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View Diary: Morning Feature: DK GreenRoots - Wolves and Predators (143 comments)

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  •  Wolves are actually quite gentle and shy. (10+ / 0-)

    There's a reason we were able to develop canis domesticus: canis lupus is actually a gentle and shy creature that almost never harms human beings.  Where domestic dogs and wolves live together, the wolves - despite their larger size - are almost always the pack followers.  Yes, wolves will kill unattended livestock, but in the old days of animal husbandry - vs. today's animal factories - farmers and ranchers didn't leave their livestock unattended.

    The howl we're trained to find so spine-chilling is a sophisticated form of communication that wolves use both within and between packs.  Within a pack it's used for social bonding and for counting noses, as each wolf in a pack will howl in a harmony with the others already howling.  It seems wolves can tell if everyone in the pack is okay, simply by the blend of voices in the pack howl.  Between packs it's used to signal each other - "Hello?  Is this area off-limits?"  "Yes, we're here already!" - and avoid inter-pack conflicts.

    They're truly an amazing species, and the essential link in their ecosystem.

    Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

    •  Amazing! Sounds like you know a lot (7+ / 0-)

      about wolves. Are they as smart or smarter than domesticated dogs? Their communication system seems pretty sophisticated.

      •  Animal intelligence is hard to measure. (9+ / 0-)

        Most domesticated dogs would die if they had to survive in the wild.  In that sense, wolves are obviously more intelligent.  On the other hand, many wolves find it challenging to live with humans, as they haven't been bred to recognize and interpret our vocal and body language and thus sometimes just don't understand what they're being asked to do.  In that sense, domestic dogs are obviously more intelligent.  And different domestic dogs have been bred to excel at certain skills - retrieving, herding, etc. - that would be much harder to teach to wolves.

        Wolves are marvelously well-adapted to living as wolves, and they exhibit some social behaviors that are breathtaking.  Wolf packs have better "day care" than some human societies, for example.  It's not just the moms who raise the pups; the females (and some males) of a pack take turns looking after the pups while the rest are away.

        Even the so-called "omegas" in the pack - those who are last to feed, etc. - have pack roles (such as initiating playtime) for which they are respected and rewarded.  When higher-ranking wolves get too serious in a dominance struggle, the "omegas" are the ones who pounce in to start a game, breaking the tension before someone gets hurt.  When that happens, the senior pack members will usually offer the "omegas" a treat, as if to say "Hey thanks for the laughs; we were getting a bit heated there."

        Some of those same patterns exist in domesticated dogs, either as between dogs or as between dogs and their human packs.  Woofie the Elder usually steps in if the humans are upset here at Casa Crissie, to lick a hand in comfort, or even to separate Pootie the Precious from whatever trouble she's intent on (and she sometimes gets impish that way).  He once let her know, in no uncertain terms, that it was not acceptable to scratch Herself's legs because Herself was sitting in Pootie P's favorite chair.  He chased Pootie P out of the room and wouldn't let her back in for a good ten minutes, as if to say "No, you don't harm the hoomans."

        •  Grieving the death of a pack member... (8+ / 0-)

          When you mentioned the Omega, Crissie, I remembered a TV series about a wolf pack that was being prepared for return to the wild.  The Omega died in a battle with a mountain lion.

          The pack grieved for nearly a month.  All play stopped.  Howling sessions became more common as the wolves came together and simply sang for hours, as if trying to call back the Omega...although they clearly knew the Omega was dead.  Even hunting activities lessened.

          It was sad to behold.

          "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

          by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 05:45:28 AM PDT

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        •  Thanks for the great diary, Crissie. Wolves have (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Orinoco, DBunn, winterbanyan, NCrissieB

          been close to my heart all my life, starting with The Jungle Books as a kid and on through Never Cry Wolf and all the discovery that came after. They have been too much maligned by ignorance and hubris on our part. They're a fascinating, essential part of the natural world.

          Good morning! :::Huuugggsss:::

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

          by FarWestGirl on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 06:46:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Wolves have a type of intelligence that's (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Orinoco, winterbanyan, NCrissieB, kktlaw

        surprising to people not accustomed to it. They tend to 'think things through' more than dogs do and figure out many ways around obstacals, which makes working with and containing them challenging for those who do so. They are social in different ways than we expect and many have a very interesting sense of humor. Also a surprise for many who work with them!

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 06:39:57 AM PDT

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        •  "Wolves think things through" (5+ / 0-)

          From the Department of Stuff I Heard or Read Somewhere: Some expert was claiming that humans living in the wild (hunter-gatherers) have a better developed sense of smell, and canines living in the wild (i.e. wolves) have better problem-solving and strategizing skills, than do civilized humans or domesticated dogs, respectively.

          His suggestion was that in the symbiotic development of dogs and humans living together, a sort of division of labor has emerged, with the dogs doing the olfactory work, and humans doing the strategic thinking and decision-making.

          I have no idea how to test this proposition, but it's interesting to think about. If it's true at all, I wonder if the phenomenon is strictly cultural and/or experiential, or if occurs at the level of genetic evolution to some degree.

          •  It's becoming clear (5+ / 0-)

            that brain development in humans is somewhat of a use it or lose it proposition. Perhaps the same is true of domesticated dogs, not having to do much problem solving or strategizing, they simply don't develop those skills.

            "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government is incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

            by Orinoco on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 08:16:11 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  True, but use it or lose it doesn't just apply (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Orinoco, NCrissieB

              in individuals, capacities and traits can be either conserved or selected against in bloodlines, too. Capacities present can be developed or left fallow, but trying to teach something that just lacks capacity is tough. Try teaching a dog with no setter or pointer blood to freeze in place and lift a paw when they notice a certain scent. Not impossible, but much easier to start with those who inherited the instinct.

              Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

              by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:05:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  A bit oversimplified. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DBunn, winterbanyan, FarWestGirl

            Wolves are better at the sorts of problem-solving they need for living in the wild.  Domesticated dogs are better at the sorts of problem-solving they need for living with humans.  Each struggles in the others' environment, which is probably why wolves who live with humans usually follow the family dogs' leads despite the wolves' size and strength.  I've not seen any studies on it, and don't know to what extent it's happened, but I'd guess that dogs who fell in with wild wolf packs - and if they were accepted as pack members - would follow the wolves' leads in the wild.

            It's a bit oversimplified to conclude that wolves are better problem-solvers than domesticated dogs.  I think it's better to say each solves different sets of problems.

            •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NCrissieB

              In my comment, I left open the matter of whether the posited changes in the capabilities of dogs, resulting from their symbiotic association with humans, is a matter of essence (genetic evolution) or simply of the culture of human/canine "packs" and/or the individual life experience of each domestic dog. And of course, we could still question whether the posited changes are real at all, in a generalizable way.

              This type of ambiguity is a common feature of items submitted by the Department of Stuff I Heard or Read Somewhere :)

              It would be interesting to compare the individual and social behavior of wild dogs with that of wild wolves...

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