Will wolves howl at the super blood wolf moon?

From an­cient times, Indigenous peoples in North America called the first full moon after the winter sol­stice the Wolf Moon. This was of­ten the cold­est, darkest month of the year, when hungry wolves could be heard howl­ing out­side villages.

The sky will provide a back­drop for some ex­tra drama when 2019’s Wolf Moon takes place the even­ing of January 20 – 21. On that night the full moon will pass  its closest to earth mak­ing it ap­pear lar­ger and bright­er than nor­mal. That adds the su­per to Wolf Moon.

And, de­pend­ing where you are, at some point that night the earth will move  between the sun and the su­per Wolf Moon cre­at­ing a total ec­lipse. The earth’s shad­ow makes the moon ap­pear red, hence the term blood.

A su­per blood wolf moon is re­l­at­ively rare, oc­cur­ring ap­prox­im­ately every three years. But how do wolves re­spond to this lun­ar event?

Photo by John Cavers

Wolves howl, hunt and travel at any time but are most act­ive around dawn and dusk, as well as through­out the night. And wheth­er they’re sit­ting, stand­ing or ly­ing down, they lift their snouts to howl. But, rather than fo­cus­ing on the moon, some be­lieve they’re simply tak­ing ad­vant­age of the ex­tra light it provides.

I know from sleep­ing near the Sawtooth Pack for el­ev­en years that wolves do howl more dur­ing a full moon,” Jeremy Heft writes in the sum­mer 2009 Sawtooth Legacy Quarterly. A wild­life bio­lo­gist, Heft’s worked at the Wolf Education and Research Center in Winchester, Idaho, since 1998. “They tend to be more act­ive then be­cause it’s easi­er to see prey and hunt.”

In the 1970s, wolf re­search­er Paul Paquet ob­served un­usu­al be­ha­viour in a pack dur­ing a sol­ar ec­lipse. The wolves were act­ively wan­der­ing around an es­tu­ary on the BC coast when the moon passed between the earth and the sun. As the light faded, the wolves gathered to­geth­er along the shoreline and gazed in the dir­ec­tion the bright sun had been. They only re­sumed their nor­mal routine when the sun began to reappear.

So it’s hard to say how wolves will re­act to a su­per blood wolf moon. My guess is they may howl earli­er in the night when the moon is bright­est but stop to gaze up­wards dur­ing the dim­ming of light and change of col­our dur­ing the blood phase.

Super blood wolf moon photo by Yu Kato (Unsplash)