Search Results : hybrid

Monty Sloan Wolf Hybrid Poster References

 

Animal People, News for People Who Care About Animals. (1995) Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. and Canada, September 1982 – February 1995. P.O. Box 205, Shushan, NY 12873, (518) 854-9436.

Bux, Robert C. and McDowell, John D. (1992) Death due to attack from chow dog. American. Jouranal Of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 13(4):305-308.

Fritts, S. (1995) The Cardwell wolf, or a domestic wolf or hybrid costs wolf recovery program in Montana. Wolf Tracks, Winter 1995:13.

Gershman, Kenneth A.; Sacks, Jeffrey J. and Wright, John C. (1994) Which dogs bite? A case-control study of risk factors. Pediatrics 93(6):913-917.

Iljin, N.A. (1941) Wolf-dog genetics. J. Genetics 42:359-441.

Jay, Michele T.; Reilly, Kevin F.; DeBess, Emilio E.; Haynes, Edward H.; Bader, Dean R. and Barrett, Larry R. (1994) Rabies in a vaccinated wolf-dog hybrid. JAMA 205:1729-1732.

Sacks, Jeffrey J.; Sattin, Richard W. and Bonzo, Sandra E. (1989) Dog bite-related fatalities from 1979 through 1988. JAMA 262(11):1489-1492.

Wright, John, C. (1985) Severe attacks by dogs: Characteristics of the dogs, the victims, and the attack settings. Public Health Reports 100(1):55-61.


Introduction
Identification
Percentages
Misrepresentation
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
The Press
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?
References

Legislation, The Press, Why Own a Hybrid?

 

Legislation and Health Care

The current trend in this country is to regulate the ownership of wolf hybrids. This is being done at State, county and city levels. Although this may prevent a few individuals from casually acquiring a hybrid or purchasing a pup from their local paper on a whim, in the long run such legislation seems to be doing little to curtail ownership. Legislative bans may also prevent people from being properly educated about the animals needs and thus create a potential problem. Legislation does have the effect of driving people underground. Both those within areas where the animals are currently regulated, and those living in areas where a fear of such regulation exists, many wolfdog owners are claiming that their animals are just dogs.

Bans on the ownership of hybrids in effect might curtail ownership to a limited extent, but would have the following possible negative results:

  • Make it difficult for owners to communicate ideas and get needed help.
  • Veterinary care might suffer — animals may not get properly vaccinated.
  • Loss of reputable owners/breeders while those who don’t care or worry about legitimacy continue.
  • Makes it difficult/impossible to do anything positive (i.e. education) with the animal.
  • It won’t stop hybrid ownership. Prohibition does not work in this country. Even in states where hybrids are banned, their existence, propagation and importation continues unabated.
  • In a few cases, wolfdogs were advertized as mix-breed dogs due to local legislation against owning and advertising the sale of hybrids. They were sold to individuals who were looking for a dog, not a hybrid, and this led to bad results for the animal.
  • If hybrids are outlawed, only outlaws will have hybrids.

Currently about a dozen states have enacted legislation which greatly restricts, or in a few cases outright bans, the ownership of hybrids. However, the numbers of animals owned by individuals seems to be fairly evenly distributed across the U.S., including the regulated states. In most cases this is because, despite the existence of a law, little to no provision was made to deal with individual situations or the animals themselves once confiscated. Wolf Park has received numerous calls from local agencies regarding animals which were confiscated. These often were perfectly friendly, outgoing animals whose only “crime” was existence. Although some animals may make it to one of the many wolf hybrid rescue facilities in the country, these facilities are being inundated with calls for help and are filled to capacity. All too many of these animals end up euthanized.

Perhaps a better solution would be to enact regulations which would educate rather than regulate. Many individuals decline to get a hybrid once they learn about the responsibilities, potential problems and dangers involved. Those who do get an animal generally have a better understanding and are therefore usually more successful in giving the animal an adequate, safe home. Regulation should not focus on the banning of ownership of these animals, but should direct its power to the underlying problem of the breeding and sales by individuals who produce far more pups than could ever be placed in “good” homes. Puppy-mill operations have long been a problem with “fad” breeds of dogs, and some are now creating serious problems with wolf hybrids.

Rabies

The effectiveness of current rabies vaccines on wolves and wolf hybrids is highly controversial and is still under debate. In some cases, legislation has been based on the lack of a recognized vaccine. Among wolves and wolf hybrids only one case of a rabies vaccine failure is known, Jay, et. al. (1994), and that was of an animal which only received one inoculation. Rabies vaccine challenge tests which were conducted in dogs, actually only one breed, beagels, showed that the first innoculation is not 100% effective.

Although no challenge tests has been conducted on wolves or wolfdogs, the Wildlife Education and Research Foundation is attempting to secure official USDA approval and licensing of a rabies vaccine for use in wolves and wolf hybrids. Another organization, the Wolf Dog Coalition is gathering data for all vaccines so that wolves and dogs can be accepted as one species for the purposes of vaccine approval. This acceptance would benefit all captive wolves, including those in zoos and wildlife parks.

Clinical evidence does exist to support the current vaccine’s effectiveness in wolves and hybrids. Titer levels in captive wolves and wolfdogs are similar to those in dogs. A number of vaccinated animals have been exposed to the rabies virus and survived. One notable example occurred at the Folsom City Zoo, California. A rabid skunk was killed by four wolves. The wolves had been previously inoculated and were re-vaccinated against the disease and survived with no symptoms of the disease.


The Press

Figure 66

Figure 66

Overall, the wolf hybrid has been presented negatively by the press. Attacks by hybrids, often on children, are unfortunately sensational and make headline news. The public is given the impression that these animals are “genetic monsters”: confused, even “schizophrenic” and “unpredictable”. The press paints a picture of a dangerous “vicious” animal snarling and baring its teeth, figure 66. The truth is that the animals often receive blame for what essentially is not a “vicious animal” problem, but is a people problem. Figure 66 is not a “snarling” hybrid, it is a yawning hybrid.

For any number of reasons, people are attacked by pets. Canines can be especially dangerous around children whose behavior often mimics that of distressed prey. Popular reports such as was published by Animal People (1995) where wolf hybrids rank third in the number of serious attacks as reported in newspaper accounts, are a survey of the number of reports which have received publicity. Attacks by most breeds of dogs are not newsworthy, so they receive little public attention compared to a “wolf attack”.

Figure 67

Figure 67

The result of all this negative publicity is a public which is becoming sensitive to the issue of hybrids. In some cases, animals are regulated or even banned.

Animals, such as those in figure 67, which were living on a roof-top in New York City, were confiscated when a reporter spotted them and followed up with a story about the animals.

The animal in figure 68 was located in a semi-residential area. The animal had just been acquired along with five others for breeding purposes. The owner claimed they were “safe” and that there was nothing to worry about. The neighbors were not completely satisfied with this, having read many reports of how “dangerous” hybrids could be. Although the neighbors were not against his owning the animals, they were very concerned about the risk posed by animals that were in insecure enclosures.

Figure 68

Figure 68

This animal, which looked like a pure wolf, was being kept in a small 2×4 welded wire mesh pen without a top or overhang. The photo was taken from an adjoining neighbor’s yard. There was no perimeter fence of any kind separating the animals’ enclosure from the rest of the neighborhood. This was one of several animals all acquired as adults about three weeks before this photo was taken. Residents were keeping their children inside for fear that they would just walk up to the enclosures and possibly be bitten. The presence of the animals made them feel trapped and unsafe.

Two days after this photograph was taken, this animal did get out, but was soon caught by the owner. Several of the other animals had escaped on a number of occasions. It was obvious that the containment was not secure. None of these animals were very social and he had a very difficult time handling them. They were not meant as pets, only as breeding stock. He bragged about plans of producing puppies and even offered the neighbors each a free puppy if they would allow him to keep the animals.

The owner did not check local ordinances and had exceeded the number of animals he could keep without a kennel license by six animals, the very six which he had just brought in. Public pressure eventually led him to return all the animals to the breeder. In this case, media publicity paid off for the benefit of the neighborhood, but as usually happens, not for the animals.


Why Have a Wolf or Wolfdog?

Why people get wolves or wolfdogs is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. The reasons are as varied as people. Some want them as a macho pet, but that is actually quite rare. A lot of owners, like many dog and even some cat owners, enjoy the idea of having a special animal, something unique, something unusual, or novel. Most wolfdog owners simply love wolves and culturally what we love, we want to own.

Owners, both good and bad, can be found across all social and economic levels. Millionaires, to the poor, blue collar workers and professionals including doctors, veterinarians, lawyers — even animal control officers, can be included into the sphere of wolfdog owners. The press’s personification of a wolfdog owner as some ignorant, poorly educated and misinformed individual certainly does not hold true for many owners.

Figure 69

Figure 69

What attracts people to wolves and hybrids and maintains this attraction in adversity?

  • Ego: Wanting a “macho” animal or proving one can control a dangerous beast, is a reason frequently given. Actually this is only one of many reasons people have for owning hybrids.
  • Strong bonds: The bond achieved between hybrid and human is often stronger than that generally seen between dogs and humans. There are several explanations for this:
    • A person must put in many more hours socializing a wolf or hybrid pup and must start before the pup is weaned.
    • The socialization is a process which continues throughout the animal’s life and considerable thought and energy continue to be essential to cultivating the relationship; it will likely be a high maintenance relationship which cannot be allowed to “coast.”
    • (Figure 69) The amount of social feedback a wolf or hybrid gives often has the subjective quality of being more intense, so the human feels he or she is getting more back from the animal.
    • To the extent that a “sense of dedication” is seen as meritorious in our society, and given the greater investment of time, money, and effort than is typically needed to maintain and socialize a dog, the owner of a wolf or hybrid may be rewarded with a greater feeling of dedication to his animal and this may also give the owner the belief that he or she is a much better human for having made this effort.
  • Romanticism: Some people want a special relationship with an animal who represents “the wild.” Some people who are consciously rebellious against human laws or social mores may identify with a wolf or hybrid because they are less tractable than the average dog. Such people may get a hybrid, feeling that they are adding a fellow rebel to the family.
  • Figure 70

    Figure 70

    Rescue: Other people simply feel sorry for a particular animal and want to intervene to save it from a bad situation or impending euthanasia. Some animals come from very bad situations indeed, such as one illegal game farm in Minnesota (see figure 70.) The problem is that in purchasing an animal from such a situation to “rescue” it, you are supporting those conditions. One should never purchase an animal where the conditions are poor, or do not meet the standards you want to set with your animal.

Blind spots and good intentions

The behavior of their animals, and their owners:

  • To the extent that some wolfdog owners feels misunderstood or threatened by the community, a situation is created in which an owner may feel entirely justified in flouting the law.
  • Not all individuals can accurately separate their feelings of dedication from their actual degree of competence in socializing and maintaining a wolf or hybrid.
  • Some owners set themselves up for behavior problems by a belief that the social life and amount of interaction they give their animals on a daily basis is adequate to generous when it may be neither.
  • Many owners may have blind spots about the quality of their enclosures. Some owners are reluctant to acknowledge that they must not only keep their animals in an enclosure or well fenced yard. Any continued toleration by their neighbors may depend on keeping children, pets and other interlopers out of their yard. In other words, setting up a perimeter fence. Essential improvements to an enclosure may be put off in the belief that they sincerely mean to make the improvements – some day.
  • Some owners do not regard training or proper socialization as important, or they fail to understand the degree of commitment they must a lot for these tasks. Some unintentionally reward undesirable behavior without being aware of this, or they intentionally reward bad behavior without understanding or realizing the potential consequences later on.
  • Some owners persistently regard potentially dangerous behavior as “play.” Anything from the initial stages of predatory behavior, to growling and even biting is written off by many canine owners, both wolf and dog.

Yet owners of hybrids or wolves who have such blind spots may, during their introspective moments, be completely and truthfully convinced that they are dedicated and responsible and need not change their behavior in any way. In short the road to confiscation and euthanasia of innocent animals is frequently paved with GOOD INTENTIONS.

It’s hard to be sure, but after years of working with them, I don’t think their opinion of humans is all that high…figure071


Introduction
Identification
Percentages
Misrepresentation
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
The Press
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?
References

Wolf Hybrids

 

wolf hybridWolves and dogs are interfertile, meaning they can breed and produce viable offspring. Some argue that, using a classical interpretation of the word species, this means that wolves and dogs are in fact the same species.

Wolves and dogs are indeed closely related — dogs descended from wolves, after all — and they display a great number of physiological and behavioral similarities. Some dogs look a lot like their ancestors, the wolves; and some wolves can even resemble dogs. Wolf hybrids (or wolfdogs, or wolf x dog hybrids), the actual offspring of a wolf and a dog, can look and act like either parent. It is very hard to write about wolf hybrids, because there really are no absolutes.

As a leader in the study of wolf/human interaction and the socialization of captive wolves, Wolf Park has interacted with many humans and the wolves and wolf hybrids who have entered their lives. While Wolf Park does not rescue wolf hybrids, and generally discourages people from keeping them as pets, its behavior seminars can provide valuable information to new owners or to people interested in procuring one of these animals.

What follows is Monty Sloan’s excellent primer “America’s Other Controversial Canine, the Wolf Hybrid”. This was adapted from a poster presentation given at Defenders of Wildlife’s Restoring the Wolf Conference, Seattle, WA, November 12-14 1998, and at the International Wolf Center’s Wolves and Humans 2000: A Global Perspective for Managing Conflict, Duluth, MN, March 9-12th, 1995, by Monty Sloan.


America’s Other Controversial Canine, The Wolf Hybrid

Table of Contents

Introduction
Identification
Percentages
Misrepresentation
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
The Press
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?
References

Introduction

The wolf hybrid, or wolfdog as they are increasingly called, has become one of the most controversial canines in North America in recent years. Their increasing popularity as pets has led to an increase of animals that the general public is ill equipped to handle. Shelters are faced with animals that they cannot put up for adoption; veterinarians are faced with concerns over inoculations. Wildlife advocates fear that recovering wolf populations may be directly threatened by free ranging hybrids through genetic pollution, or indirectly affected by negative media publicity when a “pet” wolf hybrid injures or kills a child. As the wolf was once a “hated” species, to a certain extent the hybrid has now taken the wolf’s place. Although dogs continue to injure and kill people, mostly children, in far greater numbers, when a hybrid is involved the media attention is far more extensive.

A wolf hybrid is defined as the offspring of a dog and a wolf or the subsequent offspring. Critics argue that hybrids are unpredictable, dangerous, make poor pets and that there is no rabies vaccine available for wolves or their hybrids. Proponents claim the hybrid wolf is a good companion animal and is useful in educating the public about wolves. Many claim “once you have a wolf hybrid, you will never own a dog again.”

The wolf and dog have been purposefully bred in North America to produce hybrid offspring for decades and are increasingly bred in parts of Europe as well. However, until recently such hybrids were rare. With the growing popularity of wolves in both the media and with the public, an increase in the numbers of such animals has reached the level of a “fad” pet. Sanctuaries, organizations and wildlife parks specializing in wolves have been inundated with calls concerning these animals. Many calls involve pleas for help when a behavior problem develops, or a legal situation exists that prohibits the owner from keeping the animal. At Wolf Park calls have increased from a few per month, to over thirty. In what has now become a daily routine, we are faced with having to turn down animals offered to us. Many of these animals are probably euthanized.

Legislation designed to curtail or prohibit the ownership of exotic pets or their hybrids often fails when it comes to wolf hybrids for lack of enforcement or in some cases enforceability due to the inability of personnel to clearly identify the animals in question. Currently the trend for hybrid owners is to represent their animals officially as dogs.

Owning a wolf hybrid, or any animal for that matter, is a responsibility which should not be taken lightly. In the case of owning hybrids, all aspects of ownership should be addressed long before the acquisition of a pup. Thorough knowledge of the animal’s needs, enclosure requirements, and safety issues as well as legality have to be understood and assessed before considering such an animal in the home. Once an animal has been brought into the home, a 10-16+ year commitment has been made.

Misunderstood and misrepresented, these animals are unwittingly caught in the middle and often fall between legal cracks as critics and owners argue their very right to exist. Members of the wolf community need to address this growing area of debate. The public response to wolves and hybrids is interconnected. The existence of hybrids will affect people’s attitudes toward wolves, and how this is handled could eventually affect wolf recovery and reintroduction in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

About Wolf Park

Are you a public/state park?
No. Wolf Park is a privately owned and operated non-profit facility. We are not funded by any state or federal organizations.

What do you do?
We are a wild canid research and education center. We assist researchers around the world as well as offer a variety of tours, talks, seminars, camps and other programs to our visitors.

What species do you have onsite?
We are home to wolves, coyotes, red & grey foxes, and bison.

Are the wolves running loose?
No. Our animals are in large, semi-natural enclosures.

Where did the animals come from?
Most of our animals were born here. The rest came from zoos or other facilities like us. None of them were born in the wild. None of them are rescues from private individuals.

Will they ever be released into the wild?
Our animals are raised to be very comfortable around people so they are not candidates for release into the wild. They are ambassadors for their wild cousins. We hope by giving people a chance to see and interact with our animals, they will make better informed decisions relating to wildlife and natural resources.

In what time zone is Wolf Park located?
Wolf Park is on Eastern Standard Time, like Michigan and Ohio. Northern Indiana and Chicago are on Central Time. Please plan accordingly. This part of Indiana is also on Daylight Savings Time.

 

Admission

What forms of payment do you accept?
We accept cash, checks, Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and Apple/Droid Pay. We do not accept American Express.

Is there a minimum charge for credits cards?
Yes there is a $5.00 minimum for credit card purchases.

Do you offer military/student/senior discounts?
No.

Do you offer AAA discounts?
We offer AAA members 10% off Single and Family Memberships.

 

Activities

What activities are available?
We run guided tours of the facility during the week and a variety of talks and other programs on weekends. Please see our Hours and Admission page for details on general programs and our Special Events page for unique activities.

Do I need a reservations?
No. You do not need a reservation for any of our regular afternoon & evening programs or special events. Tickets are sold at the Visitor’s Center upon arrival. You can purchase Memberships ahead of time.

How long is the tour?
Tours last about 45 minutes and follow a half mile walking trail.

Do I have to take a guided tour or can I walk by myself?
Visitors must be accompanied by a docent when on the trail. We do not allow self-guided tours.

Will we be able to see the wolves?
Yes. The animals are very comfortable with people and will often come straight up to the fence.

Can I touch the animals?
General visitors to the park will not meet the animals face-to-face. Sponsors may arrange a time to meet their wolf or fox. Details can be found HERE. Sponsors must be over eighteen to meet a wolf. Younger sponsors may meet the foxes.

 

Accessibility

Is Wolf Park handicap accessible?
Yes. The park is flat and there are ramps to all the buildings. HOWEVER, our roads and paths are all gravel and can be difficult for wheelchairs and strollers during the wet spring months.

What if I can’t walk the whole tour route?
We have golf carts available at no extra charge for guests who are uncomfortable walking long distances. As with wheelchairs, these might not be operational when the park is especially muddy.

Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are not allowed inside the park. We do not have facilities to board your dog while you are on a tour. We can offer you a shaded parking location if your dog is in the car but we encourage you to leave your dog behind during the summer.

What about service dogs?
Although service dogs are well-trained, many of them are not prepared to have wolves within a few feet of them. If you can manage without your service dog for an hour or so, we encourage you to leave it behind for the mental health of the dog. If your dog needs to be with you at all times, please let the staff know (preferably in advance). We will have a staff member accompany you on a tour to assist with distracting the wolves or dog as needed. If your dog is thoroughly uncomfortable around the wolves, our staff can drive you and your dog on the tour trail.

Companion and therapy dogs are not permitted inside the park.

Can I smoke/vape in the park?
Please smoke/vape in the designated area outside the park. Please dispose of all cigarette butts. We do not want our animals to ingest them.

Can I eat inside the park?
Eating in front of the animals is not allowed. You are welcome to eat outside the park in the grassy area by the Visitor’s Center.

Can I take pictures, can I use a flash, and can I post them online?
You are welcome to take pictures. Our current animals don’t mind flash photography. You are welcome to post the pictures on Facebook or other websites.

Can I bring firearms?
No, unless you are a law enforcement official with ID.

 

Donations

Do you accept meat donations?
If you are cleaning out your freezer and would like to donate, we are happy to accept certain items.

We will accept

  • Beef, fowl, lamb, fish & wild game in processed or unprocessed form
  • Fresh and frozen vegetables & fruit (No grapes, onions, garlic or strawberries)
  • Hotdogs, hamburger patties, meatballs, etc.

We will not accept

  • Pre-cooked chicken or turkey pieces with bones (Bones splinter easily after cooking)
  • Ready-made meals (TV Dinners, pizzas, potpies, etc.)
  • Desserts, breads

Do you take deceased farm animals?
We will accept farm animals which have died of natural causes or bullet wounds. If the animals were euthanized by a vet, we cannot accept them. We will not accept live animals.

We will accept

  • Still-born calves & lambs
  • Calves & foals under 400lb
  • Chickens and other fowl
  • Rabbits
  • We will sometimes accept sheep and goats, but our wolves don’t like them very much.

We will not accept

  • Pigs
  • Full grown cows and horses
  • Live animals

Due to the size of our vehicles, we cannot offer pickup for animals over 200lbs.
Please call ahead before dropping off animals. (765-567-2265) Please ask before bringing unusual/exotic animals.

Do you accept roadkill?
Yes. If you see a deer on the road, you call us to pick it up. Please call 765-567-2265 to report deer. We do not pick-up on interstates. We are not available for pick-ups on weekends. If the deer is wounded but still alive, call the police, not us.

We will not pick up smaller animals such as raccoons, coyotes, possums or rabbits.

Do you accept hunter scraps?
If you have carcass pieces left over after butchering, we will accept scrap meat or pieces which still have meat on them. We do not want stripped bones or hides. We will not provide pick-up for hunter leavings.

Can I bring treats for the animals?
Yes! We are happy to accept treat foods. However, we save the treats for training purposes and special events so you won’t get to feed the wolves that day.

Here are some favorite treats

  • Spam
  • Hotdogs
  • Pepperoni
  • Cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, Colby jack)
  • Zukes Mini Natural Dog Treats
  • Jerky
  • Unsalted nuts (for the foxes)
  • Red & delicious apples (Our bison are picky about their apple brands)
  • Sweet feed (for the bison)

Our wolves do not like

  • Dry dog kibble
  • Milk bones
  • Rawhides

What other donations do you need?
You can find a list of our general and specific needs on our Wishlist.

Do you have a monthly donation program?
Yes! Check out our Stewardship Program.

 

Rehoming Animals

I have a dog/wolf/hybrid that needs a new home.
We are not a rescue. We do not take in animals from private individuals.

I found an injured animal. Can you take it?
We are not a rehab facility. If you are in the Lafayette area, please contact Wildcat Creek Rescue Center.

Can I buy a wolf pup?
We do not sell our puppies to private individuals.

I am a licensed facility looking for wolf puppies. Can you help?
We very rarely have extra pups and usually the waiting list is extensive. We are also very particular which facilities receive our pups. You are welcome to contact our head curator, Pat, at pat@wolfpark.org. Please provide detailed information about your facility and needs.

 

In the Area

Where can we camp?
We do not have a campground. We recommend the following:

What hotels are in the area?
We are about ten minutes north of Lafayette/West Lafayette. You can find most of the chain hotels there. Check out This Website for a listing of hotels in the area.

What else is there to do near you?
Hiking Trails & Parks

Museums & Other Activities

Restaurants
Here are a few of our staffs’ favorites

Other Animal Facilities in Indiana

 

Community Outreach

Do you donate passes to fundraisers?
Yes. If you have an upcoming fundraiser, please email wolfpark@wolfpark.org with information. Please include the name & address of your organization, the event type & date, and how the donation will be used.

Due to the volume of requests we receive, we cannot accommodate all requests. We give preference to the following:

  • Science & nature-based programs, or programs which support STEM education.
  • Libraries
  • Other non-profits
  • Facilities within one hour travel of Wolf Park.

Can you bring a wolf to our program/event/parade?
Our animals do not leave the property, but our staff/volunteers would be happy to set up a booth if we have available manpower. Please contact wolfpark@wolfpark.org.

Can you speak at my club/class/school?
Yes. We are happy to provide a program about Wolf Park for your group. Please email wolfpark@wolfpark.org to setup something.

For schools in Battle Ground and Lafayette/West Lafayette, we are happy to talk to your class free of charge. Out-of-town schools will need to pay for mileage and the speaker.

 

Do you have any more questions? Email wolfpark@wolfpark.org and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!

 

Recommended Reading

 

Books by authors who currently are, or were formerly, associated with Wolf Park!

Erich Klinghammer

Dr. Klinghammer was the founding Director of Wolf Park from 1972 until 2008.  He continued to serve on the Wolf Park Board of Directors until his death in 2012.

  • E. Klinghammer, The Behavior and Ecology of Wolves (Garland Science, New York NY, 1979)

Durwood Allen

Dr. Allen was a Professor at Purdue University who had many students that have been major contributors to wolf research.  Professor Allen was a colleague and mentor of Dr. Klinghammer in Wolf Park’s early days.

  • D. Allen, Wolves of Minong: Their Vital Role in a Wild Community (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor MI, 1984)

Jessica Addams and Andrew Miller

Jessica came to Wolf Park as a practicum in 1997 and returned as an intern in 1998.  She then joined the staff where she worked in several positions including puppy parent, editor of the wolf ethogram, and author of a fox husbandry manual.  She still volunteers at the Park.  Andrew came to Wolf Park as an intern in 2001 and joined the staff shortly thereafter.  He performed a variety of duties at the Park including puppy parent and educational presentations.

Raymond Coppinger 

Dr. Coppinger was a long-time friend and advisor of Dr. Klinghammer. He served on the Wolf Park Board of Directors from 2007 until 2011 and is now an emeritus member of the Board.

Beth Duman

Beth is a wolf specialist and dog trainer.  Hearing of her lectures on wolf ecology and behavior, Dr. Klinghammer met her in 1973 and asked her to join him.  She became Wolf Park’s Michigan representative in 1974 and has made thousands of wolf presentations to a large variety of audiences.

  • B. Duman,  The Evolution of Charlie Darwin – Partner with Your Dog Using Positive Training (Earth Voice Publishing, Howell MI, 2011)
  • B. Duman,  Differentiating Great Lakes Native Wild Wolves from Dogs and Wolf/Dog Hybrids (Earth Voice Publishing, Howell MI, 2011)

Harry Frank

Dr. Frank is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan.  He was a long-time friend of Erich Klinghammer and was instrumental in starting long-term studies of captive wolves.

  • H. Frank ed., Man and Wolf Advances, Issues, and Problems in Captive Wolf Research (Perspectives in Vertebrate Science) ( Dr W. Junk Publisher, Boston MA, 1987)

Paul Pacquet   

Dr. Paquet was a friend and advisor of Dr. Klinghammer for many years.

  • P. Paquet, J. Vucetich, M. Phillips, L. Vucetich, Mexican Wolf Recovery: Three Year Program Review and Assessment (Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Apple Valley MN, 2013)
  • I. McAllister, P. Paquet, C. Davimont, Following the Last Wild Wolves (Greystone Books, Berkeley CA, 2011)
  • M. Musiani, L. Boitani, P. Paquet, The World of Wolves: New Perspectives on Ecology, Behaviour and Management (University of Calgary Press, 2010)
  • M. Musiani, L. Boitani, P. Paquet, A New Era for Wolves and People: Wolf Recovery, Human Attitudes and Policy (University of Calgary Press, 2009)
  • I. McAllister, C. Davimont, P. Paquet, The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts of the Rain Forest (Greystone Books, Berkeley CA, 2007)
  • F. Harington, P. Paquet, Wolves of the World: Perspectives of Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (Noyes Publications, NJ, 1982)

Rolf  Peterson

Dr. Peterson was a long-term friend and advisor of Dr. Klinghammer, dating from the time he was a student at Purdue from 1970 until 1974 and took Dr. Klinghammer’s ethology class.  Dr. Peterson was the third recipient of the Klinghammer Award , a biennial award for outstanding research or exemplary conservation efforts related to canids, in 2011.

  • R. Peterson, The Wolves of Isle Royale: A Broken Balance (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor MI, 2007)

Karen Pryor

Karen was also a long-time friend and advisor to Dr. Klinghammer.  She made many visits to Wolf Park and has been very supportive of its programs.

  • K. Pryor, Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs (Karen Pryor Clicker Training, Waltham MA, 2012)
  • K. Pryor, Healing the Aggressive Dog  (Karen Pryor Clicker Training, Waltham MA, 2012)
  • K. Pryor, Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About Animals  (Karen Pryor Clicker Training, Waltham MA, 2009)
  • K. Pryor, Don’t Shoot the Dog! (Ringpress Books, Gloucestershire UK, 2006) (This was one of Dr. Klinghammer’s favorite books; he gave out many copies to Wolf Park visitors.)

Doug Smith

Dr. Smith is the project director for the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Project in Yellowstone National Park; he has been with the project since its inception in 1994.  Previously he worked with wolves on Isle Royale and in Minnesota.  He credits his interest in wolves to his first exposure as a puppy parent at Wolf Park in 1979.  Dr. Smith was the first recipient of the Klinghammer Award in 2007.

Clive Wynne, Director of Research

Dr. Wynne is a Professor of Psychology at the Arizona State University,  has conducted research at Wolf Park since 2007 and has served as the Director of Research at the Park since 2009.  He and his students have published several scientific papers on their research at the Park.  These papers are listed in the research section of this web site.

  • C. Wynne, M. Udell, Animal Cognition, Evolution, Behavior, and Cognition (To be released)
  • C.Wynne, Do Animals Think? (Princeton University, Princeton NJ, 2006)
  • C. Wynne, Animal Cognition: The Mental Lives of Animals (Palgrave, New York, NY, 2002).
  • C. Wynne, J. Stadden, Models of Action: Mechanisms for Adaptive Behavior (Psychology Press, New York NY, 1998)

Socialization, Medical Care & Training

 


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Figure 62

Socialization and Medical Care

Wolves at Wolf Park are socialized for a number of reasons. They make better display animals because they are not afraid of the public and will interact in front of visitors. They are better research animals because their behavior is not interrupted by the presence of researchers and students. General maintenance and medical care is not only easier and simpler to perform, but it can be made interesting, even pleasurable for the animals. We can also enrich the lives of captive wolves in ways which would otherwise not be possible, like the simple task of taking a wolf out for a walk, or allowing some of them to run in the bison field.

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Figure 63

Pups are bottle raised from a very early age by both men and women (figure 62). Exposure to adult canines is kept to a minimum (a mistake made by many hybrid owners is to allow the adult animals in the family to raise the pups; the pups bond to the canines, and grow up fearful of people). Detailed notes are taken of the pups development to help assess their growth and health (figure 63). Subtle changes in amount of formula consumed or weight gain can be a guide to impending illness. The wolves are trained to accept restraint for medical situations such as drawing blood (figure 64). The pups are also introduced to the vet (figure 65) so they are comfortable with him as adults.

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Figure 64

The whole process is started when the pups are only 12-14 days old. There is a critical period for socialization which is closed in wolves by about 21 days. Pups who have not been isolated from adult wolves by that age will almost never allow themselves to be freely handled. Pups taken before about 12 days of age do not seem to benefits from this extra early socialization, and the stress on the mother can be increased dramatically. By about two weeks, most socialized female wolves are not obviously stressed by the removal of the pups from the den, especially if she can still detect their presence nearby.

The process of socialization is a 24 hour a day task. It involves both men and woman and visits from adult wolves. If the pups are only given exposure to a few people, or just men or just women, as they mature, they will develop fear of what they have not experienced early on. The more people who visit them also increases the degree of socialization. Training is started from a very early age as well. Not chewing on people is one of the first things they are taught. Consistency is extremely important so all people who even just visit the pups for a brief time are instructed and supervised so they do not teach the pups any bad habits (like chewing off shoelaces).

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Figure 65

The pups environment early on is kept very stable. People come to them, the pups are not brought to people. The pups are slowly introduced to new things a few at a time. Some people have made the mistake of forcing a pup to experience situations which were fearful. The result often creates shyness and fear for that situation, person, place, etc.

Most wolf pups also go through a series of shy stages. This has also been documented in dogs. When a pup is in a shy stage, the best way to handle it is to give the pup a place to retreat, not force anything new on it, and heavily reward any interaction or positive response. In one case at Wolf Park, two shy puppies were trained using a dog, that they liked a lot, to run up to the fence whenever they saw a school buss load of children. Within a few days, the pups had associated children with the dog well enough that they would run up to the fence and greet even if the dog was not present.

It is critical from an early age to get them well accustomed to people. It is also very important to give them plenty of exposure and social contact with people through their first year. However, any time that the social contact with new people is curtailed, a wolf may quickly lose it’s ability to accept strangers. Many either become shy or even aggressive if the constant exposure to new people is not maintained. With some animals, no matter what you do, you end up fighting a loosing battle and must be resigned to having an animal which can have only very limited contact with people.

With wolves, socialization and training are fully integrated for wolves are constantly training people and modifying their behavior as well as yours. Socialization and training are something which never stops.


Training

The issue of training is something which has been argued against by many people. Some wolfdog owners, even some breeders, feel that training is not possible. Some wildlife advocates also dictate that you can’t train a wolf. Others may feel that training somehow takes away the animal’s dignity and somehow diminishes the wolf.

What these people fail to realize is that training does not make a wolf a dog, no more than it makes a killer whale a poodle, or a horse a chihuahua! Training is something that not only can be done with any animal with a backbone (and some without). It is part of the socialization process. It is something which is critically important in achieving and maintaining a strong and stable relationship in the animal/human equation.

As for dignity? This is a purely human perception and should not be considered relevant in a situation involving a privately owned animal. In a zoo setting one might argue that it is not appropriate to have a wolf jumping through a hoop, or even sitting on command, in front of the general public. This might give the perception the animal is exactly like a dog. Then again, does such training necessarily have to be done in front of the public? Or better yet, could one use such a situation to specifically be part of a lecture program to help educate the public about wolves and their direct connection with dogs? Animal/human demonstrations are very powerful tools in a zoo setting, especially in lecture programs directed at school children.

Are wolves and wolfdog hybrids trainable?

The answer to that is by all means YES! Wolves are trainable and socialized wolves show every indication that they enjoy training as much as any dog.

Where people have failed to train wolves is when they attempt to use coercive techniques involving fear, aversive stimuli and force. You generally can’t force a wolf to do anything, but you can encourage it to do everything, well everything with some restrictions. In other words, you can train a wolf to do anything it wants to do. The trick is finding ways to achieve the desire, in the wolf, to complete a task set by a human.

Training is something which starts as soon as possible. It is integrated with the socialization process and it will also greatly enhance the human/animal bond strengthening the relationship far more than anything else. It can be particularly useful in dealing with an aggressive animal, or an animal which shows tendencies to test the owner. With some animals, proper training is the only means of maintaining a safe relationship at all. In all cases it greatly enhances the quality of life for both the animal and the people who live with it.

Wolves differ slightly from dogs in several important ways when it comes to training. Overall, wolves lack the same degree of tractability seen in dogs. With most wolves you need to put in far more work to get the same degree of reliability that you see in a dog. Although one can train a wolf to sit in one or two trials, faster, and with a quicker response that you would achieve in most dogs, with a wolf, once the behavior has been done a few times, it will often get bored and wander off. Keeping their interest, keeping them from being distracted and keeping the behavior reliable is far most difficult. With a dog, most will have the attitude of “Master said it. I will do it. Master said it. I will do it.” over and over and over again.

Dogs also accept negative reinforcement much better than wolves. Most dogs readily exhibit the complex of characteristics often described as a “desire to please.” This behavior is probably a modified appeasement behavior seen in young and very low ranking wolves toward higher ranking pack members. In wolves, this behavior is generally not directed as strongly, or reliably toward people. You hit a dog, it wants to appease, you hit a wolf and it will either retreat in fear, or display aggression, but generally it will not show any appeasement for this action.

Wolves need to be trained using methods of positive conditioning and rewards. Being more intelligent than most dogs also results in wolves and hybrids being somewhat more difficult to control, but also easier to teach, if the motivation to learn exists.

Figure 60

Figure 60

Figure 61

Figure 61

In figure 60, Tatanka learned to leap across the top of a long row of hay-bales in only three trials. Photos taken on his third attempt show that he had become quite proficient. However, this “trick” could only be safely done on-lead (figure 61). This may seem excessive until you know what the reward was. This particular task was achieved by simple lure training. Lure training is very simple, you lure the animal along with a reward, which can be a toy, food, anything the animal wants, usually held in the trainer’s hand. The animal does what you want, and then you reward it by letting it have the reward. However in this case, Tatanka could not actually have the lure, for the lure was the a Nubian goat which belonged to Wolf Park’s director. We would not want Tatanka to get the director’s goat, would we….

This brings up another point, one of safety. Under no circumstances should a wolf or hybrid be off-lead in an unsafe area. Even well trained animals can break their training if something motivates them highly enough. Wolves are very sensitive to their environment and most will ignore commands if something interesting distracts them.

There have been situations where a wolf or wolfdog, off-lead, ran off after a deer or other prey animal. Of course this happens with dogs and better training could be argued at this point, but is the risk worth it?

Another important consideration is the stigma that wolves and wolfdogs have attached to them. A well-trained animal off-lead is generally not seen as an achievement by many people, but as a potential threat if they are afraid of wolves. Most people are afraid of wolves.

There is also the risk of another animal attacking. Your wolfdog, off-lead, is attacked by a free running dog. Which animal will be in greater trouble? Odds are it will be the animal which is part wolf. In one case in Arizona, such a situation did occur. Neither animal was injured in the fight, but with today’s political climate the wolfdog owners almost lost the animal which was running off-lead. The owners also came close to loosing his companion which was not free.

Even in cases where your animal is safe and on-lead you have to be cautious of bad owners and out-of-control dogs. A wolf which was used in education programs in schools to teach children about wildlife was at the beach so it could get some exercise and R&R. The wolf was on a leash. The beach was deserted so they felt it was safe. Suddenly a dog is running toward them. They see the owner in the distance and begin yelling to him to recall his dog. The wolf looked like he was going to make a snack of the dog which would not have been a good thing. The dog owner did not call back his dog. He instead yelled “Don’t worry! My dog won’t hurt your dog.” Luckily for both wolf and dog, one of the handlers was able to catch the dog before he made a potentially fatal mistake.

You can train a wolf to do a lot, but you can’t teach them to ignore instincts. Wolves are very territorial animals. A wolf which is very submissive as a puppy, will at some point lose that submissive behavior toward other unfamiliar dogs. A wolfdog will be somewhere between a dog’s tolerance (or intolerance depending on the individual), and that of a wolf, who is almost always 100% intolerant of other adult canines of the same sex that it did not grow up with. This sometimes even includes canine members of the opposite sex. Constant socialization around a constantly changing mixture of strange dogs may help, but for most people that is difficult and with a pure wolf, or high content wolfdog, not reliable.


Introduction
Identification
Percentages
Misrepresentation
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
The Press
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?
References

Social Testing & Predation

 

Social Testing and Predation

Wolves are social hunters. They live in packs where rank order is paramount to function. Individual wolves, especially the younger wolves, are open to opportunities to test their superiors for vulnerability. Some are quick to take advantage of any situation which might enable them to become dominant over another pack member. This is something we have greatly modified in domesticating dogs. Once a dog has accepted its owner as clearly dominant, that position is almost never challenged. With a wolf, that position, no matter how apparently concrete, may still be up for debate. A hybrid is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Social testing

Popular accounts would have you believe that a pet hybrid will take the first opportunity to challenge, even attack its owner. The reality is much more complex than this. Although a wolf is open to challenging a dominant pack member, including a human “pack member,” this will generally only occur under certain circumstances such as:

  • The animal is maturing sexually and is testing and achieving dominance over other canine pack members.
  • The animal is fence-fighting with a non-pack member and, already highly aroused, redirects aggression on a person in the pen.
  • The animal has a history of aggression and has learned to challenge people.
  • The animal becomes overstimulated during an excited greeting and “boils-over” to an aggressive state.
  • The animal is kept in an inadequately small pen leading to boredom and excitability, and/or is not worked with, socialized and trained adequately.
  • The owner trips and falls and is suddenly and conspicuously vulnerable.
  • The owner develops a fear of the animal and acts conspicuously vunerable or afraid.
  • The owner rewards aggression in the animal or allows aggressive behaviors to continue unabated.
  • The owner fails to understand and compensate for seasonal aggression. This is especially common for males (of both species).
  • The owner triggers a critical reaction by trying to force the animal to do something, or puts the animal into a situation where the animal becomes defensive.
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Figure 46

There are numerous other possible situations, but these seem the most common and most are based on a lack of understanding of the animal’s social needs and a lack of proper training. The privately owned animal in figure 46 was a yearling male “muzzle-greeting” a prone visitor. She was having fun and so was the young wolf. Although this was something that then was not really all that risky, it was very ill advised. Such interactions teach the animal very bad habits and later would no longer be safe at all when that the wolf fully matured. In fact, this individual wolf did become very aggressive by five years of age, even to the owners. This aggression was only exhibited during the winter months when hormones ran high. Removing those hormones for the most part solved the problem. Some residual aggression remained due to place conditioning to certain circumstances, but behavior modification on the owners’ part has resulted in the animal becoming much nicer and easier to work following being neutered.

In figure 47, two “wolfdogs” are greeting a teenager. Both animals were sold to the owner as having a similar wolf content, about ¾ wolf. However, the one on the right, their first animal, is most-likely a dog. Besides looking like a dog, she was a good house pet, was easy to train and did not test people.The other, younger female is over half wolf and is testing the teenager. Although it was not the case here, such “testing” is perceived by some owners as “play,” but it is not play; it is quite serious and can lead to a bite or even an attack if not suppressed through proper training. Although she took a lot of work and training, this animal continues to do well years later, but due to the heightened social aggression between female wolves, she is no longer living with any other female canines.

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Figure 47

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Figure 48

Even small pups can be seen to show increased testing over and above that seen in dogs. In figure 48, this 10-week-old pure wolf pup was not being overtly aggressive, which would be very unusual at this age, but he was incessantly jumping up on this child, pulling at his hair, his collar and his sleeves in an apparent attempt to pull him over. Although this pup was very submissive to adults, he would not submit to the child, and his testing was intense enough that after a few minutes the child had to be taken out of the pup’s reach.

Hunting

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Figure 49

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Figure 50

Figures 49 and 50 show wolves hunting bison at Wolf Park. This demonstration is done to show the public how wolves hunt and how bison protect themselves. Bison are formidable enough prey that they are not in any danger and have never been injured during this demonstration. The wolves do not growl or raise their hackles, such behavior is social and not directed at prey. The wolves do stalk, chase, bow, and try to bite the bison.

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Figure 51

Some people have been bitten by hybrids because they could not interpret the signals the animal gave them. It was not bowing and “playing,” it was quite serious and was looking for an opening to run in and bite. Like dogs, hybrids can also be dangerous to livestock. A strong prey drive, figure 51, can lead to injured and dead livestock, and a dead pet shot by an irate farmer.

Wolves, hybrids and children

A few wolves and wolfdogs can be safe around children, figure 52, but only under very controlled circumstances. Unlike with dogs, a wolf that is “safe” around children is “safe” because to that individual wolf, children are super-releasers for the care giving behavior shown to puppies. However, the wolf can very quickly change its mind if it sees children behave like prey.

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Figure 52

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Figure 53

Imbo, seen in figure 52 as a six-year-old adult, was very good with children up to this point. Notice he is submissive toward the children as he would be toward puppies. Although it can’t be seen in the photo, Imbo was also on a leash and had two handlers. Two months after this photo was taken he saw two children on separate occasions act like prey. One was a child with Tourette’s syndrome who was acting out and the other was a spoiled brat who threw a tantrum. Imbo was not very close to these children and had no opportunity to investigate further. He could only see and hear them. However, this was enough of a stimulus to cause him to regard children as prey rather than puppies. From that point on, it was obvious that he was no longer safe to have anywhere near kids.

Most wolves in zoos, like those in figure 53, where the animals have unrestricted access to viewing children, will show predatory behavior like this young black male is doing as he stalks a child. The same can easily happen in a pet situation.

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Figure 54

What is also very interesting in figure 53 are the expressions of the people. Click on the image to get a larger version and you can see both parents and both children are very excited and happy. The mother is grinning ear to ear. It is very common for parents to be happy and excited when animals show an interest in their children. However, there have been cases where children have been seriously bitten by dogs and wolfdogs when such predatory behavior went unrecognized and there are no physical barriers separating the animal from the people.

It is also important to point out that this behavior can generally be thought of as a product of captivity. Unhabituated to people, wolves in the wild do not think of children as anything more than something to be avoided — as they would avoid all mankind.

Mickey, figure 54, was a pet wolf in Michigan who killed a child. Mickey was kept chained in a back yard. When a three-year-old walked up to him, he knocked the child over and treated him like small prey. Mickey had reportedly been “good” with children up to this point.

Children less than five years old are particularly at risk around dogs of all kinds, especially large breeds, and are the most likely to be killed in a biting incident.

Dogs can also be dangerous and destructive

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Figure 55

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Figure 56

Figure 55 is a sheep that had its ears eaten off by a free-ranging dog, figure 56, that belonged to a neighbor. The dog was allowed to run free despite the fact that it would chase people on horseback and had harassed livestock before, because they were not willing to keep the dog on a cable and claimed they were unable to afford a secure enclosure. They denied that their sweet loving pet could ever harm anything because it was such a “good dog” at home. What they failed to realize was that friendly social behavior has nothing to do with predatory behavior.

In fact, predatory behavior can be quite varied depending on the circumstances. A dog which has been perfectly good with the house cat, may chase and even kill a cat outside. Sometimes that may even be the same cat it was good with when indoors.

It was not until the owners of the dog saw the blood on the dog and then were taken to see what had happened to the sheep that they realized that their dog was a dog, a predator capable of doing predatory things…

Although dogs, to varying degrees, will exhibit predatory behavior, with few exceptions, wolves have a lower triggering threshold for exhibiting predatory behavior. Also, when it is triggered, this behavior is much more intense, and much more likely to follow through the entire sequence of give eye, stalk, chase, catch, kill and eat. This sheep survived an attack by a dog, but it is unlikely that it would have survived one by a wolf. Again, a hybrid would have been somewhere in the middle, more likely to do damage than the average dog, less likely than most wolves.

Bux and McDowell (1992) report an estimated that between one and four million persons per year are bitten by dogs in the United States. Gershman, et. al. (1994) estimates 585,000 injuries result in the need for medical attention yearly and that children are the most frequent victims. Wright (1985) estimates that a risk of two fatalities per 1,000 reported dog bites may exist nationwide while a comprehensive survey by Sacks et al (1989) identified 157 fatalities attributed to dog bites from 1979 through 1988. In the latter, the authors report that the death rate for young children was almost 370 times that of adults 30 to 49 years of age and that 70% of the deaths occurred among children who were less than ten years of age. In the 101 cases where the breed of dog was reported, pit bull breeds were involved in 42 (41.6%) of the cases. Wolf hybrids were reported in only five cases. In a listing of newspaper accounts of attacks by dogs in Canada and the U.S. from 1982-1995 privately published by an organization called Animal People, wolf hybrids were listed as having attacked and done serious harm to 27 out of 210 (12.9%) listed cases. However, this was not a scientific study, only a listing of what was reported in the popular press. All accounts reporting dog bite statistics listed pit bull breeds in the majority.

Do bad dogs justify keeping pet wolves?

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Figure 57

Does this all mean that dogs are even less desirable, and more dangerous, than pet wolves and wolfdogs? Does it mean that a wolf is a better pet? No. Not at all.

Wolves, and most high wolf-content hybrids are very curious, and on average much more destructive than dogs. Even under “controlled” circumstances, most wolves will get into things. In figure 57, Imbo, Wolf Park’s former alpha male, is led into the Visitor Center kitchen where he climbs up on a table and pulls things down to investigate them by pulling them apart (figure 58). If left to their own devices, wolves can be quite destructive; even the garden hose is not safe (figure 59).

So how to explain this discrepancy? How can it be that a wolf or a wolfdog hybrid is more difficult to keep than a dog, yet dogs are higher on the bite statistics lists? Studies have concluded that nothing can be definitively concluded regarding statistics on wolfdogs.

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Figure 58

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Figure 59

There are too many people who misrepresent their animals. There are too great a range of percentages and breeding combinations (due to the lack of any concise breeding program in the U.S. these animals are unfortunately the ultimate mutts). And, there is a strong tendency across the board — from research facilities to one time owners of a single animal — for people to lie about their animal, for example to claim that it is just a dog if it should ever get into trouble … and especially if it should ever bite someone. The fault here is a legitimately based fear that the animal will be immediately euthanized for rabies testing, an issue which will be addressed in a later section.

There is also the possibility that there may be a stronger statistical relationship between the quality of wolfdog owner and the result you see in the animal in comparison to that of a general dog owner and the resultant behavior in their dog. At least a bias may exist in the direction of the bad, ignorant of training and social requirements, or the neglectful owner.

There is such a narrow margin of error with most wolfdogs, relative to dogs, that in general a wolfdog owner who does not do a good job with their animal usually does not keep them very long relative to the same situation with the average dog. The reason being that a poorly socialized wolfdog will generally be much shier than the average dog making a less handleable and perhaps less desirable pet. A wolf or a high content wolfdog also requires much earlier socialization than a dog. Most wolfdogs and nearly all pure wolves will have a greater tendency to avoid people if free and away from their “territory” regardless of their socialization history. By default, this would result in the animal getting into less trouble if it avoided people.

Many owners also realize early on that they have an animal which will require more work. They will either they put in that extra work, or they put the animal in a situation where it will be less likely to get into trouble, or they may even put the animal down. The net result is that perhaps, just perhaps, wolfdogs are somewhat self regulating when put into a “pet” situation.


Introduction
Identification
Percentages
Misrepresentation
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
The Press
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?
References

Misrepresentation & Quality of Life

 

Misrepresentation of Wolf Content

It can be said that the majority of wolf hybrids are misrepresented as to the amount of wolf in the animal. Although an accurate survey of this would be difficult to make, perhaps impossible, general experiences of most individuals working with hybrids all come to a similar conclusion — that somewhere on the order of 75% – 90% of wolf hybrids have a lower wolf content than is claimed by the owner.
Explanations for this are:

  • Economics – The more wolf a hybrid supposedly contains, the more it is valued and hence, the more money it, or its offspring, can bring a breeder.
  • Ego – The more wolf a hybrid supposedly contains, the more personal value many owners place on the animal. Others who may not care what percentage their animal is may find it difficult to come to terms with having been “taken” by the breeder.
  • Ignorance – Most hybrid owners have only experienced and worked with dogs (in their personal experience with canines.) Such experience will often lead people to see and exaggerate all the “differences” that exist between wolves and dogs, and not to see the similarities. In essence, most people see what they want to believe — that their animal exhibits very “wolf-like” characteristics. Objectivity seems rare in people who own hybrids.

Even where the pedigree is accurate, some consideration to the following needs to be made:

  • Variability is inevitable, and with hybrids this can lead to differing breeding success. Dogs, like all domesticated animals, are more fertile than their wild counterparts. Male wolves are only fertile from around early December to around early April, while male dogs are fertile year round. Female wolves give birth to only one small litter per year in the spring. Female dogs often give birth to larger litters, and many can breed twice a year.
  • Wolves are less suited for a life in captivity, whereas dogs have been selectively bred to live with man. Hybrids which are more “wolf-like” are generally less adapted to pet situations. They, usually have shorter life-spans and overall are more stressed than the more “dog-like” animals. “Wolf-like” hybrids are also more likely to “get into trouble” through difficulty in containment, more intense predatory behavior and social aggression, greater need for intensive socialization, and difficulty with medical care. There is also a greater ease in identification of more “wolf-like” hybrids by neighbors and authorities where ownership of such animals is regulated or prohibited.
  • The combination of higher fertility and overall better adaptation to a captive environment for the more dog-like animals may play a role in creating multi-generation hybrids which are more uniformly dog-like in general appearance and behavior.

Misrepresentation of expectations

Breeders and owners often make claims of how wonderful hybrids are to keep as pets. Claims are made that hybrids are good in the house, great with children, and basically “just like dogs.” Although this is possibly true of low wolf-content hybrids, it is not true with most, certainly not all. Regardless, glorifying hybrids as great pets does the animals a disservice and jeopardizes animals as well as those around them. Even a good breeder of pedigreed dogs would do their best to talk a prospective owner out of purchasing a puppy. This is common practice done by breeders of any animal who want to ascertain the readiness of a future owner for any and all problems which might arise.

Although it may not be possible to make any precise assessment of an animal’s wolf or dog content, consider the following: It is possible through visual examination to tell a pure wolf from a pure dog. No dog looks just like a wolf. No wolf looks just like a dog. With experience, it is even possible to make an educated guess as to whether an animal is very much like a wolf, or very much like a dog, or somewhere in between. However, you can’t always tell by just looking, if an animal is a high content wolfdog or a pure wolf. You can’t always tell if an animal is a low content wolf or a dog. Some mid-range animals will even exhibit characteristics which do not correspond to their pedigree. These concepts are important to keep in mind when looking through the following images.

Half sisters

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Figure 26

Figure 26 shows two animals, half sisters, which share the same mother. The animal on the left was reported to be in the 90% wolf range, while the animal on the right was reportedly only a little less wolf, being in the 80% wolf range.

The animal on the left was very wolf-like in every respect; the animal on the right was very dog-like. The mother was reportedly a hybrid in the 90% range, but considering the resultant offspring (on the right), the father in that case was most likely misrepresented in percentage. The mother as well as the father of the animal on the right were seen by the author and both looked much like pure wolves. The breeder claimed the father of the animal on the left was no longer alive, nor were there any photographs….

 

“Wolves” without wolf

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Figure 27

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Figure 28

Figures 27-30 are all animals which were grossly misrepresented. They were all purchased as high wolf-content animals, but nothing about them was overtly wolf-like at all. They were “wolves” without wolf in them — an all too common occurrence.

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Figure 29

The animals in figures 27 and 28 were both brought out to Wolf Park for our “opinion” as to what they were. Both were purchased as “75%” wolf, but no wolf-like characteristics could be seen in either animal.

The animals in figure 29 were purchased for $500.00 each from a breeder who advertises nationally. The owner visited, and video taped, the parents of the pups before the pups were born. In the video, the parents looked like pure wolves. Such “token” wolves on the premises of some breeders are well known. Such breeders can sell at an inflated price both low-content wolfdogs and mutt dogs obtained wherever they can find them. These two animals were supposed to be “pure wolves,” but note the shepherd markings, stocky build, long ears on the animal on the right and the floppy ears on the animal on the left! These animals had little wolf in them.

The problem with misrepresented animals is that they give their owners a false sense of experience with owning hybrids.

Many breeders try to enhance their animals with stories of rare and exotic wolf in their background. Often these claims are for impossible animals such as “Alaskan red wolves,” “Russian Turukhan wolf,” or an all-time favorite the “Louisiana swamp wolf.”

Pictured in figure 30 the highly endangered and rare “Russon wolf.” [sic] The owner of this animal was told that these animals were driven to extinction in the wild near the turn of the century and they now only existed in captivity. They were never documented, so if anybody, especially a wildlife official, biologist or other “scientist” were to tell her otherwise, she was not to listen for such people did not know what they were talking about! Not only did she believe this story, but she was also breeding this animal with neighborhood dogs creating “hybrids” which were of course a bit lacking in the wolf department.

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Figure 30

Misrepresented animals, where little to no wolf exists, are of course quite likely to be good in the house, make great companions, need relatively little work, be relatively easy to contain, and so on.

The problem with these misrepresented animals is not the animals themselves, but what sometimes happens when a person gets the real thing. The owner might think they have experience and can handle the animal, but when problems arise, they may not ask for help because they “can handle it themselves.” Some people have even gone through several high content animals, thinking that the animals were “defective” in some way because they were so shy, so defensive, so impossible to handle, so… well, so wild!

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Figure 31

Figures 31-33 are Noah, a wolf owned by a woman who had animals that she thought were “50%” wolf in San Francisco, California. These animals were excellent pets. They showed no wolf-like characteristics and probably had no wolf in them at all.

She acquired Noah because she felt that he would be an excellent pet. She also planned on breeding him to her other animals. When he was only six months old, he was identified by the authorities as a wolf and confiscated. Although he ended up at Wolf Haven, an excellent facility in the state of Washington, his previous experiences with people ill-trained to handle wolves and hybrids led him to distrust people. He remained quite shy, but was able to live out a life in relative comfort. He has been one of the fortunate few which found a safe home.

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Figure 32

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Figure 33


Quality of Life

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Figure 34

Far too many wolf hybrids do not have a good quality of life.

Such a statement can easily be made about dogs, cats … all animals kept by humans. This is especially true for animals being raised for food or fur, but our interest will stay focused on the plight of the privately owned wolf and wolfdog.

If you look at what often goes wrong in the human-dog relationship, you can begin to grasp some immediate problems. People often expect their dog to understand English, to understand human body language, to automatically know what is desired of them. Yes, a dog can certainly learn many of these things, but the dog must be taught. Training is something overlooked by many people who have wolfdogs.

Through many generations of selective breeding, dogs have been genetically programed to live with people, to accept all our nuances and to actually tolerate quite a lot of harsh treatment. Most dogs have a wonderful in built margin of error such that even some of the worst treatment will not ruin many dogs. Yet, if you consider all the thousands of dogs which end up unwanted in shelters, or simply dumped and abandoned by a disgruntled owner, if you consider the estimated 4,000,000 dog bites which occur every year in North America — it is no wonder that a wolfdog, part domesticated, part wild, has trouble adapting to a captive situation in the hands of an owner who is unwilling, or unable to meet the animal’s needs.

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Figure 35

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Figure 36

Figure 34 represents the type of situation where far too many “wolves” and hybrids end up. Living out their lives in small enclosures with little physical or mental stimulation. Worse, others end up chained, figure 35, a potentially very dangerous situation, for a chained canine may become aggressive, or it might attack “small prey” which sometimes includes small children. Children are often bitten by dogs which live on chains.

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Figure 37

Figure 36 is an animal which was purchased by a woman who was looking for a malamute. She read an ad for wolf-malamute hybrids and was talked into purchasing a pup from a breeder. Given little usable information about raising and socializing this pup, she ended up with a very shy animal that could not be handled, or even approached by strangers. This hybrid was euthanized shortly after this photo was taken because it had eaten the husband’s parrot.

Some breeders do try to screen potential buyers, but as can be seen in Figure 37 this does not always work. This animal was sold to a man who gave a “responsible” breeder all the right answers to his questions. When the breeder found that the animal lost a leg after falling out of the open bed of a truck, he reclaimed the animal. Apparently the owner was not as responsible as he had claimed. Stories abound about buyers whose secure pens are not as represented or don’t yet exist and may never be built. Some buyers “forget” to mention that they are parents of young children as many breeders refuse to place animals in homes where there are little kids.

Others do not survive at all

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Figure 38

Figure 38 is an animal which was shot by a farmer in Indiana. The origin of this animal is unknown, but in all probability it is someone’s escaped or dumped pet. His toenails looked clipped. He was a young animal yet he also had tarter buildup on his teeth, suggesting a diet of dog food. Chewing through the fur of wild game keeps a wolf’s teeth quite clean. Analysis of his skull measurements, which is the only accurate means of assessing a wolf from a dog, indicated he was not a pure wolf, but a wolfdog hybrid.

Concern is mounting because such animals are beginning to show up in wolf recovery areas. Genetic pollution is one concern that biologists and wildlife officials face, Fritts (1995) but of possible greater concern is the effects generated by a socialized “pet” wolf or hybrid if there is an incident involving the public. Lacking the skills necessary to effectively hunt wild game, these animals are highly likely to choose livestock. There is also the possibility that such a “tame” animal might approach, possibly even bite, a human.

Not all hybrids end up in tragic situations

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Figure 39

Even when the aforementioned circumstances exist, an owner with dedication and a willingness to learn can often succeed. The animal in figure 39 was owned by a man who grew tired of its “wolf-like” characteristics and simply threw the animal out of the yard. The animal was found several miles away by a couple who saw that this was not a dog. After discovering where the animal came from they decided to build an enclosure and try to give the animal a good home.

In figure 40 the animal on the left was purchased as a “75%” hybrid. The next animal purchased was advertised as a similar percentage, but this time she was the real thing. The owners then set about to learn all they could. They provided their animals with a secure, spacious enclosure had the animals spayed and neutered to reduce aggression. They kept an open mind and constantly learned from others with more experience, as well as from the animals themselves. A growing number of people make the time and effort to build enclosures which are spacious and provide the animals with a variety of options for entertainment.

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Figure 40

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Figure 41

The animals in figure 41 live in a complex of enclosures which includes two separate one acre sections along with smaller sections usable as holding pens. The “junk” pile they are sitting atop was originally an earth-covered artificial den – the animals kept removing the soil so the owner ended up leaving things as is.

Attempts were made several years ago by the owner to establish his place as an education facility, but legislative policies prevented this. However, there have been several other success stories where enthusiasm for the wolf has led from ownership to a recognized facility. Although Wolf Park did not get its start this way, many of today’s current wolf facilities stemmed from an interest in owning a wolf or a wolfdog.


Introduction
Identification
Percentages
Misrepresentation
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
The Press
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?
References

Identification & Percentages

 

Identification

Wolf Hybrid
Figures 1 and 2. Socrates, a young male wolf at Wolf Park. Notice that his head is relatively large, the markings on his face are well blended, he has small well-furred ears, and light colored eyes. Figures 3 and 4. Tatanka, a young male wolf hybrid who is about 30% wolf on paper. The rest is malamute. Notice that his head is somewhat smaller than that of the wolf. His ears are also larger, pointier, and lack the dense fur commonly seen in wolf ears. His markings are also very distinctive and not well blended. His eyes are light, but this characteristic can also be seen in some dogs.

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Figure 1

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Figure 3

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Figure 2

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Figure 4

Establishing the identification of an unknown animal continues to be a difficult and controversial subject. Genetic research may someday solve this problem, but for now, an animal’s identity is often based on what the owner claims the animal to be, or on what testimony by an expert witness may determine. Checklists and other similar methods to assess an animal’s “wolf-content” have failed to be reliable. Skull measurements as described by Iljin (1941) are only reliable with rendered skulls.

No single physical or behavioral trait can lead one to a certain conclusion as to whether an animal has “wolf” in its recent ancestry. However, an assessment of the animal as made by someone with adequate experience is possible, using “gestalt perception” where you assess the totality of the physical and behavioral characteristics seen in an animal, and compare them to your past experiences.

Head Shape and Ears

This high-content female wolf hybrid in figures 5 and 6 is very wolf-like in every respect except for her head. Most notably, her ears are much larger than those of a wolf.

Compare the ears of this hybrid with those of a pure wolf at Wolf Park, figure 7.

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Figure 5

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Figure 6

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Figure 7

Black Wolves May Fade

In black canines, fading patterns might be a factor in assessing older animals. Figure 8 is a photo of Kiri, a wolf at Wolf Park, taken at one year of age.  Figure 9 is Kiri one year later.

Figure 10 is a hybrid who is about half wolf. Although he is an older animal, about 8 years of age, he has held his black pigment much like many black dogs.

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Figure 8

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Figure 9

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Figure 10

 

Parents and Offspring

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Figure 11

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Figure 12

Although the animal in figure 11 gave the outward appearance of being a dog, he was in fact a wolfdog hybrid, reportedly 50% wolf. When bred to a pure wolf, figure 12, he fathered a litter of pups. (The ears of the figure 12 wolf were damaged while wrestling as a pup with some lower content wolfdogs.)

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Figure 13a

Figures 13a (male) and 13b (female) are two of the pups from this breeding. All the pups in this litter were very wolf-like in all respects. This is not something which you would expect to see if one of the parents was a pure dog.

One of these offspring (figure 13b) “accidentally” bred with her father. The owner of the animals had read in the popular literature that female wolves do not go into heat until their second year. This is not always true with pure wolves. It is certainly not the case with all wolfdogs.

The resulting offspring (Figure 14) were all white and resembled dogs, much like their father. In general, if one parent is a pure wolf, the offspring should all show clearly identifiable wolf-like characteristics, even when bred to a dog. If one parent gives the appearance of being a wolf, but when bred to a predominantly dog-like animal produces “dog-like” offspring, the “wolf” in question might in actuality be a high wolf-content hybrid, and not a pure wolf. If the animal looks like a dog, but produces very wolf-like offspring when bred to a wolf, then the “dog” might very well be a hybrid.

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Figure 13b

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Figure 14


Percentages

Are percentages of wolf meaningful?

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Figure 15

A wolfdog, like any animal, will be the product of its parents. However, genetics will result in a certain amount of variation around a given norm. A hybrid’s pedigree is nothing more than a probability figure as to what can be expected. It is not an accurate assessment of how an individual will turn out, but is a general guideline. However, a hybrid out of a pure wolf should be considered more difficult to work with.

Most “first generation” animals are generally less suited as a good pet by most people’s standards and expectations. These “poorer pet-quality” animals often do not “work out,” for such hybrids generally exceed the ability of most people to socialize, contain, and generally provide a safe home. The same can be said of hybrids whose pedigrees indicate a wolf-content somewhere above 50% wolf. This is of course assuming that the pedigree is accurate and does not misrepresent the wolf-content. Although percentages are nothing more than a general guideline, they will be used for the sake of simplicity in descriptions of animals in this presentation.

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Figure 16

Figure 15: This animal’s pedigree indicated that she was 50% wolf. A pure wolf was several generations in her background. She was good in the house, was well trained and about as tractable as many northern-breed dogs. Her markings were also typical of many northern-breed dogs and overall she was a good “pet.”

Figure 16: This animal’s pedigree also indicated that he was 50% wolf. A pure wolf was several generations in his background. He was not good in the house, he was very shy and was not very tractable. Overall his markings and build are those of a wolf. The only clear indication that he is part dog are his large pointed ears and relatively small head.

Variation within a litter can be striking

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Figure 17

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Figure 18

Figures 17-19 are five-month-old litter mates out of mid-content hybrids. Figure 17 is a male, who, for the most, part looked and acted much like a dog. Figure 18 is his sister who was more wolf-like in both appearance and behavior. While both are restrained by the owner in figure 19, she can be seen to fuss and resent the restraint. While her brother was tractable and easy to train, she required much more intensive handling and care.

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Figure 19

There are no hard and fast rules with hybrids. Being fully interfertile, and back-crossing being a rule, rather than an exception, one cannot even assign a specific “percent” criteria for suitability as pets, as has been done in some legislation.

However, one can make the general statement that often, low-content hybrids will work out as “pets.” This is especially true of hybrids which are the product of breeding a mid-wolf-content animal to a dog. Many such “low-content” hybrids even fall well within the general expectations for dogs. This of course does not make them “absolutely safe,” for any canine can be dangerous under the right (or perhaps it should be said, wrong) circumstances.

It can also be said that the higher wolf-content animals are generally more difficult to work with. The more wolf that the animal has in its pedigree, the more wolf-like characteristics are being exhibited, and, in general, the more work it will take for a person to get results equivalent to those one might expect in a dog. In very high wolf-content animals, you often cannot achieve the same goals, especially with reliability, as you could achieve with a dog. There are exceptions to this, but exceptions should never be taken as the norm, made into an excuse for irresponsible ownership, or made into an example as what can be expected of every animal in every situation.

The problem many face is that of assessing a wolfdog in both its pedigree and its behavior. Even taking into account the unreliability of numbers due to fraud, and the uncertainties due to genetics, you will often find many exceptions to any rule developed. Ideally, the concept of “what an animal is supposed to be” should be discarded. Assessment should be made primarily on the animal’s behavior and how suitable it is in the environment that it is being kept. Only then can you can begin to ascertain what should be expected of the animal. Of course that does not help the lay person, or most “professionals” who have to deal with various situations involving hybrids, for experience with many hybrids of known background is necessary before such assessments can be made.

To further complicate the issue, the higher content animals are not necessarily the ones to bite someone or otherwise cause an “incident.” The biggest problem with high wolf-content animals is that they are more likely to have a miserable life. Many are shy and afraid of people. Far too many are stuck in small pens with little or no mental stimulation for their entire life.

Low wolf-content hybrids

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Figure 20

Figure 20: This animal is a “25%” wolf P1 backcross. His parents were a malamute and a F1 wolf x malamute. Nothing about this animal is overtly “wolf-like” however; he was very intense in his behavior, more so than most dogs, and this made him a difficult animal to work with. No animal should ever be taken for granted and it cannot be stressed enough that each animal has to be analyzed as an individual, regardless of what it is “supposed” to be. Just because an animal is “25%” wolf, does not make it safe. Just because an animal is 0% wolf does not make it safe.

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Figure 21

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Figure 22

Figure 21: These two animals are also two generations removed from a pure wolf. Their pedigree indicated that they are 25% wolf, 25% malamute, 50% German Shepherd. Nothing about these animals was overtly wolf-like. Such animals would be impossible to clearly identify as hybrids based solely on their phenotype.

Figure 22: This animal is a malamute. In comparison to the animals in figure 21, this animal appears more “wolf-like,” yet it is a dog. The similarity and apparent complete overlap in general characteristics between many low wolf-content hybrids and some dogs make clear identification based on phenotype virtually impossible with many hybrids.

High wolf-content hybrids

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Figure 23

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Figure 24

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Figure 25

Figures 23 and 24 are both animals on display at wildlife facilities. The animals’ genetic backgrounds are very questionable. The animal in Figure 23 was acquired as a young pup from a hybrid “rescue” operation and was claimed to be a pure wolf. However, when traced, it was discovered this animal may have come from a breeder where the animals are misrepresented as pure wolves when in reality they are most likely hybrids.

The animal in Figure 24 was caught in the greater Los Angeles, California area. The animal’s owner was known, and he claimed it was a pure arctic wolf. The animal eventually ended up at a wolf facility. Again, a back ground check traced the animal to a breeder who produced only hybrids. Although this animal gives every outward appearance of being a wolf, it may in fact be 1/8 Great Pyrenees!

Figure 25 is a known hybrid whose pedigree indicates “20%” dog. Like the animals in figures 23 and 24, this animal shows no outward appearance of being part dog. In this case, both parents were hybrids.

Identification based on phenotype of pure wolves from high wolf-content hybrids can also be difficult or impossible.


Introduction
Identification
Percentages
Misrepresentation
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
The Press
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?
References

Bison

 

The American bison (Bison bison bison), commonly (and erroneously) called the buffalo, came to the North American continent from Asia, crossing over the land bridge during the ice age. Through the centuries the bison slowly moved southward. When Europeans discovered America, the bison ranged over a great portion of the continent. They had reached as far south as Mexico and as far east as the present states of New York, Maryland, Georgia, and even Florida. They apparently followed the river valleys and mountain passes to the Pacific Northwest. The greatest numbers were, however, found in the plains and prairies from the Rockies to the Mississippi River and down into Texas. At their peak, bison probably numbered as many as 60-70 million.

Bison are ruminants (animals which chew their cud) belonging to the cattle family. Like their close relatives, cows and sheep, they are cloven hoofed. The bulls, which are larger than the cows, stand 5 to 6 feet high at the shoulders and may weigh nearly a ton. Cows are much smaller, lacking the huge “hump” of the males, and usually weigh around 600-800 pounds. (The familiar shoulder hump of the bison is really the bones and strong muscles required to lift the heavy head.) Bison have horns (permanently attached) rather than antlers (which are shed annually). Both sexes have horns. Bulls’ horns stick straight up, while cows’ horns curve inward at the tips.

Despite their great size and weight, bison can charge and run very quickly. They have amazing mobility and can easily outrun a man. Their bones have been found with those of mountain sheep on summits where horses could not find a footing and man could reach only by climbing. They are also accomplished jumpers and were known to easily jump our four foot fence before the hot-wire was in place. Bison are good swimmers and will often cross a lake or river merely to graze on the other side.

In the spring the bison shed their heavy winter coats, the hair hanging about them in tatters. To relieve themselves of the hair and perhaps to relieve their itching skin, they rub against large stones and trees. During the summer months, to relieve themselves from biting insects, bison wallow in dust or sand. Early travelers on the plains wrote of the “buffalo wallows” they found, often a foot or more deep and 15 feet across. In captivity bison may rub on fence posts, destroying fences.

The Native Americans would often take the animals while they had little hair on their backs and hindquarters. Indian clothing was made from the tanned, more workable skins of the cows; their lodges and shields from the thick, tanned hide of the bulls. The thicker hide of the bulls has been known to withstand shots from handguns, the bullets bouncing harmlessly off.

Bison are social animals and are seldom seen alone. Only the occasional old bull, no longer able to compete with younger bulls, may wander off to spend his days in solitude or with other bulls like himself.

We now know that the great north-south migrations once ascribed to the bison never occurred. The treks probably were not more than 300-400 miles long. The herds moved in various directions in their search for food and water, as well as to escape hot weather on the southern plains. The great herds were actually made up of groups of smaller herds. Only when panicked did these smaller groups appear to lose their identity. It is questionable whether the original small herds ever reformed after a stampede.

Since early days when the first ranchers noted the extreme hardiness of the buffalo, men have wanted to breed this hardiness into their cattle. The hybrid resulting from crossing cattle and buffalo is known sometimes as a cattalo or beefalo. With few exceptions such attempts have failed, as the hybrids are usually not able to reproduce. Today, some ranchers are attempting to commercially raise purebred bison for food. Not only are these animals kinder to the environment due to their eating habits, especially on marginal rangeland with seasonal rainfall, but bison are much more efficient in converting feed to muscle mass and so eat less than cattle. The meat itself is much leaner than beef, an important point in a more health-conscious society.

When snow covers the ranger the bison root through the snow with their muzzles and heads. Students of the bison question whether they ever use their feet to uncover the grasses.

Their breeding season is from mid to late summer. The herd at this time becomes restless and may be dangerous. The bulls, aloof most of the year, now drift among the cows and calves. The bulls bellow hoarsely and become quarrelsome. Many fights occur; the combatants, with lowered heads, paw the earth, rush and butt one another. The battles are usually short-lived, the defeated bull retreating to a safe distance.

Calves are born in the following spring, usually between the middle of April and the end of May, but some arrive as late as October. They are a bright buff color, almost orange, but will turn dark brown by the end of their first year. Calves can walk within an hour, and keep up with the running herd by the end of their first day. The cow and new calf soon rejoin the herd, and the youngsters begin grazing very young, although some may still nurse when nearly a year old. Bison mature at 7 to 8 years old, and may live to be 25 to 30.

With their great size, speed, and weight, bison make formidable prey. A single healthy bison is more than capable of driving off a single wolf, and a full herd of bison is more than a match for a pack of hungry wolves. Predators must try to single out a lone, sick or injured bison which might be weak enough to fall victim. Our wolf-bison demonstration, which we have held weekly for more than 20 years, shows just how difficult it is to catch a bison. Our healthy bison easily defend themselves from sometimes as many as five wolves, and often give as good as they get!

We will never know just how many bison once lived on this continent. The giant herds were nearly gone before any systematic attempts were made to determine their numbers. Ernest Thompson Seton estimated that there may have been 60 million of these animals around the year 1800. A reasonable estimate places their numbers at 40 million in 1830, when systematic destruction of the bison began. By 1870-71 not more than 5 1/2 million remained, and by 1879, only stragglers were seen drifting northward along their old trail.

Historians say the U.S. Army was encouraged to slaughter bison to control the West. As the stream of white settlers moving westward increased, the Indian hunters found it increasingly difficult to find enough bison to supply their tribes with meat. All of this led to raids on white settlements and massacres of the settlers. Destroying the bison was used to subdue the Indians. This of course left other predators, such as the wolf, without food as well.

Much of the initial destruction of the herds was done by hunters. Hunters often killed 250 bison a day and many said they killed from 2,500 to 3,000 a year. Hunting was done primarily for hides and for meat. However, the only meat generally taken was the tongues. By 1870 trading in buffalo was the chief industry of the plains. A single firm in St. Louis bought 250,000 hides in 1871. In 1873-74, auctions in Forth Worth, Texas, were moving 200,000 hides in a day or two. Yet, for every hide taken, 4-5 bison were killed.

Construction of the railroads across the plains hastened the destruction of the bison. Thousands were shot to supply construction camps with meat. Hunting from train windows was advertised widely and passengers engaged in the “sport” of shooting from the open windows as the bison raced beside the train. By 1874, the southern herd was gone.

With the southern herd gone, the bison hunters turned to the northern herd. Between 1876 and 1883 they destroyed it. Those who knew the buffalo country said at least 5,000 hunters and skinners were on the northern range in 1882. The hunting season of 1883 completed the annihilation of the northern herd. The hunters apparently did not realize the bison were gone, for many insisted that the herd had gone into Canada and would return.
The year of 1900 marked the all-time low in bison numbers: less than 300 wild animals remained on the North American continent out of the millions that had once lived here.

Fortunately, during the time the wild bison herds were being destroyed, a number of people were developing small captive herds. Some better-known captive herds were the famous Goodnight herd of Texas, the Pableo-Allard herd of Montana, and the Blue Mountain Forest Association herd of New Hampshire. It is largely from these three herds that the bison in national refuges and parks have come.

Bison are found today in numerous private and state herds. One of the largest herds in the United States, numbering about 1,300 animals, is in the Custer State Park in South Dakota. Surveys of the bison herds in the United States and Canada in recent years show a continental population of 20,000 to 22,000 animals. While this is a small number when compared with the great herds that once ranged the continent, it is large enough to assure the well-being of the American bison in the foreseeable future.