat on the west side of Vancouver Island to give Takaya the “best chance possible” of survival.

BC CO Service@_BCCOS

The has been safely released back into the wild, in a coastal habitat on the west side of Vancouver Island. The would like to thank @vicpdcanada for their help & the public for calling the line. More details here: http://tinyurl.com/qsafb8c 

Embedded video

136 people are talking about this

A trip to the city

Officers believe the wolf swam to Victoria.

“I’m sure it is scared and hungry and it just wants to get into a solitary place,” B.C. Conservation Officer Scott Norris.  Norris said in an interview on On The Island Monday.

The wolf was first spotted on Saturday trotting down a neighbourhood street in James Bay. It was tranquilized just after 6 p.m. Sunday in a residential yard in the 200 block of Michigan Street.

Norris said wolves do not generally venture into urbanized areas and this was “quite an anomaly.”

He thinks the animal likely followed the shoreline before ending up in the James Bay neighbourhood.

BC CO Service@_BCCOS

The safely tranquilized and captured the wolf. The wolf will be assessed by the provincial veterinarian tomorrow. It appears to be a healthy mature male wolf

View image on Twitter
70 people are talking about this

Chris Darimont, the Raincoast Research chair in Applied Conservation Science at the University of Victoria, said the wolf was much more likely scared of us than we were of it.

“The risks that the wolf accepted in running the gauntlet through town were much higher than any real risk to humans, maybe posing a serious threat to cats and dogs and the odd chicken along the way,” Darimont said.

“I’m glad things have seemed to transition without much harm to people or the wolf.”

Darimont says the wolf’s new, isolated west coast home will serve it well.

“Wolves tend to do much much better where human density, especially road access is limited,” he said.

And as a marine wolf, he should be able to find plenty to eat.

“He made most of his living off of [hunting] seafood things like harbour seals, sea lions, river otters and so on. So having some coastal habitat and resources to turn to now, particularly in an otherwise unfamiliar environment, is a really good strategy,” he said.

Anyone who spots a wolf should begin using scare tactics if it gets closer than 100 metres. This includes raising your arms and waving them in the air, using noisemakers and throwing sticks.

If a wolf displays aggressive behaviour, you should back away slowly and not turn your back on the animal.

Wildlife Management: When Forest Wails and Mourns

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

“Just as ships’ bottoms pick up layers of barnacles over time, so, through their lives, human societies and individuals become encrusted with layers of cultural and ideological sediment. … The cemented coating clings as though chemically bonded to me and screams bloody bloody murder at my slightest advance…”~John Livingston

Awar on wildlife in British Columbia never ends; cruelty goes on, unabated. We cannot unshackle ourselves from the self-centered belief system — the thickened layer of barnacles — that destines us to view nature as a resource subordinate to our needs. When, in 1981, John Livingston wrote “Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation”, he cautioned against the fallacy of turning the Earth’s fabric into a “natural resource”. It was echoed by Neil Evernden who recognized that, once deemed a resource, nature inevitably becomes a casualty of reckless exploitation. And this is what has happened. Under the guise of fostering “conservation”, we have concocted a management approach that gives us a license to discard a delicate assembly of life as if it were a lump of coal.

The decades-long tragedy of the caribou habitat is a proof, as good any, of cruelty and travesty inherent to current wildlife management strategies. What strikes the most is how long it has lasted. In the 1970s, a biologist, Michael Bloomfield, showed that the widespread destruction of the habitat by logging and other resource development activities threatened caribou survival. These warnings were never listened to. The B.C. government has allowed for the destruction of the habitat to continue, and the caribou population dwindled from 40,000 in the early 1900s to approximately 15,000 today, all scattered among 54 herds. Thirty of those herds are at risk of extinction and 14 have fewer than 25 individuals.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

This is the current reality. With impunity grounded in political support — regardless of a party in power — the industrial encroachment fragments the caribou habitat and decimates their food source. Consequently, chances for the survival of the caribou diminish as their habitat shrinks in size. The resilience of nature is no match for greed and political expediency. A cycle of life gets broken. What is worse, the officially sanctioned ecological devastation not only ensures the eventual disappearance of the caribou but sentences to death wolves, cougars, and many other species that depend on the same habitat.

Death comes in many forms, and, for some animals, anguish and agony mark the path. The fate that wolves suffer shows most glaringly the tragedy that befalls nature when the government gives in to demands of the resource-extraction industry. In 2014, the B.C. government, with its Management Plan for the Grey Wolf, authorized the war on wolves. Since 2015, under the guise of caribou conservation, over 700 wolves have been killed. They were trapped, hunted, poisoned to death, gunned down from helicopters. Even more abhorrently, extermination tactics have used “Judas wolves” to find their packs and wipe out all of their members. But this not where the war against the wolf ends. The stated number does not include “wolf whacking” contests that take place in the interior of B.C. — an officially sanctioned bestiality that not only dooms wild animals but debases us, as human beings.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

And, yet, even this is not enough. Now, the NDP government argues that “landscape scale habitat management is needed to support self-sustaining caribou populations”. It thus proposes a predator hunt legislation that would — in the name of reversing caribou population declines — erase more than 80 percent of the wolf population in parts of the central B.C. In other words, it would get rid of the “surplus” of wolves. To call this wildlife management approach fallacious and unethical is to be greatly euphemistic. The innocuously sounding phrase — “landscape scale habitat management” — camouflages an outright slaughter.

And it is the slaughter compounded by ecological ignorance. Any discussion about maintaining stable wolf populations — an underlying premise behind the predator hunt legislation — defeats its purpose if the exact number of wolves in a habitat remains unknown. As so is the case here. The Management Plan for the Grey Wolf states that the wolf population might be approximately 8,500. In reality, this number can be anywhere between 5,300 and 11,600, since, as the plan admits, estimating the population size is challenging due to the secretive nature of wolves, their extensive range, and the density of forested habitats they inhabit. Moreover, hunting data in B.C. lack reliability. The plan states that there is “considerable uncertainty in the current take of wolves by resident hunters and trappers as B.C. does not have a mandatory reporting system…[and] without more reliable estimates of the harvest, it is difficult to assess the sustainability of BC’s wolf harvest.” This ignorance does not, however, prevent the government, Max Foran states, from accepting “generous hunting quotas, no limit on killing females or pups, no bag-limit zones, long and sometimes open year-round hunting seasons, no license requirement for residents.” This is not management but a “wolf killing plan”, he writes.

Killing that will never stop. The ministry’s scientists claim that “a very extensive effort will be required every year to continue to keep the wolf population low” because of the wolf’s natural resilience and quick recovery. Like stubborn weeds, wolves must be eradicated repeatedly. This malignancy cannot be allowed to grow.

Unfortunately, the cruelty and the bureaucratic cold-heartedness underpinning this statement account for merely a part of its tragic perversity. However inhumane, the perpetual killing of wolves is based on the premise that, following a bout of slaughter, the species is able to recover. Only an unfounded human hubris would allow for such a premise to sustain itself. The so-called “surplus” of wolves is very fragile in the face of climate change, and wolves are vulnerable to the unpredictable ecosystem dynamics. Precariousness and unpredictability are the words that define a broad range of interdependences in the critical caribou habitat. The social-ecological system operates on various scales– some of them observable and some not — and there are tipping points, the crossing of which takes us into a place of no return. After all, we live in the times of a rapid environmental change where the only certain expectation is uncertainty. That is why the “managed” killing of predators is a callous misnomer that is bound to unleash not only savagery but also unknown ecological ramifications.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

Still, numerical variations in the wolf population, as well as both known and unknown ecological consequences of their repeated slaughter, do not tell the whole story. What remains hidden from all of us, living far away from the land of the wolf, is individual suffering to which, through our political indifference, we implicitly consent. What we do not see is paralyzing anguish, pain, and psychological trauma that comes in the aftermath of the shattered family structure. Death destroys even those who survive. After a killing spree is temporarily over, surviving wolves return to mourn a loss. They also face a world unknown to them. As Marc Bekoff and Sadie Parr write, “those individuals that survive to make new wolf families must do so without access to the knowledge and culture held by their slain family members, something that takes generations to build. They become refugees on their own land.”

Finally, this is not only about the caribou or the wolf, but also about us, humans. Perceiving nature through the prism of its cruel and ignorant management comes at a price that we will have to pay. Destroying wolves destroys us as a society. It diminishes us. Our appreciation of and compassion for the natural world have evolved throughout centuries and molded into moral and ethical principles. We break these principles at our peril.

It is time to start peeling layers of “cultural and ideological” sediment we wrapped ourselves in. The cemented coating that clings to us offers the comfort of familiarity, but it is a false comfort that chips away at our humanity. The main argument for killing wolves in the caribou habitat is ensuring that the caribou will still be there, in the future. So our children and their children can watch them roam the forest. Given the ongoing destruction of the habitat, it will not happen no matter how many wolves we decide to shoot. But even if the demise of the caribou were to be somehow temporarily postponed by the merciless “recovery” plan, what then? Should we tell our children how many generations of wolves we have killed to accomplish this? Should we tell them that they what they see is the legacy of killing fields?


In British Columbia:

  1. Support Pacific Wild campaign “Save BC Wolves” at https://pacificwild.org/campaign/save-bc-wolves/
  2. Support Wolf Awareness campaign at https://www.wolfawareness.org
  3. Support Wildlife Defence League campaign at https://www.wildlifedefenceleague.org/mountain-caribou
  4. Write and Send letters to:

Premier John Horgan — Premier@gov.bc.ca
Minister Doug Donaldson — FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Darcy Peel — Director, BC Caribou Recovery Program caribou.recovery@gov.bc.ca

Please also help wolves In Ontario:

“The Ford government wants wolves and coyotes to pay the price for declining moose populations in Ontario. By re-opening a proposal abandoned by the previous government after it was outed as being unscientific and unethical, the PCs are trying to liberalize the hunting of both wolves and coyotes across northern Ontario.”

Comment by September 26th at http://earthroots.good.do/wolf/huntingcomment/?fbclid=IwAR08lwxns1Z0hw5tnc_uBZ5M9y6syqKQwWy5u48mkT0S2A1mOBZ6Zz2Pn_0

ACTION ALERT ~ Urge the Trump Administration to Keep Wolves Protected!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a proposed rule to strip Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states – a premature decision unsupported by science that will further threaten an already imperiled species. Federal protections for gray wolves brought the species back from the brink of extinction following decades of persecution. This rash decision to delist wolves from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife would allow states to open killing seasons on wolves, permitting special interest trophy hunters and trappers to senselessly kill wolves before the species has made a full recovery. As demonstrated in Idaho where wolves have already been stripped of federal ESA protections, once delisting occurs the species is open to a variety of killing activities – including predator derbies, contests and tournaments where those who kill the most or largest wolves are awarded prizes. This is after the federal government spent millions of taxpayer dollars reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park after their populations were decimated from unlimited killing!

We need your help to keep federal protections in place for wolves so these iconic and vital animals are able to recover and return to their historic range.

Please submit comments TODAY in opposition to the proposed rule to delist wolves.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments on their proposed ruleto remove wolves from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife.

You can submit your comments using two methods:


Click here to submit your comments electronically. If your comments fit into the comment box, this method is preferred. For longer comments, please attach them in a Microsoft Word document.


Submit your comments by U.S. mail to:

Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0097
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803

Talking Points

Your comments can simply state: “I am in opposition to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposed rule to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states. I urge you to reconsider this proposed rule and to instead develop a national wolf recovery plan for wolves that reflects their intrinsic value and the myriad ecological, aesthetic, and economic benefits the species provides to our communities and ecosystems.”

For maximum impact, however, we encourage you to personalize your comments. Here are some talking points you may consider incorporating:

●       Continuing Endangered Species Act protections for wolves is necessary for the species to fully recover. Federal protections saved gray wolves from extinction following decades of persecution – and the species is still recovering, currently occupying only a fraction of their historic range.

●       The proposed rule would transfer authority over wolves to state wildlife management agencies, which historically have shown little interest in preserving or restoring wolves. These state agencies have catered to special interest groups who seek to kill wolves for trophies or entertainment, or on the misguided belief that killing wolves protects livestock or increases deer and elk populations.

●       Wolves are vital to healthy ecosystems. Benefits wolves provide include increasing biodiversity by keeping large herbivores such as deer from overgrazing habitats and maintaining the health of prey animals such as deer by culling the sick members from the heard, including animals suffering from Chronic Wasting Disease.

●       The best available, peer-reviewed science demonstrates that killing wolves will not protect livestock or increase populations of game species like deer or elk. Wildlife management decisions should be based on ethics and sound science, not fear and misunderstandings.

●       The vast majority of Americans are wildlife watchers who prefer to view wolves in their natural habitat – preserved and treated with respect. Allowing wolves to return to their historic range and thrive will provide far more benefits to our economy than allowing a tiny minority of the population to extirpate these iconic animals from our landscape.

Learn more about wolves here.

Thank you for acting TODAY to protect wolves from extinction!

Don’t allow wolf traps Wolf-killing payments are unethical

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is planning to expand the wolf trapping season and to open private lands to trapping. On Jan. 27, a poster appeared on Facebook offering expense reimbursement of up to $1,000 from the Foundation for Wildlife Management. The payments are funded by a grant from Fish and Game’s Community Challenge Grant and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and are supported by the Fish and Game Commission, the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association and Idaho Farm Bureau.

Wolves were reintroduced in 1995 because a whole lot of people cared about wolves taking their proper ecological role in ecosystem health. The Legislature and the commission have made it clear that wolves, and other predators, are not welcome in Idaho. Fish and Game wildlife biologists and conservationists understand that predators are the most important piece of the ecosystem puzzle. Instead, the commission has teamed up with the Foundation for Wildlife Management to manage wolves with increased trapping. The commission is setting policy according to the wishes of the legislators, trappers, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Cattlemen’s Association, the Farm Bureau and their partner, Wildlife Services. There is no consideration of conservation whatsoever when it comes to predators.

Wildlife are so vulnerable in the winter. A baited trap, a snow machine or an ATV have nothing to do with sportsman-like hunting and are inhumane and unethical. The Wood River Wolf Project, a group of conservationists, has worked for years with ranchers to implement non-lethal methods for keeping livestock safe. The commission is ignoring its mandate to set policy based on good science.

The Department of Fish and Game has stated that since people like me don’t pay their salaries, I should not have a say about how wildlife is managed. But there are many Idahoans who care deeply for conserving wildlife and are willing to pay for conservation of wildlife. Please let the department and the commission hear from you.

Christine Gertschen, Sun Valley

Wolf trapping proposal is insidious first step

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is proposing to lengthen the wolf trapping season in areas of the Magic Valley Region where it is already allowed on public land and to initiate a trapping season on private land where no season currently exists, including in Units 48 and 49, which surround the Wood River Valley.

The pelt quality of furbearers is highest during winter. The quality of pelts from wolves harvested in October is likely to be poor. This feels like relaxing the constraints on legal harvest for the sole purpose of killing more wolves.

Extending the wolf trapping season to the end of March is alarming. Mating typically occurs between January and March. Gestation is 63 days. Trapping and killing an alpha breeding female in the last trimester of gestation or early lactation is barbaric. If she dies pregnant, whatever she is carrying dies with her; if she dies lactating, her pups will starve to death in short order. The legal wolf hunting season for 25 units across several regions begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. Is this the direction we’re headed for wolf trapping?


Restricting wolf trapping to private land will not eliminate the threat of injury to people, pets or livestock. There are thousands of acres of private land in wolf country in Blaine County that the public may and does legally access. Recreation in Blaine County is highly centered around outdoor recreation, including hiking with dogs.

I fear that the private-land-only aspect of the proposed wolf-trapping rule changes has the potential for insidious incremental dismantlement. Are we beginning on a path that is simply a redux of the “private land first, public land to follow” scenario observed in other Fish and Game regions? What assurances do Blaine County residents have that this “evolution” will not occur here?

Wolf traps are effective because of the bait used as an attractant. Wolves will likely be attracted from remote locations that include public land. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area abuts private land in the Wood River Valley and a portion of the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness is in our backyard. Domesticated dogs will also likely be drawn to wolf traps on private land.

The Wood River Wolf Project, a collaborative consisting of sheep ranchers, federal and state agencies (including Fish and Game), wildlife advocates, wolf experts and Blaine County, employs nonlethal tools to prevent depredation by wolves on sheep and, as a consequence, to reduce or eliminate lethal control requests by operators who have incurred wolf depredation losses. Killing more wolves in Blaine County is not an outcome favored by most Blaine County residents.

The elk population in the game management units pertinent to Blaine County materially exceeds the high end of the target range. As a consequence, and to mitigate crop depredation losses and the associated costs to recompense farmers and ranchers, Fish and Game is pursuing significantly increased elk harvest in our area for the next several years while concurrently proposing to kill more wolves here. Why kill a native predator that kills elk if you want fewer elk? What about this makes any sense whatsoever?

There are fewer than 2,000 trappers active in Idaho. Only a fraction of those trap wolves. Many of those who do are compensated by outside parties in amounts greatly in excess of the value of the pelts. Fish and Game is one of those funding entities. Though these payments are characterized as “reimbursement” for expenses incurred, your state game management agency is paying bounties to trappers to kill wolves.

The proposed wolf trapping rules changes are confusing as to intent, are in conflict with the department’s elk management objectives, can only be viewed as the first step of several to further liberalize wolf trapping in Blaine County, raise ethical concerns in terms of the proposed season end date, benefit few, endanger many and, finally, are not wanted by most Blaine County citizens.

How Accurate Is Alpha’s Theory of Dog Domestication?

The ‘boy and his dog’ tale is a piece of prehistoric fiction, but scientists are uncovering the true origins of our incredible relationship with dogs

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-wolves-really-became-dogs-180970014/#v4MLrVTsL0zXWeuq.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/3XL356XKI9Ay5sy7tIW1FCG6g4s=/800×600/filters:no_upscale()/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/85/78/8578258b-78dc-449c-ad11-991e20f92a3b/wolfdog.jpg


(Flickr/Sonja Pauen)

Long ago, before your four-legged best friend learned to fetch tennis balls or watch football from the couch, his ancestors were purely wild animals in competition—sometimes violent—with our own. So how did this relationship change? How did dogs go from being our bitter rivals to our snuggly, fluffy pooch pals?

The new drama Alpha answers that question with a Hollywood “tail” of the very first human/dog partnership.

Europe is a cold and dangerous place 20,000 years ago when the film’s hero, a young hunter named Keda, is injured and left for dead. Fighting to survive, he forgoes killing an injured wolf and instead befriends the animal, forging an unlikely partnership that—according to the film—launches our long and intimate bond with dogs.

Just how many nuggets of fact might be sprinkled throughout this prehistoric fiction?

We’ll never know the gritty details of how humans and dogs first began to come together. But beyond the theater the true story is slowly taking shape, as scientists explore the real origins of our oldest domestic relationship and learn how both species have changed along canines’ evolutionary journey from wolves to dogs.

When and where were dogs domesticated?

Pugs and poodles may not look the part, but if you trace their lineages far enough back in time all dogs are descended from wolves. Gray wolves and dogs diverged from an extinct wolf species some 15,000 to 40,000 years ago. There’s general scientific agreement on that point, and also with evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare’s characterization of what happened next. ’The domestication of dogs was one of the most extraordinary events in human history,” Hare says.

But controversies abound concerning where a long-feared animal first became our closest domestic partner. Genetic studies have pinpointed everywhere from southern China to Mongolia to Europe.

Scientists cannot agree on the timing, either. Last summer, research reported in Nature Communications pushed likely dates for domestication further back into the past, suggesting that dogs were domesticated just once at least 20,000 but likely closer to 40,000 years ago. Evolutionary ecologist Krishna R. Veeramah, of Stony Brook University, and colleagues sampled DNA from two Neolithic German dog fossils, 7,000 and 4,700 years old respectively. Tracing genetic mutation rates in these genomes yielded the new date estimates.

“We found that our ancient dogs from the same time period were very similar to modern European dogs, including the majority of breed dogs people keep as pets,” explained Dr. Veeramah in a release accompanying the study. This suggests, he adds, “that there was likely only a single domestication event for the dogs observed in the fossil record from the Stone Age and that we also see and live with today.”

End of story? Not even close.

In fact, at least one study has suggested that dogs could have been domesticated more than once. Researchers analyzed mitochondrial DNA sequences from remains of 59 European dogs (aged 3,000 to 14,000 years), and the full genome of a 4,800-year-old dog that was buried beneath the prehistoric mound monument at Newgrange, Ireland.

Comparing these genomes with many wolves and modern dog breeds suggested that dogs were domesticated in Asia, at least 14,000 years ago, and their lineages split some 14,000 to 6,400 years ago into East Asian and Western Eurasian dogs ,

But because dog fossils apparently older than these dates have been found in Europe, the authors theorize that wolves may have been domesticated twice, though the European branch didn’t survive to contribute much to today’s dogs. Greger Larson, director of the Wellcome Trust Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network at Oxford University, suggests that the presence of older fossils in both Europe and Asia, and the lack of dogs older than 8,000 years in between those regions, supports such a scenario.

“Our ancient DNA evidence, combined with the archaeological record of early dogs, suggests that we need to reconsider the number of times dogs were domesticated independently. Maybe the reason there hasn’t yet been a consensus about where dogs were domesticated is because everyone has been a little bit right,′ Larson said in a statement accompanying the study.

The many interbreedings of dogs and wolves also muddy the genetic waters, of course. Such events happen to the present day—even when the dogs in question are supposed to be stopping the wolves from eating livestock.

How did dogs become man’s best friend?

Perhaps more intriguing then exactly when or where dogs became domesticated is the question of how. Was it really the result of a solitary hunter befriending an injured wolf? That theory hasn’t enjoyed much scientific support.

One similar theory argues that early humans somehow captured wolf pups, kept them as pets, and gradually domesticated them. This could have happened around the same time as the rise of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago. The oldest fossils generally agreed to be domestic dogs date to about 14,000 years, but several disputed fossils more than twice that age may also be dogs or at least their no longer entirely wolf ancestors.

Since more recent genetic studies suggest that the date of domestication occurred far earlier, a different theory has gained the support of many scientists. “Survival of the friendliest” suggests that wolves largely domesticated themselves among hunter-gatherer people.

“That the first domesticated animal was a large carnivore, who would have been a competitor for food—anyone who has spent time with wild wolves would see how unlikely it was that we somehow tamed them in a way that led to domestication,” says Brian Hare, director of the Duke University Canine Cognition Center.

But, Hare notes, the physical changes that appeared in dogs over time, including splotchy coats, curly tails, and floppy ears, follow a pattern of a process known as self-domestication. It’s what happens when the friendliest animals of a species somehow gain an advantage. Friendliness somehow drives these physical changes, which can begin to appear as visible byproducts of this selection in only a few generations.

“Evidence for this comes from another process of domestication, one involving the famous case of domesticated foxes in Russia. This experiment bred foxes who were comfortable getting close to humans, but researchers learned that these comfortable foxes were also good at picking up on human social cues,” explains Laurie Santos, director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University. The selection of social foxes also had the unintended consequence of making them look increasingly adorable—like dogs.

Hare adds that most wolves would have been fearful and aggressive towards humans—because that’s the way most wolves behave. But some would have been friendlier, which may have given them access to human hunter-gatherer foodstuffs..

“These wolves would have had an advantage over other wolves, and the strong selection pressure on friendliness had a whole lot of byproducts, like the physical differences we see in dogs,” he says. “This is self-domestication. We did not domesticate dogs. Dogs domesticated themselves.”

A study last year provided some possible genetic support for this theory. Evolutionary biologist Bridgette von Holdt, of Princeton University, and colleagues suggest that hypersocial behavior may have linked our two species and zero in on a few genes that may drive that behavior.

“Generally speaking, dogs display a higher level of motivation than wolves to seek out prolonged interactions with humans. This is the behavior I’m interested in,” she says.

Von Holdt’s research shows that the social dogs she tested have disruption to a genomic region that remains intact in more aloof wolves. Interestingly, in humans genetic variation in the same stretch of DNA causes Williams-Beuren syndrome, a condition characterized by exceptionally trusting and friendly behaviors. Mice also become more social if changes occur to these genes, previous studies have discovered.

The results suggest that random variations to these genes, with others yet unknown, may have played a role in causing some dogs to first cozy up with humans.

“We were able to identify one of the many molecular features that likely shape behavior,” she adds.

How have dogs changed since becoming our best friends?

Though the origins of the dog/human partnership remain unknown, it’s becoming increasingly clear that each species has changed during our long years together. The physical differences between a basset hound and wolf are obvious, but dogs have also changed in ways that are more than skin (or fur) deep.

One recent study shows how by bonding with us and learning to work together with humans, dogs may have actually become worse at working together as a species. Their pack lifestyle and mentality appear to be reduced and is far less prevalent even in wild dogs than it is in wolves.

But, Yale’s Laurie Santos says, dogs may have compensated in other interesting ways. They’ve learned to use humans to solve problems.

“Several researchers have presented dogs and wolves with an impossible problem (e.g., a puzzle box that can’t be opened or a pulling tool that stops working) and have asked how these different species react,” Santos explains. “Researchers have found that wolves try lots of different trial and error tactics to solve the problem— they get at it physically. But at the first sign of trouble, dogs do something different. They look back to their human companion for help. This work hints that dogs may have lost some of their physical problem-solving abilities in favor of more social strategies, ones that rely on the unique sort of cooperation domesticated dogs have with humans. This also matches the work showing that dogs are especially good at using human social cues.”

The relationship has become so close that even our brains are in sync. Witness a study showing that dogs hijack the human brain’s maternal bonding system. When humans and dogs gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes, each of their brains secretes oxytocin, a hormone linked to maternal bonding and trust. Other mammal relationships, including those between mom and child, or between mates, feature oxytocin,bonding, but the human/dog example is the only case in which it has been observed at work between two different species.

The intimacy of this relationship means that, by studying dogs, we may also learn much about human cognition.

“Overall. the story of dog cognitive evolution seems to be one about cognitive capacities shaped for a close cooperative relationship with humans, Santos says. “Because dogs were shaped to pick up on human cues, our lab uses dogs as a comparison group to test what’s unique about human social learning.” For example, a recent Yale study found that while dogs and children react to the same social cues, dogs were actually better at determining which actions were strictly necessary to solve a problem, like retrieving food from a container, and ignoring extraneous “bad advice.” Human kids tended to mimic all of their elders’ actions, suggesting that their learning had a different goal than their canine companions’.

We may never know the exact story of how the first dogs and humans joined forces, but dogs have undoubtedly helped us in countless ways over the years. Still, only now may we be realizing that by studying them, they can help us to better understand ourselves.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-wolves-really-became-dogs-180970014/#v4MLrVTsL0zXWeuq.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Wolves in Northern California aren’t just loping through anymore; they’re here to stay

May 8, 2018 Updated: May 9,

Seven years after an Oregon wolf named OR-7 caused an international sensation by taking a historic pilgrimage through California, his offspring are settling in the Golden State, starting families and giving every indication that the howling canines are here to stay.

Wildlife biologists regard the re-establishment of Canis lupus in California as a milestone in the country’s decades-long effort to protect and preserve natural habitats and endangered species. Up to 2 million gray wolves once lived in North America, but European settlers, fed by big, bad wolf myths, drove them to near-extinction in the lower 48 states.

The last wild gray wolf in California before OR-7 showed up was killed in 1924.

Four of OR-7’s progeny have been detected in California this year and last, including the leader of the Lassen Pack, which has staked out territory in western Lassen and Plumas counties, according to a recent update on the status of the predators by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Several others could well be roaming through the state undetected, said wildlife biologists, who expect the wolf population in the Golden State to grow.

“It does seem like we are continuing to see wolves entering California, and we have a breeding pack, so the stage is set for population growth,” said Pete Figura, a wildlife management supervisor for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “It seems to be following the pattern of wolf expansion that we’ve seen over the last 20 or 30 years in the American West.”

Above: The wolf known as OR-7 became the first known wolf to enter California since 1924 in late 2011. Right: A close-up of a female gray wolf at the Oakland Zoo. Photo: Oregon Department Of Fish And Wildlife Via Associated Press

Photo: Oregon Department Of Fish And Wildlife Via Associated Press

Above: The wolf known as OR-7 became the first known wolf to enter California since 1924 in late 2011. Right: A close-up of a female gray wolf at the Oakland Zoo.

OR-7, so named because he was the seventh wolf affixed with a radio collar in Oregon, eventually returned to his home state and found a mate. He is now the alpha male in the Rogue Pack, south of Crater Lake National Park, where he and his mate have raised litters every year since 2014.

One of his sons entered California and started the Lassen Pack, which is often seen in the Indian Valley area north of Quincy, in Plumas County. Known as CA-08M, he and his mate have had four puppies, three of which were spotted by locals and on trail cameras in late March.

“They’ve been fairly visible,” said Amaroq Weiss, the West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Someone recently posted a video of a pup barking at them.”

An uncollared wolf Figura said is the likely daughter of OR-7 is also in California, where she was observed and tracked in January moving southeast through Siskiyou County.

In January, wildlife biologists tracked another of OR-7’s daughters, OR-54, 500 miles through four California counties. The radio-collared female covered much of the same ground her famous father did from 2011 to 2013. State wildlife biologists said GPS showed she left California in February and then returned to eastern Siskiyou County on April 15.

Another collared wolf known as OR-44 was tracked in March nosing around eastern Siskiyou County, apparently looking for females. He is unrelated to OR-7 or his offspring.

Although conservationists are ecstatic, there is a disturbing element about the uptick in wolf activity. The first breeding pair of wolves ever in California had five puppies in the spring of 2015, all of them sporting distinctive black coats.

The black wolves, known as the Shasta Pack, killed and ate a calf in November 2015, the first reported case of livestock predation by wolves since their return to California. Curiously, that month was also the last time the entire pack was known to be together.

None of the seven were seen again until May 2016, when a single juvenile male was spotted by trail cameras near where it grew up. In March 2017, that same wolf was spotted in northwestern Nevada, the first wolf verified in Nevada in nearly 100 years.

Nobody knows what happened to the other members of the Shasta Pack. Figura said it is possible they all migrated to a new region, but that would be unusual.

Weiss believes the predators, none of which had radio collars, were gunned down. Ranchers in the area had previously threatened to employ the “three S’s” — shoot, shovel and shut up — if any of the sharp-toothed meat-eaters got near their livestock.

“I and others have reason to believe the wolves may have been poached (because) it’s rather difficult for an entire seven member all-black pack to have just disappeared,” Weiss said. “It is disturbing to have California wolf recovery starting out with something so bleak.”

State wildlife officials are trying hard to minimize wolf-livestock conflicts by providing ranchers with the locations of the animals, but not all of the wolves in California have GPS collars. The Lassen Pack traverses both public and private property, including National Park and U.S. Forest Service acreage and ranch and timber lands.

“Even though there are vast areas of forest, there are also little pockets of small towns, so people are going to see them,” Weiss said. “The response has so far been mixed.”

Meanwhile, two more calves in Northern California fell prey to wolves in 2017 and one adult cow is believed to have been killed by the pack hunters.