I admit I recoiled at first. Then I shook my head calmly, and fought down the urge to charge to the defense of all wolves everywhere. "No," I said, "quite the contrary. Wolves pretty much leave us alone. Actually they're more afraid of us than we are of them."
His response? "Really? I always thought wolves were vicious. But I guess you know more about them than I do."
The conversation went on to other things soon after, but the quick exchange stayed with me a while longer.
Is that the only difference? I know better? Makes one think a bit.
The wolf has enjoyed a rather varied history and place within our lore. While the bad side seems to be the loudest, there are plenty of stories and legends where they're anything but vicious. Some of them are real stories. In many ways, I've come to think dolphins and wolves have more in common than we thought. Something I find ironic since I really like dolphins too. Guess I'm drawn to both animals for similar reasons.
"Wait a minute. Dolphins are gentle creatures that have saved people several times."
So have wolves. It's true! I've read and heard stories of people collapsing from the cold, and when they wake up, they find themselves covered by wolves. They were providing warmth to them, without a fang to be seen.
"Dolphins don't attack people."
Actually, they have. It's far more rare, I'll grant you that, but dolphins are still wild animals. They have harmed humans before.
But let's get back to wolves here. Wolf attacks are quite rare. While it's true they are predators (so are dolphins by the way), there's a lot more there that we don't see.
Within my research, I've found wolves are revered for their family ties. It's not just mom and dad that care for the pups, everyone pitches in. They all hunt for and protect the young. The pack hunts together as a single unit. When the hunt is over, wolves will often gather at a central meeting place. I've found a number of researchers talking about the unique things that go on there.
For example, one researcher noted the alpha female will actually do practice hunts with the pack. To the point of being taken down like prey so that, when going for a real kill, it's like a Special Forces squad attacking the target.
"Okay, what about the omega? He's not exactly treated well."
Goes with the job. As omega, the lowest wolf is also the defuser, the peacemaker. He (or she) is tasked with easing tensions with-in the pack. But for those of you with families, you know the hazards of getting between two brothers intent on combat. You might also look at it this way: all the frustration and pent-up energy is taken out on one wolf, so it doesn't harm the pack. So in many ways, he's got the biggest job, and the biggest sacrifice. We might want to think twice before dismissing him.
According to my research, if the hunting is good enough, he gets a reward too. In large packs where game in abundant, I've found notes of an omega pair breeding as well.
"All right, fine. But they're still a threat."
To live stock they are, sure. All they see is prey. I don't mean that to lessen the hit to ranchers, because a single cow is a BIG hit to them. But they aren't vicious. They're predators. They're wild animals. Any wild animal is dangerous if not respected. Even Bambi could kill a man if not treated right. Wolf attacks are more often spurred by intrusion, or by a pack that's starving, or by people who don't know enough about wolves. This is where the danger is greatest for kids. They see a wolf and think "big dog! Can I pet it?"
Wolves are far deeper than we know. Deeper than I know, and I spent months digging up all the info I could about them.
Want to know more? Ask! Have a differing opinion? Share it! I'm not so proud to say I know everything, or that I'm right on everything. I mean, I found a couple of places that said wolves don't mate for life. We all know that's not true.
Though then again, there is the Casanova wolf, who has been known to mate with a female in the hopes of getting his pups cared for by the pack. Bit risky though, since getting caught can be rather dangerous. More trespassing on the pack's territory, only the alpha is allowed to mate. Either could get the Casanova wolf injured if caught by the alpha pair.
And that's the beginning of wolves. There's so much more left to learn. We need only open our eyes and see it.