Wolves belong to the broad class of the carnivorous animals. They belong to the Canidae family and thus, they are related to other carnivores like dogs and cats (Harrington, Fred, and Paul 263). No wonder their physical appearance is similar to that of the dogs.
However, they are much larger than the dogs. An adult male wolf grows larger than their female counterparts of the same age do. Most of the wolves are in Asia, North America, and Europe among other locations on the globe. The largest type of a wolf is the gray or timber wolf, which can live in any habitat from hot deserts to cool areas in the mountains.
Just like dogs, wolves are social predators as depicted in the way they move and live like a family in groups known as packs. A pack is normally made up of not more than seven wolves, which largely depend on their number and the amount of food available for them. The animals carry out all their daily activities, which are mainly dominated by looking for food as a group.
A couple who give birth to new members of the group heads each pack. “Unlike many mammalian systems, whereby the dominant males have got many mates and the subordinate few or non, the dominant male wolves may only have only one mate while the subordinates have none” (Harrington, Fred and Paul 221).
After the young ones have grown up and can take care of themselves, they can move out of the pack to find their mates to start a new pack.
Alpha is the name given to the dominant male leader of the pack. The dominant female is referred to as the alpha female. Hierarchy in the pack is observed as members of the pack show respect to the dominant or the superior ones. They do that through exhibiting submissiveness by the use of body postures and facial expressions. There is a limitation in the breeding process because only the dominant partners can breed.
In order to survive, a wolf must strive to achieve three things in life, which include a mate, food resources, and an area or territory. It can do this by killing an established breeder. However, in doing this, the wolf puts itself at the risk of being killed by its fellow wolves. The other option it can take is joining a pack, luring out a mate, and dispersing to an area that is not occupied (Mech and Luigi 25).
It takes approximately a period of two months after conception for a female to give birth. A female wolf can give birth to between four to seven pups. The pups are all born blind and it takes them about a year to reach physical maturity. Summer time is a very important period for the breeding of the wolves.
“During the three to four months after parturition, the pups must be adequately fed to ensure that their physical development is sufficient to survive the rigors of the late fall and winter” (Harrington, Fred and Paul 81). Nevertheless, the pups do not become sexually mature until they are two years old.
Naturalistic Observation of the wolves
While human beings make use of physical borders to mark their territories, some territorial mammals make use of scent marking to distinguish the boundaries of the places where they live. Some animals like dogs and wolves scent mark mainly through urination and defecation, while others like the cats rub their body parts against surfaces. This way, animals are able to pass a certain message from one animal to another (Alcock 51).
All animals apart from human beings lack the ability to talk in order to pass messages from one to the other. As for animals, they have different forms of communication. By keenly observing the way they behave, one can easily tell that all animals do communicate with one another. They make use of facial expressions, sounds, and body language to pass different kinds of information.
The sounds made by certain animals are different from those made by others, depending on the kind of message that is being passed (Alcock 53). All these also apply to the wolves whose inferior members show submissiveness to the superior ones by encircling them with their noses raised up. Just like dogs do on sensing danger, wolves also erect their ears in times of danger and in addition to that, they open their mouths wide.
Just like the other carnivores, the wolves have strong muscles. They also have a strong sense of sense of smell and sight. ‘The sense of smell is probably the most acute of the wolf’s senses. Unlike human beings, wolves are strongly reliant on odors to acquire information about food or danger, as well as, all that concerns the outside world (Mech and Luigi 80).
That way, they are able to kill animals, which are larger than they are in terms of size. To make getting food easier, they prey on the sick and weak animals and in addition to that, they eat very fast to avoid being robbed off their catch. The wolves normally target the deer, moose, the beavers, and the elk as their prey (Harrington, Fred, and Paul 35).
In case an enemy tries to steal their food, it will only be lucky to get the poor quality parts of the meat. This is because the wolves are very clever to feed on the best parts first once they get hold of their prey. In addition to their diet, the wolves feed on birds, berries, fish, worms, mice, and insects especially when they are not able to catch the large preys. There are rumors that wolves also eat people but it has not yet been proved true.
The unique scent marking behavior of wolves
Wolves are territorial by nature because they use their scents to mark their own territorial boundaries. It is the duty of leaders of the pack to urinate near the ends of their territories to mark them.
“Wolf scent marking behavior used for territorial advertisement includes raised leg urination (RLU) and perhaps standing urination (STU) by males, flexed leg urination (FLU) and possibly squat urination (SQU) by female and perhaps defecation (SCT) and ground scratching (SCR)” (Mech and Luigi 25).
The scent markings are said to reduce as one gets inside the territory. During patrols by the wolves in their territory, the number of scent markings is normally very high. The size of their territories depends on the nature of the habitat and the type of breed. It has been a little bit hard for researchers to track them down for study because of their frequent movements and their few numbers.
There is a diminished wolf habitat and population because of the increasing human population and urbanization. The wolves’ natural habitat continues to suffer from extinction as human beings use the habitants for settlement and other activities (Harrington, Fred, and Paul 120).
The wolves spent most of their time at the core; a place that is approximately at the centre of the territory. For safety purposes, the places where the pregnant females give birth are always near the core. If the wolves loose all their off springs, they continue to live in the territory. Even when one of the breeding pair dies, the other one remains there until another mate comes (Mech and Luigi 28).
The non-breeding members of the pack offer the protection to the breeding mother and the pups. When there is danger, wolves normally howl and bark to pass the message to the rest of the members of the pack. That does not mean that, they all gather there, they spread out in the vast territory only reassembling when the supply of food is scarce in order to fight for it.
Any wolf that does not belong to a certain pack is able to know the territories that have been occupied. This is because, by urinating near the edges of their territories, the wolves leave behind scent marks.
They do it with one leg high up and that is followed by scratching the ground (Mech and Luigi 25). Additionally, it also enables them to know the presence of their prey and enemies, after which, they prepare themselves to deal with the situation at hand.
The sad thing about their fascinating this natural behavior of wolves is the fact that it accounts for more than ninety percent of the lives lost by the wolves. Just as human beings behave when their territories are interfered with, the wolves fight for what belongs to them. Of course, the pack with the strongest or the largest number of wolves gets to win the fight leaving the members of the weak pack dead.
“Wolves do fight to death in the wild and the losers are usually wolves encountered on a territory edge or inside a neighbor’s territory” (Harrington, Fred and Paul 5). A predator is more likely to kill one of the wolves if they are in a pack than when each is alone. Cases of deaths arising because of attacks by predators occur mainly when the animals are together.
Implications of the Naturalistic Observation
The observation made on the scent marking behavior of wolves indicates that it is one of their forms of communication. If they are able to sense the entry of an enemy into their pack and prevent other wolves from entering into their territory, then it only means one thing. They are able to pass a certain message by leaving scent marks through urinating at or near the edges of their territories.
Once a foreign wolf senses the scent marks, it is able to understand that that particular territory is occupied by another pack. That way, a message has been passed, and the wolf does not interfere since it is aware of the consequences that could result because of crossing boundaries.
Limitations of the Research
It has been difficult for researchers to do a thorough study of the natural behavior of wolves because of their low population and frequent movement (Harrington, Fred, and Paul 120). On the other hand, the scientific explanation behind the unique scent in the urine has not yet been established. Finally, it is not known if other animals, which are not wolves have the ability to recognize the scent of the wolves’ urine.
Future Directions of the Research
Researchers have been able to bring to the people’s understanding the scent marking behavior of wolves. The scientific explanation behind this unique behavior has not yet been ascertained.
Therefore, researchers should go further in research to determine the chemical components present in the animal’s urine, which enables them to scent mark. In addition to that, they should also do thorough research to determine whether other animals apart from the wolves can be able to detect the scent.
From the above discussion, it is clear that almost all animals have their diversified ways of communicating with each other given the fact that they cannot express themselves through speech, as human beings do. As for the wolves, they communicate via scent marking. Scent marking is therefore, the unique way through which, wolves pass information to each other, especially with regard to marking their boundaries.
This characteristic behavior is of great significance to the wolves because it enables them to survive, in other words, it is a survival tactic ((Harrington, Fred, and Paul). This is because the wolves are able to mark their territories and protect their prey from external predators. They are also able to note the entry of enemies and thus they can prepare to deal with them.
Alcock, John. Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach. Sunderland, Mass: Sinauer Associates, 2009. Print.
Harrington, Fred H, and Paul C. Paquet. Wolves of the World: Perspectives of Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. Park Ridge, N. J: Noyes Publications, 1979. Print.
Mech, L D, and Luigi Boitani. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. Chicago [u.a.: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.