WHY DO WE NEED WOLVES?
Why do we need wolves? As a fiction writer, my first response is that wolves are important, for fairy tales and fantasy, so we have a ready-made antagonist. Kidding aside, why are wolves so important? What made me think about wolves in the first place?
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
I read a news article about Wisconsin hunters and the DNR, that’s why!
Gray wolves (canis lupus) were removed from Endangered Species Act protections in January, 2021.
So what does the Wisconsin DNR do? They decide that this is clear sign of recovery, and point to declines in game animals due to wolf predation. They carefully dole out hunting tags. Three days later, it all backfires.
Kill wolves so hunters can kill more deer. What?
Before I get myself more rattled about the WI DNR’s decision, let’s back it up and look at these highly intelligent, social animals, starting with their mystique!
Plus, it’s World Wildlife Day! We don’t need a better reason than that!
MYTHOLOGY OF WOLVES
Because of my fiction writing, I’m intrigued by psychology and mythology. Wolves have a rich history, intertwined with humans.
Wolves have a central place in the folklore of cultures from the North American Arctic to the Indian jungle to the Chinese tropics. The roles of wolves in mythology are diverse, ranging from wise hunter to wild animal.
Maybe I ought to stop here, before I venture into werewolf territory!
Hm….I can’t resist. Just one, I promise!
WOLVES: THE ANCESTORS OF LOUIE! And your dogs, too!
Here’s another answer to the question, ‘why do we need wolves.’
The origins of dogs dates back thousands of years. Dogs evolved as domesticated descendants of the wolf. (I know, you knew this but it’s cool.)
The dog diverged from a now-extinct population of wolves 27,000-40,000 years ago. The modern grey wolf is the dog’s nearest living relative.
In 2017, a study showed that 9,000 years ago the domestic dog was present at what is Zhokhov Island in Siberia. The dogs were selectively bred as either sled dogs or as hunting dogs. (Photo on right of cave art clearly depicts hunting dogs.).
DOGS! DOGS! DOGS!
Today dogs are the most variable mammal on our planet, with 450 separate breeds!
I could wax poetic about dogs for some time. (In fact, here’s a post about how your pet manipulates YOU!)
Let’s get back to why we need wolves! And how man messes things up.
Wolves first appeared in the early Pleistocene period, which was about a million years ago. Wolves adapted to the entire planet…until we decided otherwise.
Why, you ask?
WOLVES AND NATURE'S COMPLEX CONNECTIONS
We need wolves.
Wolves are a classic example of nature’s complex connections.
I’ll cite a documented horror story below. (NOT a fairy tale.)
YELLOWSTONE GOES HAYWIRE
This folly continued until 1995! Finally, someone figured it out and released wolves captured from Canada back into Yellowstone.
Flash forward to now.
The US still allows the killing of wolves, on the grounds that this can help conservation.
DOES CULLING WORK?
Culling is the reduction the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter.
Kill to conserve? Does that work?
I don’t want to admit this, but a study done in 2016 by the University of Wisconsin showed that culling a wolf population slowed population growth by 92%. Technically culling works. Populations decline.
Culling works. The science backs this up. That said, ecosystems are more complicated than that!
Here’s another weird fact.
The more wolves that are killed to protect livestock, the more livestock is killed. How is this even possible?
It has to do with wolf hierarchy and social learning.
It is interesting to note that this paradoxical finding is not just found in wolf populations.
Lethal control of cougars (aka puma or mountain lions) results in younger, inexperienced cougars more likely to attack livestock.
In a similar vein, coyote litter size and frequency of breeding actually increases when a population is culled. (study here)
Another study showed that state-funded coyote removal campaigns have failed to reduce sheep predation by these coyote populations.
There are other options!
NON-LETHAL OPTIONS TO CULLING!
YET THE CULLING CONTINUES
Back to the news article.
At the end of February, 2021, the Wisconsin DNR dispensed the wolf tags.
Wisconsin wolf hunters blew past the state’s quota in just three days, exceeding the quota by more than 50%.
The area Native Americans disagreed with this decision. They said in a statement:
Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
“…Hunting in late February, a time when fur quality is poor and wolves are in their breeding season, is regarded as especially wasteful and disrespectful.”
WOLVES ARE IMPORTANT TO OUR ECOSYSTEM!
Louie isn’t the only one who thinks that wolves are important. Many people are wolf advocates!
Check out the map on the right!
I know, I sound as if I’m up on a soapbox, but we are the penultimate apex predator. We must preserve nature for future generations of all life on Earth. As human populations continue to grow and expand further into wilderness areas, we need find better alternatives to coexist with wildlife.
WORLD WILDLIFE DAY!
On top of that, it’s actually World Wildlife Day!
How often does it happen that I manage to get a post published on a day designated to mark an important milestone, anniversary or event?
This is the first time! Huzzah! Go, me!
Go, World Wildlife Day, March 3, 2021.
WHY DO WE NEED WOLVES?
You know what Louie thinks. What are your thoughts?
Thanks for writing this important piece! My kids and I read a book about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone and how much it helped the entire ecosystem by cutting down on over-grazing by certain wild animal which allowed rare flowers to return which allowed rare butterflies to return, etc. I think you should sent a copy of this great post to the WI DNR!
I’d love to send them a copy of this post! How cool that you already knew about the Yellowstone debacle. I wanted to talk more about the rare birds and flowers but I tend to write long! Thanks for pointing this out!
I think wolves are incredible and was disheartened to read an article yesterday about the hunting of them and the numbers being killed. I hope more effort is put into conservation and protecting them and their habitats, etc. Fab post!
I hope more effort is put into conservation, too. Awareness is a start, at least! Thank you!
I thought all dogs were considered to be the same species, just having different varieties, like the difference between a white and a black person or a white person from Eastern and Western Europe? Dogs have a few variables that create differences that can give them distinct appearances, but they’re still the same species
Thank you so much for catching my typo. Goodness, that’s embarrassing. 450 different breeds, not species! My subconscious love for alliteration got the best of me.
Wow what an interesting post, I had no idea about even half of this! Thank you for sharing
I’m pleased that you found it edifying and interesting! Thank you so much!
Definitely learnt something new here which I didn’t recognise. I will just say though I’ve heard some fantastic reviews on the Yellowstone National park I’ve always wanted to go and would you say this is a place where you will find many wolves at a time.
I’ve never been to Yellowstone, either! We went to Brooks’ Falls in AK, also a National Park, and saw many many bears! The only wolf I’ve seen in the flesh was in our back yard! It gave me quite a scare. Thanks, Luke.
I had no idea what happened in Yellowstone! People tend to worry about the prey, not the predators. Thanks for writing about this.
I think endangered predators do garner attention but yes, you picked up on my point. The second a species is removed from the endangered list, they are often at risk once more. Thank you!
Hello sue this is a very enlightening article. Who would’ve thought we really need them? All I know that The Twilight and Vampire diaries will never be a hit without the wolves. Thanks for the very entertaining piece. I wish you have been my science teacher .
HA! What a good point. Where would Kristen Stuart and Robert Pattison be without Stephanie Meyer taking advantage of wolf mythology? Not to mention HBO and True Blood. Vampire Diaries, too! What a lovely compliment, thank you! I wish I’d been a science teacher too, though I’m not so sure parents would have liked my approach. …
I’m sure I will love science more and look forward this class. Nevertheless I’m happy to meet you here and let’s continue the science class with loads of entertainment. And more wolfy series to binge watch ahahaha.
HA Thank you! I am happy that you’re here. I love science and I love chatting. (I’m sure you noticed.) I must now admit that I haven’t watched Vampire Diaries. I’ll add it to my list!
Interesting post, thanks for sharing. I had no idea there were so many dog breeds!
It surprised me, too. Thank you!
I can appreciate that population culls can be beneficial, especially in regions where one species is too dominant and overpopulated the area. An animal finally being declared ‘not endangered’ doesn’t exactly sound like overpopulation, and I can’t believe people would be so desperate to kill wolves they’d exceed the quota so quickly. It’s disappointing reading, but I’m glad you shared this!
That’s why it upset me. Barely off the endangered species list, the rifles are sighted on wolves, and 72 hours later, the DNR had to shut down what they started. I’m glad you took the time to read my post. Thank you!
Wow, I knew some of this but definitely not most of it. Thank you for sharing this interesting information. I think preserving wildlife is so important and it pains me to see how much we are messing with the nature all of the time. It’s so sad that they allowed hunting when wolves were barely off the endangered species list. Where is the logic in that? Ugh. Thank you again for sharing!
I know we can make stats say whatever we want, but I agree, we mess too much with nature! You’re so welcome. I’m happy that you stopped by! Thank you.
This was such an interesting and truly learned a lot from it! I was shocked by what happened after the DNR but not surprised anymore about human nature. Thank you so much for sharing this!
This wolf hunt surprised me but I’m probably too trusting and naive. A little healthy skepticism –and cynicism– is far safer, imho! Thank you so much.
I’ve read only two of your posts so far and I have to admit I haven’t come across such a diverse blogger on Twitter. First poisons and now wolves… what topics! And I enjoyed reading and learning every word! Thanks for educating me on the two subjects! Also I’ve read on many animals whose presence is way too important of which we are completely oblivious about, so wolves cant be any different. Keep it up! <3
Isa A. Blogger
I’m not sure if diversity is a good thing for blogging? I love science so it’s tough for me to home in on a specific science discipline! Thank you so much, Isa!
This is such an interesting and indepth post. I’ve never thought about wolves in this way before but its reall opened my eyes to them.
I’m excited to hear that! Thank you.
Wow, I really was reading this post with a big interest! I love wolves and I find them very majestic animals and it was very interesting to read about them from a totally different angle! Thank you so much for this post! I really learned a few new things and I am very happy about that!
I’m happy that you learned a few new facts! I agree, wolves are majestic animals, which is why I wanted to write about them. (ha!) Thank you so much!
There are so many dog breeds! This was an interesting post. I love wolves, I think they’re terribly beautiful creatures. They definitely have their place in Fiction and Fantasy too!
I love wolves, too! They make complex antagonists in fiction and fantasy, without question. Thank you so much!
Wow this is amazing! Thank you for sharing this detailed post! It’s so interesting to find out more about wolves and why we need them! Wolves are great animals and they should be protected!
It’s a tricky business because people are naturally afraid of them, but they need our protection, just like cute birds or frogs. Fun fact: there have been no human wolf deaths on record in Wisconsin or Michigan. Thanks!
Such an interesting post and I barely knew any of it! Had no idea about them barely being off the endangered list before they were hunted again.
Tash – A Girl with a View
That’s exactly what set me off and my motivation for writing the post! I’m pumped that you found this interesting. Thanks!
I absolutely loved reading this! It’s so important to bring awareness to endangered animals, thank you for sharing all of this information! 🙂
I loved that you read my post! I agree, 100% about endangered animals. Thank you.
Really informative post. I learned a lot about wolves and dogs too. Thanks for sharing.
I’m gratified that you found my post informative. Thanks so much!
That’s so cool to hear! I love wolves and it’s so interesting learning about their history and relevance in nature and in stories as well.
I’m glad you found my post interesting. Thanks so much!
I really enjoyed reading this! I’m a big dog lover so it was nice read about wolves. Really like the slides you added like with the mythology. Great post!
I’m excited that you liked the mythology slides! I find the human psyche endlessly intriguing. As you can tell, I’m a bog dog lover too! Thanks so much!
This was super interesting to read, I’m a big dog lover, I even wrote a post about the importance of animals a few weeks ago (and talked about wolves a little bit). It’s really fascinating to learn more about them (I mean last year all I could have told you about wolves was what I learned in the vampire diaries or even twilight haha)…. I had no idea about all of this though, so thank you so much for raising awareness of it all 😀
I’ll need to check out your post about the importance of animals, since I am –obviously– in agreement. I’m so happy that you picked up a few facts from my post. You’re very welcome. And thank you so much!
Another brilliant post! I’ve been fascinated by wolves and their uses in fiction for a while and I loved how your post took us through the history of these majestic animals!
I find the use of wolves in fiction fascinating! I’m glad you do, too. Thanks so much!
This is such an interesting post. I didn’t know much about wolves before reading this post so thanks so much for sharing!
I’m gratified that you picked up a few facts. Thanks so much!
This was such an informative blog post with a lot of information about wolves I didn’t know about. Thank you for sharing.
Lauren – bournemouthgirl
I’m happy that you liked my post! Thank you for stopping by!