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wolf

So many animal species in the world, where some are dangerous and some are not. But what comes to your mind when you think about a wolf? Are they dangerous? Wolves are misunderstood on their actual behavior and it is considered as the most fearsome natural villains of the animal world. The fairy tales and ancient folklores have portrayed wolves with a negative image, but why? Is a wolf really dangerous? Are the human fears of wolves is justified? Let’s see the actual facts behind the wolf species and the story of how humans realized the importance of their survival in the world. 

The gray wolf

Wolves are mammals and scientifically known as Canis Lupus. They weigh about 40 to 174 pounds and have a lifespan of 6 to 8 years. They look like large german shepherd dogs with long bushy tails in colors ranging from mixed gray and brown to black. They are the largest members of the dog’s family and gray wolves are the most common that are found almost all over the northern hemisphere. The dogs are directly descendent of gray wolves, simply dogs are actually domesticated wolves. And wolves are said to be large predators. 

The relationship between a wolf and human

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Wolves and humans have a long history of conflicts and oppositions. Ancient people in the middle age had fear of wolves and this fear was named ‘Lupophobia’. People are afraid of them and so Germany and other countries wiped out the wolves so that people don’t have to deal with those animal species. But are they really a threat to humans? It’s not.

They have created a false image that the wolves are aggressive and attack humans, and the truth is that wolves almost never attack humans and so they are not dangerous to human beings. From the wolf’s point of view, humans are not their prey, because they are equal to humans but a difficult partner with whom they can’t share their space and can be unpredictable. 

They don’t run as soon as they see people, but wolves are respectful and they are individuals more like humans than any other animal species. They will handle situations depending on their age and experience.

During the stone age, when people were nomadic hunters, wolves and humans helped each other to get food, where wolves led the humans to the source of huntable games and humans left plenty of food leftovers to wolves. But when humans became more civilized and less dependent on wild nature, their perception of this species changed. 

A tame wolf is strictly a one-man dog and it trusts and plays with the man who raised it and even with the whole family if fed and cared for, but it gets suspicious and timid when there is a presence of a stranger. 

The wolves are organized

They are the most highly social animals among any other carnivores and live in packs with close blood ties. They exist in their hierarchical order with high to low ranking members and everyone knows their place in that order. 

There will be a male leader,  known as the alpha male, and a female wolf leader who lead the packs and are known as the breeding pairs, where they are the only two wolves who mate each other and produce their pups. They are an extended family with siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and offspring. The leaders lead when hunting and they eat their prey first once after they are killed.

The pups are born and the entire pack raises the pups, which are deaf, blind, and have little or no sense of smell, also they can’t regulate their body heat. So the female wolf dig dens for the pups. There will be an omega wolf, the lowest ranking member which lives in the outskirts of the pack and serves as a stress buster and instigator. 

Living in packs helps them to be coordinated and collaborative while defending the territory. Moreover, it helps to form many unique emotional bonds between the members. 

Their intelligence

They collaborate, communicate and share knowledge across generations, where the older wolves the most experienced hunters share their techniques and hunting strategies with their younger wolves passing down from one generation to the other. They change their hunting strategies based on their prey behavior, terrain, and weather. When running into a herd of prey, they test continuously on the animals and make decisions on which animal they eventually will kill. They look for weakness, they smell or they scatter the herd to kill their prey. 

How wolves saved Yellowstone national park?

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The world-famous Yellow stone National park was in America was created in 1872, and at that time the wolf population was already in decline. And there was no protection provided to wolves as they were the top predators and so the government predator control programs essentially helped to eliminate the gray wolf from Yellowstone. And the last wolf was killed in the year 1926. 

And then things started getting worse. The ecosystem and the physical geography started getting affected. The bears and coyotes were not able to kill the elk and deers as the wolves did, so the elk and the deer population increased rapidly, and they devastated the young and willow trees by eating too much. When those trees were destroyed, the birds, beaver, and the fish that lived in the beaver ponds left the park. The beaver dams broke and water started flowing too fast soaking up in the surrounding places and the land converted to grasslands and dry shrublands and the park became a barren wasteland. The place existed 70 years without the wolves.

And then they decided to reintroduce the wolves back in 1995, and that’s when the forest started to get reshaped. Although the wolves killed the elk and deers, it changed their behavior, where the elk and deers don’t stay at one place and eat the trees and grass, and in the fear of wolves, they use to move around from one place to another. As a result, the trees and grass valleys regenerated and they grew to as 5 times their previous height in only six years. The birds started getting a place in the trees to live and the bears got berries to eat and were healthier to kill the elk. 

The beaver population flourished due to the trees and vegetations and their dam-building habits provided water for habitats like ducks, amphibians, fish, and otters.  The coyotes were killed by wolves for prey so that the rabbits and mice population increased creating a larger food source for foxes, badgers, weasels, and hawks. The soil erosion caused variation in the path of the river, and more vegetation grew near the rivers and stabilized the river banks. 

And this is how the wolf changed the physical geography of the yellow stone national park. 

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