By Waldo Asp President, Hayward AARP Chapter
Because we were frozen out and snowed in during January, our program on “Wolves of Northwest Wisconsin” by Storme Nelson, Hunt Hill Wildlife Naturalist, had to be rescheduled. The good news is that Storme has agreed to be with us to talk about the wolves of our part of Wisconsin on Thursday, March 6.
Nelson will bring a number of artifacts so that we can better understand what a wolf is. Many of us live with descendants of wolves and we can see strong similarities between our dog pets and wolves. We will demonstrate many of these likenesses and point out differences between Han (my 100-pound male German shepherd) and the average wolf.
Wolves rarely live beyond six or seven years in the wild. Researchers are investigating whether the type and availability of food the pack eats enables an alpha female to predetermine the number and gender of pups she will have. Courtship begins during the late winter and the gestation period for wolves is 60 to 63 days, so pups are about to be born soon. For the first four to five weeks pups have contact only with their mother in the den. Later the alpha female will start to introduce the scent of other pack members to the pups, and even at that early age she will teach what type of respect is required for each rank of wolf. When they are brought above ground nannies continue their education and care.
The parenting skills of wolves are highly respected by zoologists and animal behaviorists, who consider that within the entire animal kingdom only humans and some other primates can equal the care and education that wolves offer their young. A young wolf’s education involves vital lessons in communication, social interaction and hunting. The first months of the young wolf’s life are the most crucial; many do not survive due to starvation, human persecution or loss to other predators such as bears, cougars or large birds of prey.
In their book, “Wolves at Our Door,” Jim and Jamie Dutcher state “a wolf’s identity is intertwined with that of the group to such a degree that, in some ways, a solitary wolf lacks much of what wolves are all about. A wolf’s every impulse tells it to be part of something larger, to have a companion, to belong to a pack. In the relationship between a captive wolf and a human being, this is the deeper meaning of trust. It has very little to do with simple habituation, or bribery with food. Rather, it is a bond that the wolf feels intensely and believes in completely.” This explains a great deal of how Han (my dog) is with me, and how all dogs are with their families.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus) of northwest Wisconsin is the largest member of the Canid family. Gray wolves are social animals, living in packs of about four to seven or more members, usually consisting of a breeding pair (alpha male and female) and their young. Many wolves leave the pack when they are about two years old. Listed as endangered in 1973, populations have been determined to be no longer threatened. Sawyer County has a number of packs. Go to www.safewolves.org for more information about our local wolves.
The Hayward AARP Chapter 914 meets at 2 p.m. every first Thursday of the month in the Hayward Senior Center for a business meeting, program and refreshments. Community educational forums are offered free of charge and are open to all. We intend to have fun and fellowship and provide significant information at our meetings, and we look forward to seeing you each first Thursday of the month.