Jim Dutcher (pictured) and wife, Jamie, founded Living with Wolfves, a nonprofit for raising awareness of true wolf behavior. (Jim and Jamie Dutcher)
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The big bad wolf stereotype has been worn down by years of people studying the creatures in the wild.
Wolves are found to be intelligent, social, and playful. They display a range of emotions usually only attributed to humans, according to a new National Geographic book, “The Hidden Lives of Wolves,” by Jim and Jamie Dutcher, (www.livingwithwolves.org). The Dutchers’ nonprofit, Living with Wolves, is meant for raising awareness concerning the truth about wolves. The pair has studied wolves for 30 years.
The Dutchers and other experts from Western Wildlife Outreach, Gray Wolf Conservation, and Wolf Science Center, have learned 10 key things about wolf behavior:
1. Wolves live in an extended family called a pack.
2. An alpha male and female act as parents to the pack, and are the only adults to have pups.
3. The alpha male determines when the pack travels, hunts, and when and how much each wolf eats. The alpha female cares for the pups while the other adults assist with obtaining food for them and babysitting.
4. They are skillful hunters, and only hunt for food not for sport.
5. A social hierarchy is followed to maintain order and survival. Competition is a driving force of pack members, but so is doing what is good for the pack.
6. Wolves form strong bonds. Affectionate greetings such as rubbing noses or shoulders, or giving the other a lick are common.
7. Social interactions and play are important. Playing is not only fun, it hones hunting skills, releases pent-up energy and group tension, and allows for role playing among the pups. Humor is a part of play.
8. Lowest ranking wolves (omega wolves) handle bullying through initiating play.
9. Pack members care for the young, for the sick and aged, and protect each other.
10. Wolves express emotions such as happiness, depression, and anger.