Living in the Wild: Grey Wolves know every square inch of their territory.

The following story is a testament to just how much wolves pay attention to human activity in their territory.  

A few years back I received a message in my inbox from a couple living in wolf country. The couple had concerns about grey wolves and were looking for advice.

Photograph of a Wisconsin grey wolf. Credit Al Scherwinski Photography LLC

The couple lived in wolf country on a horse farm, and made it clear that they liked living alongside wolves. In fact, they hardly knew wolves were around, that is until recently.

The couple told me something was different with the resident wolf pack. The couple went on to describe this change; instead of remaining out of sight which was the norm for this pack, the couple began seeing the wolves by the horse corral. They went on to describe that the wolves were not only hanging out by the corral, they didn’t run away when they saw the couple. My response was that I would consult with a wolf expert and get right back to them.

I called up Carter Neimeyer, a biologist with decades of experience in grey wolf ecology and behavior. I told Carter about the couple’s concern and his response was for me to ask them, “what’s changed on the farm?”

I got right back to them with Carter’s question and their answer was that they just got a dog. Carter said the wolves were concerned because there’s a new threat in their territory because of the couple’s new dog. Carter recommended that they keep the dog close to them and leashed. Carter also recommended that the couple make a scarecrow and place it by the horse corral.

A biologist once told me that wolves know every square-inch of their territory. It’s just like a family that knows where everything is in their neighborhood. We know where the grocery store is, and we teach children how to avoid dangerous freeway crossings. So why wouldn’t it be the same for a family of grey wolves? By introducing a pet dog into the wolves territory the couple unknowingly added a new threat.

It all turned out for the couple and the resident wolves because they followed Carter’s advice. They worked to mitigate the problem. The couple learned just how much the resident wolf pack paid attention to their activities on the horse farm. Lesson learned! Conflict avoided!

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