HT: Karen L. Myers.
Holly Root-Gutteridge studies wolf dialects.
After hundreds of hours listening to thousands of wolves for my PhD, the difference between howls was obvious. The voice of a Russian wolf was nothing like that of a Canadian, and a jackal was so utterly different again that it was like listening to Farsi and French. I believed that there must be geographic and subspecies distinctions. Other researchers had made this proposition before, but no one had put together a large enough collection of howls to test it properly. …
Studies since the 1960s have shown that the howls that have haunted our dreams for centuries can tell us a lot about the particular wolf vocalising. Like humans, each wolf has its own voice. Each pack also shares howl similarities, making different families sound distinct from each other (wolves respond more favourably to familiar howls). This much we knew. What we didnâ€™t know was whether the differences seen between packs were true of subspecies or of species, and if an Indian wolf howl would be distinct from a Canadian one.
More questions follow. If howls from different subspecies are different, do the howls convey the same message? Is there a shared culture of howl-meanings, where an aggressive howl from a European wolf means the same thing as an aggressive howl of a Himalayan? And can a coyote differentiate between a red wolf howling with aggressive intent and one advertising the desire to mate? Even without grammar or syntax, howls can convey intent, and if the shape of the howl changes enough while the intent remains constant, the foundations of distinctive culture can begin to appear. … Our canine voice collection represented was one of the most comprehensive ever.
We compared howls across 13 different subspecies and species of coyotes, dogs, wolves and jackals (collectively known as canids).
We then stretched all the howls to the same length, using a process called dynamic time warping, to compare the changes in the tune without including the tempo it was played at. We found that each species had its own favourite howl shape, a preferred set of changes to their howls to raise and drop the pitch, but that they also used howl shapes preferred by other species, and varied the shapes as they pleased. The species were like music bands with preferred styles of playing, whether riff-filled like jazz or the pure tones of classical, but were flexible in what they actually played at any given time. So while they had a favourite style, the tune itself varied.
Like musicians, the wolves were influenced by their forebears in the genre, and species shared traits with other canids that were closer to them geographically and genetically. An Eastern grey wolf, recorded in the US, sounded more like a North Carolinian red wolf than a European wolf, and an African jackal sounded quite different again. Small and delicate compared with their cousins the European wolves, golden jackals have high, rising howls, running up and down the scales in bravura performances of control and speed, but with less variation in overall shape, whereas the European wolves used a slower style of deep and steady long notes ending in falls that seem to drift away into the night. New Guinea singing dogs earned their names with a large vocal repertoire and a wide selection of howl shapes. While sometimes the different species achieved crossovers to other shapes, most had a style that dominated their repertoires.
Read the whole thing.
The Beast of GÃ©vaudan [was] the man-eating gray wolf, dog or wolfdog which terrorised the former province of GÃ©vaudan (modern-day dÃ©partement of LozÃ¨re and part of Haute-Loire), in the Margeride Mountains in south-central France between 1764 and 1767. The attacks, which covered an area stretching 90 by 80 kilometres (56 by 50 mi), were said to have been committed by a beast or beasts that had formidable teeth and immense tails according to contemporary eyewitnesses.
Victims were often killed by having their throats torn out. The Kingdom of France used a considerable amount of manpower and money to hunt the animals; including the resources of several nobles, soldiers, civilians, and a number of royal huntsmen.
The number of victims differs according to sources. In 1987, one study estimated there had been 210 attacks; resulting in 113 deaths and 49 injuries; 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten. However, other sources claim it killed between 60 to 100 adults and children, as well as injuring more than 30.
Philip Mason (1906-1999) attended Sedbergh School and Balliol College, Oxford before going to India to serve in the Indian Civil Service in 1928. He found himself stationed at Saharanpur in Northern India working as a magistrate with third-class powers, meaning he could send someone to prison for three months or fine someone 50 rupees (the equivalent of Â£4 or $16 at the time).
He recalls in his memoir, A Shaft of Sunlight, 1978, that as junior magistrate, he was in charge of the smelly jobs.
There was a reward of five rupees for a dead wolf. A party of very low caste, nomadic gypsy folk called Kanjars (pronounced as in conjuror) [Wikipedia: “listed under the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, as being a tribe ‘addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences.’] came in with thirteen dead wolves, which they had collected in the course of a trip into the jungles of the Siwalik foothills, away to the north. There was a strong stink, and so of course it was I who was sent to certify that they were genuine wolves, not jackals. They were covered with dried mud and blood and not very easy to see but they seemed too big for jackals so I certified that they were wolves and ordered the Nazir [the Quartermaster] to pay the rewards. The Kanjars were told to cut off their ears and tails and burn them; I waited till I had seen these grisly relics thrown on the fire. It was a strange task for a student of philosophy.
The Kanjars were back again next month with more wolves. It was on their third visit that I discovered that they had kept the sun-dried carcasses of the original wolves, inserted a fresh-killed jackal inside the rib-cage — as the chef of a Victorian duke might stuff a quail inside an ortolan — and sewn on new ears and taild manufactured from hessian and smeared with fresh blood. My formal education being over, my true education had begun.
It’s the overweight, sedentary blogger out in the country in northern Washington, a couple of hundred yards from his car, who sees “four animals silently streaking along in my general direction. My first thought, in the fading light, is that they are deerâ€¦ but they arenâ€™t running like deer. They also appear much bigger than coyotes, which are common in the area.”
If we were to go back a century, nobody would be silly enough to go wandering around in a wilderness setting inhabited by large predators (bear, mountain lions, wolves) and not carry a sidearm. Living in cities and their adjoining suburbs, where the possibility of being the object of predation is totally unthinkable, and where carrying guns is severely frowned upon, inculcates the mindset of the domesticated herbivore.
Hat tip to Vanderleun.
Traffic cops in Russia face certain hazards not encountered in America, like the sudden appearance of a pack of wolves.
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.
Wolf pursuing motorcyclist on Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park last Saturday.
Last Saturday, Banff mechanic Tim Bartlett was christening a new motorcycle through the Rocky Mountains when he had a rare wildlife encounter that was equal parts terrifying and enchanting. On a stretch of British Columbiaâ€™s Highway 93, a massive grey wolf emerged from the trees, lunged at his speeding ride and chased after him at full speed as he pulled away.
The story would have become little more than another legend clanging around the roadhouses of Western Canada if Mr. Bartlett had not whipped a camera out of his top pocket to record the event for posterity.
Jezebel joins the New York Times in mourning the untimely death, this Wyoming hunting season, of fashionista Wolf 832F, widely admired for her successful career as wildlife runway model, her spectacular fur coat, her $4000 tracking collar, and her world-wide fan club.
[T]he New York Times reports that 832F, the very photogenic alpha female of the park’s semi-famous Lamar Canyon, was shot and killed on Thursday beyond the park’s boundaries thanks to state-sanctioned wolf hunts in Wyoming.
The wolf had been fitted with a $4,000 GPS collar as part of the park’s wolf-tracking program. Based on data gathered from the collar, researchers knew that the pack rarely ventured outside the park boundaries, and when they did leave Yellowstone, it was only for very short periods of time. 832F was considered among scientists and photographers to be something akin to a “rock star” in the lupine world (a photo of 832F snapped by wildlife photog Jimmy Jones appears in the current issue of American Scientist), and her sudden death has further stoked a debate about the wisdom of state- and federally-sanctioned wolf hunts in the northern Rockies.
Jezebel aptly proposes commemorating her death by watching CJ on West Wing discuss a similar case (3:10 video). Apparently it was just not possible in time to arrange for Elton John to sing Goodbye, Yellowstone Rose!
When more than a dozen lambs and sheep were slaughtered on a Shelburne farm last fall, wildlife officials suspected either a wolf that had escaped from captivity or a rogue mutt on a hungry rampage.
But after the culprit animal was killed and examined, they found themselves with a bigger mystery: How did a wild eastern gray wolf (Canis lupus), an endangered species absent from the state for more than a century, find its way to western Massachusetts?
Thomas J. Healy, head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast regional office, said Tuesday recent DNA tests at the agency’s Oregon labs confirmed it is the first gray wolf found in New England since a 1993 case in upstate Maine.
The discovery of the 85-pound male wolf may help solidify experts’ theories that the endangered species has been migrating south from Canada and repopulating rural parts of New England.
This wolf, though, was found farther south than any other reported spottings, and nothing indicates it had escaped or been set free by someone keeping it as a pet, authorities said. …
According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the wild gray wolf was considered extinct in Massachusetts by about 1840. One was recorded in Berkshire County in 1918, but was believed to have escaped from domestic captivity.
92-lb. (41.82 kg) animal shot October 1, 2006 in Troy, Vermont
Rutland Herald 10/10:
A 92-pound (41.82 kg) canine shot in Troy last October may be the first confirmed wolf to roam the Green Mountains in more than a century, Vermont officials said Tuesday.
A yearlong investigation into the genetic makeup of the large animal, initially mistaken for a coyote, found “a substantial amount of wolf ancestry,” according to John Austin of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.
“We’re trying to be cautious in how we interpret these results,” Austin said Tuesday. “What the information tells us is that the genetic composition, the size of animal … suggests it’s largely of wolf ancestry.”
The animal, shot by a farmer in a Vermont town along the Canadian border Oct. 1, 2006, could well have been a wolf. But scientists say it likely wasn’t wild. Genetic tests conducted at four laboratories, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s forensics laboratory in Ashland, Ore., traced the ancestry of the animal to two separate and geographically distinct populations of wolves. The animal, according to lab conclusions, was almost certainly bred in captivity.
Peggy Struhsacker, a wolf specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, examined the animal after it was shot last October and said Tuesday that laboratory testing supported her initial hunches.
“I looked at all the traits and characteristics of it and believed it was possibly a full wolf or a high-percentage animal because it had all physical characteristics,” Struhsacker said. “That being said, it had too many other characteristics that made me feel it wasn’t a wild wolf.”
The animal’s shoddy coat, uniform nail wear and well-fed gut, she said, all indicated the canine was a domestic pet.
The animal’s origins have significant implications for the state. If the animal was indeed a wild wolf migrating from an existing pack in southern Quebec, it would signal the reappearance of an animal extirpated from the state in the 1800s.
“We’re really interested in trying to determine the origin of large canids when they turn up in New England,” said Kim Royar, a wildlife biologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “If it turns out, like the lab suggested, that this animal is of domestic origin, then basically we would assume it had been released into the wild by somebody who had bred it for sale. What we’re interested in is documenting whether there is movement of wolves from wild populations â€¦ in eastern Canada down to New England.”
Royar said the state has no evidence that such movement has occurred, though reports of wild wolves in Maine and New Hampshire suggest wolf populations may be crossing into the northeastern United States.
Michael Amaral, endangered species specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the discovery should signal a warning to hunters in the state. The wolf is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and hunters who shoot them, mistakenly or intentionally, he said, face stiff fines.
“Gray wolves, even if they are of captive origin, are a protected species,” Amaral said. “I think the important message for Vermont’s hunters is it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that wolves can get to northern Vermont from existing wolf populations in Canada.”
Charlie Hammond, the man who shot the wolf in Troy, won’t be prosecuted, according to Amaral.
“Because it appears that this animal was of domestic origin â€¦ and other circumstances, we are not prosecuting in this case,” Amaral said.
Steve Mcleod is executive director of the Vermont Traditions Coalition, an organization that lobbies on behalf of hunters, farmers and other groups opposed to the reintroduction of the gray wolf to Vermont. He said a resurgence of the animal in the state would signal the decline of deer populations.
“There would be a deer slaughter that would result,” Mcleod said. “The white tail deer is the signature species of Vermont and it would really drastically change the balance of deer in the state over time.”
Austin said the department will have to pinpoint the origin and genetic makeup of the animal before it can fully understand the implications the discovery has for Vermont.
“What we haven’t done is ask an objective wildlife genetics expert … to help us understand what all this information now means to us,” Austin said. “What are the implications of that to wildlife conservation in Vermont? We’re going to work hard to get those answers.”
A 72 lb. (32.66 kg.) canine was shot in Glover, Vermont in 1997. DNA testing found it was of Gray wolf (Canis lupus) mixed with possibly coyote and domestic dog.
Reports of sightings of unfamiliar canines in Androscoggin County, Maine go back to 1991, and just over a year ago a canine thought to fit the descriptions found in previous accounts killed by an automobile on Route 4 in that county was photographed.