DEAR READERS: While some people debate the pros and cons of hunting and trapping wolves, others are seeking to remove them from federal protection. It is regrettable that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has, so far, taken no action to protect wolves under the Endangered Species Act from their relentless slaughter in Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
Understanding the nature of wolves may help us reach a societal consensus of unquestioned respect and continued protection for these creatures. The following is a list of wolf traits and behaviors, many of which are remarkably similar to those of humans. These are based on various in-field reports and on my own research of socialized wolves, including their behavior, development and communication.
Wolf traits and behaviors:
-- They cooperate to survive.
-- They care for their young.
-- Offspring learn obedience and allegiance.
-- The young have devoted parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles who nurture and educate them to be courageous but cautious, taking no unnecessary risks.
-- Cubs learn to navigate their environment through their senses: deciphering scents and interpreting sounds, sights and tracks.
-- They share food.
-- They groom each other, removing burrs from fur and giving healing licks to wounds.
-- They express their intentions and do not conceal emotions.
-- They show patience, curiosity, insight and foresight.
-- They care for the injured and find the lost.
-- They mourn.
-- They play together and sing in chorus, even harmonizing.
-- They reaffirm and celebrate their social and emotional bonds with extended family reunions, and also by howling across their domain.
-- Like our children, they play and roll in fresh snow and chase snowflakes.
-- They kill to live, not for sport.
-- They have amicable relationships with other species -- for example, foxes and ravens, who clean up their kills. Wolf cubs even play with ravens, who fly over the cubs with sticks, teasing them to jump and grab them.
We share many of these socio-biologically evolved qualities with wolves, and yet we kill them for sport, invade their territories and then justify their eradication. Unlike us, wolves naturally control their numbers and provide environmental services that sustain biological diversity and ecological health. But like us, they will war with, and kill, members of rival groups when resources and territory are limited.
Wolves suffer in ways that are familiar to us humans. They know hunger and starvation; they suffer hypothermia when afflicted by sarcoptic mange, which destroys their winter coats; they get physical injuries from hunting large prey; they suffer various infectious diseases, often transmitted by free-roaming and feral dogs.
Our biological kinship reverberates with the spiritual kinship our wolf-derived domesticated dogs bestow on us, which we have yet to fully reciprocate. We need to honor the wolf as an ancestral teacher of survival in our gatherer-hunter past. As Loren Eiseley famously observed, "One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection from an eye other than human."
Recognition of these similar attributes of wolves and humans is notable in several Indigenous traditions, such as the Shinto of Japan: A good wolf and a bad wolf are both acknowledged as part of human nature, present in every child, and embraced with understanding. This is also evident in Cherokee tradition in the story "Beyond the Conflict of Inner Forces," which addresses how best to treat these two wolves in our own nature. (To read it, visit awakin.org/v2/read/view.php?tid=927.)
After millennia of indifference, ignorance and neglect, we must recover our respect for wolves. In doing so, we will recover the best qualities and virtues of our humanity -- many of which are just as close to extinction as the wolves themselves.
DEAR DR. FOX: Has the person who wrote about wolves tearing apart deer and other prey ever seen a human eat a chicken leg or a rack of ribs? We are all omnivores; it is how we exist. Yes, some people choose not to eat animals, and they have their reasons, but eating animals is nature's way of controlling populations. -- L.B., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR L.B.: You are correct that predators help maintain the balance of nature. When the last wolves were exterminated in Scotland, the deer destroyed the forests in no time! But with a human population of 8 billion, there are too many of us to rely on meat and other animal-derived foods as dietary staples. This is a major contributing factor in the climate and extinction crises. (For more, see these articles on my website: drfoxonehealth.com/post/changing-diets-for-healths-and-earths-sake and drfoxonehealth.com/post/vegetarianism-an-ethical-imperative.)
If you like wolves, then at least don't eat beef!
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)