Grey wolf - Why hated and loved?

Picture of a wolf.

Why hated and loved?

The story of Little Red Riding Hood tells of a wolf threatening to eat a little girl.

This has given people the notion that wolves attack people.

Whatever the perception, emotions inspired by the word “wolf” have always run deep.

It has been the focus of misunderstanding, bias, and fear. Some people despise the wolf because it is a predator.

Wolves have been a constant irritation to farmers and ranchers by preying on sheep, cattle, and other livestock.

Legends and folklore have contributed to its bad reputation.

Who has not heard the expressions “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and “to keep the wolf from the door”?

Fables picture it as “The Big Bad Wolf.”

However, scientists and biologists view wolves another way.

They regard them as extremely shy animals who try to avoid humans as much as possible.

In fact, according to an article appearing in GEO magazine, wolves actually fear man.

Despite wolves’ fierce appearance, there seems to be no basis for the belief that healthy, wild wolves of North America are a danger to man.

Biologist Paul Paquet, who has done extensive wolf research, admits to having a love for these wild animals since his childhood.

He has recorded some of his observations. He claims he has often seen wolves expressing happiness, loneliness, and humor.

Once he observed an old, crippled wolf that could no longer hunt who was being brought food by other pack members.

Even though the wolf had outlived its usefulness, the pack still valued its life and was keeping it alive.

This characteristic of pack hunting, however, has threatened their very existence.

Wolves pack

Picture of wolves.

Hunting in packs is merely how wolves satisfy their hunger and feed their pups.

It must be recognized, though, that the killing of sheep and cattle by wolves is an annoying problem for farmers.

As a predator with excellent vision, a keen sense of smell, fine hearing, and an incredibly powerful bite—as well as being suited for running and trotting—the wolf is well equipped for the hunt.

It is also an opportunist. It would be foolish to think this crafty animal would turn down any easily available prey it can catch or snatch—especially large, fat sheep and cattle.

It might be said that wolves unwittingly “benefit” their prey in the wild by culling out the easier kill, the unhealthy and the weak, thus leaving more food for the healthy ones.

Wolf howling

Picture of a wolf howling.

What about that eerie howling that can be heard for miles and that strikes fear in the listener?

To the wolf this is simply a social activity of the pack—a form of communication.

A wolf who has become separated during a hunt may climb a ridge and howl to attract other members of the pack.

Or howling may be used to define its territory. Sometimes wolves seem to howl just to express happiness.

When a pack get together to howl, you would almost think they were enjoying a sing-along.

To us it might sound better if they were to sing in unison, but they appear to prefer chords.

Of course they have other means of communication as well.

There are what have been described as the whimper, the growl, the bark, the social squeak, and the yipping of the pups in the den.

Communication by posture is also used to establish social status and bonding among the pack.

A cute animal

A cute wolf.

Look closely at this cute animal.

Observe its thick coat of predominantly grey hair (some are jet black), with intermingled white, black, and brown hairs. Focus on the stare of its penetrating clear yellow eyes.

Examine its facial markings. All of these make the wolf a magnificent animal to behold.

Concerns, however, are being voiced about its future.

Is there reason for concern?

Well, what was once common across much of Europe, Asia, and North America—the sighting of a wolf—is now rare in Canada, Alaska, and less-populated regions of the United States, Europe, and Russia.

People are saying they must make room for some wolves in selected wild areas.

Since humans have learned to live with predators such as eagles, bears, and mountain lions, there are those who are asking, “Why not likewise live with wolves?”

Two gray wolves fighting fiercely

The number of people supporting the recovery of an animal that has lived on the edge of human tolerance for so long indicates a decided shift in attitude.

The book The Wolf—The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species states:

"There is still time left to rescue the species from its plight. Whether or not this is done depends on man’s knowledge of the ecology and behavior of the wolf, his continued research into the ways of the wolf, and his learning to think of the wolf not as a competitor but as a fellow animal with which the earth must be shared.”