Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Phillip Elden Discusses Wolf Biology and Identification

Phillip Elden
The wolf population has begun to bounce back in Oregon after being nearly eradicated in the 1990s. In this brief but informative commentary, animal rights advocate and conservationist Phillip Elden clarifies misinformation regarding wolves.

Q: Are all wolves gray?

Phillip Elden: Actually, only about half of the population of wolves develop fur in the grey family. It is not uncommon for wolves to be black, white, tawny, or even a combination of these colors. Pups are born with black spots on their tails which fade with age.

Q: Is it true that wolves remain in the same area year after year?

Phillip Elden: Wolves are territorial creatures and will typically only migrate long distances when there is no food available. However, researchers have found that wolf packs actually change their territory size and boundaries as necessary to ensure ample food supplies (deer, elk, and other mammals), reduce tension with other packs, and maintain a steady disbursement of pack members.

Q: Do wolves look like domestic dogs?

Phillip Elden: Their similarities with certain breeds such as the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, and even large German Shepherds are undeniable. But, wolves are much larger with longer legs, a straight tail, and wider head. Wolf tracks are distinguishable by their size (wolf tracks are about 4 inches in diameter) and wolf scat is identified by evidence of animal fur and bone.

Q: Are howling wolves aggressive?

Phillip Elden: Wolves howl to communicate with members of their pack. It is a common behavior and not necessarily aggressive. A wolf’s howl can travel long distances, meaning a den may be anywhere with a 5 mile radius, so it’s best to stay away when hearing the drawn-out howls indicative of wolves. Wolf howls are much longer and less “yappy” sounding than those of coyotes.