Monday, June 21, 2010

Sometimes wolves really can be "big and bad"

I love wolves, and I am truly grateful that I have been able to interact one-on-one with socialized wolves.

I have great misgivings about the approach described in the article at the following link: Howling next door? Don't worry, it's just a San Fernando Valley wolf pack.

It's not clear how much "wolf content" these animals have, but the owners are presenting them as wolves. They say they are whistle-trained and come when called. Young children are encouraged to interact with them.

I find this troubling. First of all, the owners are promising that their whistle-training will override the wolves' natural, instinctive (i.e., predatory) responses. I don't think that's a safe bet at all.

Second, what exactly is this approach "teaching" children about wolves? That they make good pets? That wolves are friendly toward humans? That a wolf poses no threat to a child? Based on my research and conversations with wolf experts, I can't agree with any of that.

No matter how much whistle-training you do, a high-content or pure wolf is NOT the same as a domestic dog. The likelihood of a wolf responding to instinctive, predatory behavior is far higher than the chances of a dog doing the same. Dogs have been conditioned over centuries to relate to humans the way they do. It seems absurd to me that someone would think they have accomplished the same thing with a wolf in just a few years.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, even if that makes me un-PC to some. Wolves have different behavior markers than dogs. They even have physical differences, like extra glands they use as territory markers. Folks who keep "domesticated" wolves as pets are generally asking for trouble. Certainly not safe for kids. It does no favor to wolves as a species to gloss over their potential for aggression. They are beautiful, wonderful animals and I welcome their reintroduction in the wild, but not in someone's backyard petting zoo. LOL
    Good for you for telling the truth.
    Great article.