The Wolf wins silver!

Return of the WolfReturn of the Wolf won a Silver Medal in Environment/​Ecology  at the Independent Publisher Book Awards!

Based in the USA, the an­nu­al award hon­ours the best in­de­pend­ently pub­lished titles from around the world.

Judges in­clude ex­perts in the fields of edit­ing, design, book­selling, re­view­ing and lib­rar­ies. Their de­cisions are based on qual­ity of con­tent, ori­gin­al­ity, design and pro­duc­tion with a spe­cial em­phas­is on in­nov­a­tion, com­pel­ling text and so­cial rel­ev­ance to cur­rent times.

A thou­sand thank yous to every­one at my pub­lish­er, Douglas & McIntyre, for  the time, en­ergy and sup­port giv­en to the Wolf. And also to the people who so gen­er­ously con­trib­uted their know­ledge, ex­per­i­ences and photographs.

A book, es­pe­cially an award-win­ning one, is truly a col­lab­or­at­ive effort!




Wolf scat and butterflies

Wolves have cast-iron di­gest­ive sys­tems cap­able of hand­ling frag­ments of bone and shell, an­im­al fur and even the in­tact nails from a seal.

These in­tact seal nails were found in the dried up scat of a BC coastal wolf. Photo by Paula Wild

When it comes to food, wolves are op­por­tun­ist­ic. They’ll eat ber­ries and have been known to nibble on hu­man food and garbage. String and rem­nants of clothes have also been found in the scat of camp robbers.

Wolf scat looks sim­il­ar to a piece of cord and usu­ally tapers to a point on the end. An adult wolf’s scat is usu­ally between 25 to 38 mil­li­metres (one to 1.5 inches) in dia­met­er. If it’s runny, the wolf may have re­cently eaten some bloody meat.

Una Ledrew and Dave Ratcliffe were startled when they ob­served chunks of rope in wolf scat near their home. “They were chew­ing on and swal­low­ing ropes of all kinds, plastic rope, big thick rope we use to tie up the skiff,” Ledrew said.

Like the seal nails above, big chunks of rope seemed to pass through a wolf’s di­gest­ive tract nearly in­tact. Photo by Una Ledrew

My guess is the wolves were after the salt left be­hind by hu­man hands but some of the rope had been out in the open for ages. Wolf ex­perts I spoke to were baffled as to why wolves would con­sume rope.

Wolf scat is more than just part of a wolf’s elim­in­a­tion pro­cess; it’s also an im­port­ant part of lupine com­mu­nic­a­tion. Scat is one way wolves’ mark their ter­rit­ory and is of­ten found in con­spicu­ous loc­a­tions such as trail intersections.

These visu­al and ol­fact­ory mark­ers serve as a sig­nal to warn oth­er wolf packs out of their ter­rit­ory or to let fam­ily mem­bers know they’ve passed that way. Wolf scat is also part of nature’s re­cyc­ling pro­gram, en­rich­ing the soil wherever it’s deposited.

But the biggest sur­prise about wolf scat is but­ter­flies. They aren’t in it, they’re on it. Apparently, but­ter­flies love wolf scat due to the high con­cen­tra­tion of nu­tri­ents.  In fact, nu­mer­ous re­search­ers told me, “If you’re look­ing for wolves, look for butterflies.”

Gerard Gorman (www​.probirder​.com) is an au­thor and bird­ing and wild­life con­sult­ant and guide spe­cial­ising in cent­ral and Eastern Europe. He took this photo in Aggtelek National Park in Hungary.

How keen is a wolf’s sense of smell?

Imagine simply in­hal­ing and be­ing able to tell who has passed by and how long ago, what sex they are and what their gen­er­al health is, where they’ve been, what they’ve eaten and what mood they’re in.

To a large de­gree, a wolf nav­ig­ates the world through its sense of smell. The tip of its nose is a com­plex land­scape of minute ridges and creases, which, when com­bined with the out­er edges of nos­trils, cre­ates a pat­tern as dis­tinct as a hu­man fingerprint.

Each nos­tril can be moved in­de­pend­ently, al­low­ing wolves to de­term­ine which dir­ec­tion a par­tic­u­lar scent is com­ing from. Inside the broad snout are ap­prox­im­ately 280 mil­lion scent re­cept­ors, a princely amount when com­pared to a German shepherd’s 225 mil­lion, a dachshund’s 125 mil­lion and hu­mans’ scant five to six million.

A wolf’s nose alerts them to danger, the pres­ence of pack mem­bers or en­emies, fe­male wolves in heat and prey. Each wolf has dis­tinct­ive scent glands on dif­fer­ent parts of their body so smells unique, at least to oth­er canids.

Scientists know that wolves can smell prey 2.5 kilo­metres (1.5 miles) away. Gordon Haber, who spent most of his life re­search­ing wolves in Alaska, was con­vinced that wolves could smell a dead moose or cari­bou bur­ied un­der three metres (ten feet) of snow, even if the wind was blow­ing the wrong direction.

In Wolves on the Hunt, a ra­dio-collared fe­male wolf with pups makes a beeline for a cari­bou herd more than 100 kilo­metres (62 miles) distant.

What sur­prised the re­search­ers was the tim­ing of the wolf’s jour­ney and the re­l­at­ively straight line she made for the cari­bou. The week be­fore her trek, the av­er­age daily dis­tance between her den and the cari­bou was 242 kilo­metres (150 miles). The day she left, it had nar­rowed by more than half.

If the wolf had veered to the north­w­est, she might have missed the herd en­tirely or not found them un­til later. There’s no way to know if she smelled the un­gu­lates from her den, picked up their scent part­way through her jour­ney or simply headed in the dir­ec­tion she’d found cari­bou before.

But cari­bou are highly mo­bile so the wolf couldn’t have de­pended on memory alone. The re­search­ers spec­u­late that if a hu­man can smell smoke from a forest fire more than 100 kilo­metres (62 miles) away, why couldn’t a wolf smell a cari­bou herd from the same distance?

Photo cour­tesy Wolf Conservation Centre.

WCC is an en­vir­on­ment­al edu­ca­tion or­gan­iz­a­tion that teaches people about wolves, their re­la­tion­ship to the en­vir­on­ment and hu­mans’ role in pro­tect­ing their future.



Wolves lead a feast and famine existence

Wolves lead a feast and fam­ine ex­ist­ence and can go up to two weeks or longer without eating.

When they do chow down, they make up for it by gor­ging. In sci­entif­ic stud­ies where cap­tive wolves were not fed for sev­er­al days and then giv­en the op­por­tun­ity to eat as much as they wanted – most gained nine kilo­grams (20 pounds) in a frenzy of feeding.

These three wolves  were run­ning and play­ing in deep snow after feed­ing on a big moose kill in Alaska. According to the pho­to­graph­er, John Hyde, the oth­er nine mem­bers of the pack were too full to move.

I love the en­ergy and move­ment of this photo and the play­ful­ness of it too. The wolves look like they’re run­ning full out, yet ap­pear to be with­in touch­ing dis­tance of one another.

Return of the WolfI won­der if they were glid­ing through the snow like syn­chron­ized swim­mers or de­lib­er­ately bump­ing into each other?

Either way, I’m de­lighted the im­age was chosen for the cov­er of Return of the Wolf.