|Do you see the wolf in this picture?|
The other thing this place does is teach people about wolves. See, in a way wolves are kind of like pitbulls, because they have a really bad reputation that they don't really deserve.
Mama learned a lot of sad things about wolves. Before Europeans came to America, 250,000 wolves lived on this continent, and had been here for millions of years. They coexisted with the Native Americans. But when Europeans came here and started farming, they didn't like the wolves that started coming around to eat their livestock. They started killing as many wolves as they could. In fact, there were people whose entire living was based around killing wolves. They got paid by the government for every wolf hide they brought in. Some of the ways people killed wolves included feeding them carcasses laced with poison or glass, clubbing them, and gassing their dens or setting dens on fire with wolf pups inside. Another method was to trap one wolf and infest it with mange, and then release it in hopes that the mange would spread to other wolves. Mange is terribly itchy, and the wolves would go crazy scratching themselves. They'd literally scratch themselves bloody and lose all of their fur. When winter came, the wolves would freeze to death.
By 1918, about 465,730 wolves had been killed.
The mass killing of wolves kept on going. By 1970's, there were only a few hundred wolves left in the United States. And even though they were one of the first animals to be added to the Endangered Animals list, many states continued to offer a bounty on wolf hides or to encourage people to kill them... and they still do this today.
Mama learned something else very interesting about wolves. They are very important to our ecosystem. It makes Mama sad to think about wolves killing other animals, like deer and elk, because we all hate to hear about animals dying. But then Mama learned that, when wolves were brought back to Yellowstone National Park, the grass, plants, and even rivers started returning to the way they used to be. See, wolves hunt a lot of animals that eat grass and plants. If nothing is hunting these animals, there starts to be so many of them, that there is not enough grass and plants to support them. Soon there is not much grass or plants left. Grass near rivers helps to prevent erosion, so when the grass is gone, even the course of the rivers change. Plus, with the elks and deer eating all of the grass and plants, there is not enough left to feed other animals to eat and to live in.
Also, when wolves kill large animals like deer, other animals such as foxes, coyotes, and eagles, which cannot take down large animals on their own, get to feast on the leftovers. So when a wolf kills an animal, it is actually feeding the entire forest.
But at Yellowstone, where wolves have been brought back, locals still don't want them around. Not only do they worry about wolves getting their livestock, they also worry about wolves killing too many deer and elk. Not because the people care about the deer and elk and want them to be safe... but because they, themselves, want to shoot the deer and elk as trophies! People still shoot and kill wolves. In fact, even if a wolf is wearing a radio collar, which is used by scientists to track their movement and to learn more about them, people will shoot the wolf on sight, and then just get rid of the collar.
There used to be a very popular alpha female wolf that lived in Yellowstone with her pack. She was a beautiful wolf who seemed very intelligent. She actually had "fans," people who would come to Yellowstone to wolf watch, in hopes of catching a glimpse of her. Researchers studying wolves in the park had seen her start out as a pup, grow up, and raise pups of her own. She was known for being quick, strong, and decisive, and very protective of her pups.
In 2012, this wolf wandered out of Yellowstone, and was quickly shot and killed by a hunter. Her partner (wolves generally mate for life and raise their pups together) had been shot and killed earlier that year.
When Mama learned all of this, she had some mixed feelings. On one hand, she is scared of wolves just like many people are. Even though she knows that wolves rarely attack humans, she also knows that they do, obviously, attack other animals. Mama is afraid of coyotes for the same reason. She's afraid they'll attack us dogs... especially tiny Lily! And Mama feels sad for the animals that are killed by wolves.
On the other hand, our Mama was interested in everything she learned about wolves taking care of nature. She was interested in learning about how wolves stay together in families, including aunts and older siblings who help to take care of the pups. And she was upset about how many people wanted to kill wolves, in as painful of ways as possible.
At any rate, Mama is glad she got to go and meet the wolves and learn all about them! When she came home she told us that we are actually related to wolves. Can you believe that?
What do you think? Are you afraid of wolves? Can you teach us anything else about them? Let us know in the comments!
from Trixie and Lily