‘I open the gate to the compound. I feel excited as I know what is about to happen. Suddenly from the distance I see several furry bodies charging feverishly towards me, will they attack? Will they kill me? NO! They LICK ME TO DEATH!!!! DEATH by licks and chews and nibbles. Bliss! I can’t stop laughing. A tongue pops itself in my ear, while another breathy snout snorts into the material of my clothing. Ticklish, feverish, crazy, passionate and so, so fun!!!!’
Sounds like a dog’s greeting doesn’t it? And you would be right in saying that, as wolves are relatives of the dog and dog are ancestors of an extinct line of wolves related to today’s wolves! The domestic dog is an extremely close relative of the gray wolf, differing from it by at most 0.2% of mtDNA sequence. Some scientists suggest only 11,000 – 16,000 years between their evolution into the domestic ‘rugs’ we have now lying on our floor by our TV. These ‘house’ wolves we adore, we love, we can’t get enough of them, we would give our lives for them….. So why does man have such a hatred for their wilder family member?
I have worked with wolves for many years now and it still boils my blood everytime I read another outdated book on how aggressive and dangerous wolves are.
The Little Red Rising Hood fairy-tale still puts fear into children.
‘Oh what big ears you have grandma!’
‘All the better to hear you with’
‘Oh what big eyes you have’
‘All the better to see you with’
‘And oh what big TEETH you have’.
‘All the better to EAT you with!’
The other day I even found a compulsory Kipper & Chip school book where it showed wolves running out of a forest with burning red eyes chasing the main character. My clever eight year old son looked at me confused and asked why these wolves had red eyes and were drawn to look so mean.
Wolves are often depicted in stories and folklore as sly, dangerous, cunning, wanting to eat small children, preying on their victims, and stalking people out of desperate hunger. We have werewolves – images of fear and nightmares. The film ‘The Grey’ starring Liam Neeson was created by some ‘clutz’ who saw fit to make a film to feed the ignorance of the masses and help to increase the amount of people desperate to kill as many wolves as possible in order to keep us all safe! Do you think he was a shooting partner of Sarah Palin?
The last British wolf was sadly killed in Scotland in 1743 according to certain records. In the USA grey wolves are hunted regularly and also all across Europe. Russia does not protect them at all. They are snared, shot on foot and by helicopter, poisoned, trapped and baited with dogs. In Sweden there are around 270 wolves and in Norway who shares a border with Sweden only 30. When the poor unfortunate creatures cross the boundary, Norway makes sure to enforce a cull to keep its numbers to a neat 30. Wolves surprisingly also span out over Asia and there is also the Ethiopian wolf population which is currently protected by charity Born Free. These poor wolves are precariously dangling on the edge of total extinction at around 300 left in existence due to rabies and habitat destruction.
When I speak to people who have not met a wolf, the general comments follow the same pattern and often include phrases such as ‘scary, dangerous, strong, powerful, predatory, man eating, biting, hunting, stalking, killing’. One friend of mine was horrified to think I had gone anywhere near a wolf and immediately said ‘Oh Anneka, you might have been eaten!’
I have worked very closely with pure blood wolves over the last ten years and also alongside high content wolf dogs and after meeting them, certain phrases come to MY mind such as ‘elusive, timid, gentle, affectionate, basic, energetic, raw, family-orientated, respectful, dependable, loving, devoted’. I cant’ get enough of working alongside wolves. So gentle and loving to their families, so utterly devoted. Wolves raised in captivity show an incredible allegiance to their carers and act very similar to large athletic breeds of dog, but always with one eye on their fellow pack mates at all times. Wolves do enjoy people they recognise and are familiar with, but are still first and foremost interested in their own kind and this independence shows why wolves are meant to be in the wild and NOT in captivity or in people’s houses. I spent a day at a well known UK Zoo as I was asked to film conservation with large cats. I was not keen to go as I do not approve of animals in captivity and my affirmations were correct when the zoo handlers gave me a massive stick when I went into the wolf enclosure and told me to use it on the wolves if they came near me. I was appalled and very clearly voiced that I would NOT be using a stick on captive wolves as there was no need for this.
There has never been a confirmed killing of a human by a sane wolf in good health. If there has ever been reports in the past, it has usually turned out to be other animals, such as wild cats or rabid dogs. When explorers sign up to go on a wolf trek wanting to get up close and personal with wolves, they will most certainly be disappointed, as you will be lucky to SEE a wolf let alone have one ‘tearing your tent down’ and devouring you in the night. Wolves are intensely afraid of people and try their best to stay as far out of our reach as much as possible. If they are not trapped, they are not dangerous and will try to put as much space between themselves and us, however a cornered or netted wolf will most certainly defend itself naturally.
The wolves I have met during my experiences have only played with me, rolled around with. I have had them lick my face, steal items out of my pockets, nuzzle every inch of my body and jump up on me with an energetic and childish boisterousness and curiosity. Many people cannot stop laughing when they greet a tame wolf as wolves love to sniff hard every crevice of the human body, chew clothing, nibble chins and breathe heavily into ear holes. Wolves don’t generally bite unprovoked like dogs, but will pull clothing if they smell food or a person is wearing a heavy scent. Wild wolves, on the other hand, won’t even come within visual distance of you, so you would be so lucky to have such an experience which makes books and films depicting hungry violent night time attacks on humans by wolves so totally and utterly incorrect and misleading. I can see why ill educated people take shot guns out and mow them down when all our literature is suggesting that wolves are crazed confident and angry monsters who love to hunt us down and eat us.
I adore the wildness and the natural freedom of spirit of the wolf so much that I do have several wolfdogs living with me at home. This is because I have a love of a natural ‘dog’ and feel that the modern day breeds have been distorted and manipulated by man into sometimes disgusting parodies of what they should be. Many pedigree dogs die early due to the gene which has been bred into them by man to make them appear oversized such as The Great Dane, but is in fact killing them slowly from inside by enlarging their organs so they die around six. Some breeds are bred to be extremely tiny, however somewhere along the line temperament is sometimes forgotten on these ‘mini-wolves’ creating small and snappy beings which sign their death warrants by hanging off the noses of larger dogs with their teeth! Believe you me, I have experienced many Pomeranians and Chihuahuas thinking they stand a chance against a 40k dog and ultimately if the larger dog retaliates, he’s the one who is going to get the blame. Many dogs are unable to breath due to many years creating a snub squashed noses which is considered ‘cute’ by man. How would we like it if we walked around all day not being to breath through our noses properly, causing illnesses which can feel like slow suffocation? Some breeds have skeletal deformities causing their hips to sit 6 inches lower than their shoulders, such as show standard German Shepherds, which end up being euthanized early due to a gradual paralysis which prevents them from using their rear legs. Cute dogs with ‘floppy ears’ generate ear infections and bald dogs sit shivering all winter long, as we think its cuter to breed them to be naked and then stick them in a knitted jumper with their name on!
This is also why I am fascinated by stray dogs which I rescue from abroad, as I can see that after a while, nature tries to return the dogs back to a natural appearance. The predominant colour ends up merging into a brown agouti, their ears start to stand up again, the instincts return to the dog for self sufficiency and the health increases due to lack of inbreeding. Give them a few hundred years and they may even start to look like wolves again.
My dream would be a world where people would stop buying into stories such as Red Riding Hood and the Wolf and started to think on their own for once. People should read up on the wolf and perhaps go and meet some in the flesh. There are some great sanctuaries in the UK such as the Reading Wolf Conservation Trust, however I would avoid zoos, as the wolves are kept in cramped disgusting conditions and are regularly culled to reduce numbers. Yellowstone Park in the USA is another wonderful place to watch them running free for more confident wolves in the wild that are semi used to seeing man.
The film below is an extract from one of my wolf experiences – you can see how affectionate wolves can be, but also how independent – one eye on their surroundings while they interact.
For more information on how you can help wolves please visit these websites:
David Mech – leading expert in Wolves and the Truth: http://www.davemech.org/
Born Free (The Ethiopian Wolf) http://www.bornfree.org.uk/animals/ethiopian-wolves/
The Wolf Conservation Trust: https://ukwct.org.uk/
Yellowstone Park http://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/wolves.htm
Wolf Conservation Centre: http://www.nywolf.org/