Howling for Wolves


The gray wolf or canis lupus, also called the timber wolf, is considered a pure wolf as distinct from wolf-coyote hybrids or canis latrans. Wolves are pack animals that live in small groupings formed mostly by family members. The alpha male and alpha female are the only members to have pups and the entire pack raises the pups. Occasionally, a second female will have a litter "with permission" of the alpha female. More than half of newborn wolf pups will die by 6 months of age.

If a litter of pups is orphaned by its pack due to their death, then another pack will raise them. Wolves do not kill wolf pups; they adopt them. The pack size is dependent on the amount of food available to them and the size of their territory. Wolves control their own numbers in that they protect their territories and will kill non-pack members that threaten the pack or move into their territory. This means that when wolf numbers increase beyond what their habitat is able to support, the population is maintained by an increase in wolf-on-wolf kills. As hunters, wolves select the least productive animal of a group, the very young and very old or sick. The lead hunter (usually alphas) selects the animal and starts the pursuit; the remaining pack piles on until it is brought down. Once an animal is selected and the chase ensues, the pack does not aiver or move to a different animal. If they are unsuccessful, the pursuit stops.




We should be making every effort to stop wolf trapping and hunting in Minnesota because wolves are worth much more to all of us alive. The Minnesota DNR states in their own Wolf Management Plan that “Wolves in Minnesota are a keystone ecotourism species, drawing tourists from around the world to come to view wolf tracks, scats, and kill sites, and to hear wild wolves howl.” According to the Minnesota DNR website, wildlife viewing is a 400 million dollar per year industry in Minnesota and wildlife enthusiasts outnumber hunters 4:1.

A healthy wolf population is essential to maintaining habitat for all wildlife in the forest ecosystem, and keeping important vegetation along rivers and streams healthy by controlling the movement of animals like deer and elk. Along rivers and streams, ungulates such as deer and elk do not graze as long due to the presence of wolves. This "ecology of fear" improves the health of the water systems in the forests and meadows. A healthy wolf population also supports a healthy deer population as wolves help limit the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and new evidence shows they help control Lyme Disease. Wolves are like us in many ways that we should be able to appreciate. Like us, wolves are social creatures that form tight family units and display great affection for their family members.

Wolves are the closest genetic link to modern dogs, without which our society would be vastly different and deficient in many ways. Dogs perform many service roles in our society from guide dogs to therapy dogs to law enforcement to personal protection. Though many breeds have been substantially altered cosmetically, the dog is still just the wolf in the living room. Thankfully, society would not tolerate the hunting and trapping of dogs for sport, but wolves need strong advocates to preserve their existence.



In the event you are not familiar with wolf trapping, below is a brief overview of what it looks like. Please be warned that you may find this information very disturbing. First, a trapper will be legally allowed to set a baited metal snare or leg hold trap to capture the wolf. Once captured, the wolf may wait in agony in a painful leg trap for a prolonged period, up to 24 hours, until the trapper returns. During this time, the wolf is subjected to severe pain and prolonged mental distress and sometimes a wolf will chew its own leg off in a desperate attempt to escape. This is a well known phenomenon called “ring-off”, and the wolf, after experiencing this trauma, will die as a result. When the trapper does finally return to check the trap, they will kill the wolf by strangulation or blunt force trauma (stomping it to death) in order to preserve the fur, which may be sold on the open market for as little as $100.

Trapping is a barbaric practice and would be considered criminal animal cruelty in any other context. Animal cruelty has long been recognized as a behavior trait of individuals that commit other violent acts such as child abuse. Legally protecting this type of behavior to gain pelts, claws, and skulls unnecessarily risks desensitizing young people to the animals’ pain, and sends the wrong message about the humane treatment of animals. In addition to the wolves that will be trapped and killed, trapping is known to typically claim the lives of 2-3 other species for each species actually targeted with the trap. This is because the trapper just sets their trap and leaves and any animal unlucky enough to come across it will lose its life since the trap doesn’t know the difference.