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 attack at Banff National Park, Alberta

Around 1:00 a.m. on August 9, Matt and Elisa Rispoli jol­ted awake when they felt the side of their tent move vi­ol­ently. Matt as­sumed it was a black bear so yelled and struck the tent where the an­im­al was push­ing on it. The an­im­al bit Matt’s hand and pro­ceed to tear open the tent. As their shel­ter col­lapsed around them, Elisa threw her­self over the New Jersey couple’s two young sons.

Through the new open­ing in the tent, Matt saw a wolf about a metre (three feet) away. Then it lunged at him, grabbing him by his up­per right arm. Matt, tried to punch the wolf in the throat but that didn’t de­ter it. As the wolf tugged the po­lice of­ficer out of the tent, his wife grabbed his leg and tried to pull him back.

The scream­ing woke up the Fees who were camp­ing nearby. Russ’s wife handed him a lan­tern and he sprin­ted to­ward the noise. The Calgary res­id­ent saw what looked like a large dog and us­ing the mo­mentum of his run, kicked it in the hindquar­ters. The an­im­al let go of Matt but didn’t leave.

With blood run­ning down his arm, Matt crawled out of the ruined tent, bran­dish­ing a tent pole. The two men threw rocks from the fire circle and yelled at the wolf un­til it backed off enough for the Rispole fam­ily and Russ and his wife to seek sanc­tu­ary in the Fee vehicle. The wolf fol­lowed Matt but the two men were able to keep it at bay.

Wolves are of­ten wary of people but can be curi­ous or even bold. They have entered tents — with and without people in them — but un­til this at­tack at Banff National Park, have al­ways been at­trac­ted to food or per­son­al be­long­ings of people — not the people them­selves. Although the wolf in this photo taken by Paul Sokoloff on Ellesmere Island did dam­age the tent, no people were injured.

Both fam­il­ies were badly shaken by the or­deal and Matt is re­cov­er­ing from bite marks and punc­ture wounds to his hand and arm. The next day a park em­ploy­ee found a wolf about a kilo­metre (half mile) from the at­tack site. When he got out of his vehicle the wolf ap­proached him and was shot and killed. DNA re­vealed it was the wolf that had at­tacked Matt.

Although wolves have at­tacked people in two Canadian pro­vin­cial parks and else­where in Canada, this is the first doc­u­mented wolf at­tack in a Canadian na­tion­al park. And the in­cid­ent has wild­life of­fi­cials some­what puzzled. There were no sig­ni­fic­ant at­tract­ants in or near the tent at the Rampart Creek Campground and no re­ports of a food-con­di­tioned or ha­bitu­ated wolf in the area, which are the primary cause of neg­at­ive human/​wolf in­ter­ac­tions in North America.

Results of a nec­ropsy de­scribed the con­di­tion of the wolf as old, ex­tremely ema­ci­ated (35 kg/​78 pounds) and with worn teeth. Unless fur­ther evid­ence of a conditioned/​habituated wolf comes to light, the mo­tiv­a­tion for this pred­at­ory at­tack ap­pears to be starvation.

The Rispoles and Fee did everything right. They made lots of noise, ag­gress­ively fought back and got to a safe place. Based on evid­ence avail­able at the time of this post­ing, this was an ex­tremely un­usu­al situ­ation that no one could have foreseen.

Two tools that may   have stopped the al­ter­ca­tion soon­er are bear spray and/​or a fixed blade knife. (It’s il­leg­al for any­one oth­er than staff to carry fire­arms in Banff National Park.)

There have been some com­plaints about the wolf be­ing shot. But, the real­ity is, the wolf would have been a danger to any hu­man it en­countered. And shoot­ing it meant a quick death, rather than a long, linger­ing one.

This un­for­tu­nate in­cid­ent is a good re­mind­er to be pre­pared when in wild areas and that wolves are large, strong pred­at­ors that can, on oc­ca­sion, be dan­ger­ous to humans.


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)

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.