Wolf Totem

The dingo ate her baby but the wolves stole my cache of canned beans!

Do you know that book, Wolf Totem? At first I thought it was somewhat exaggerated but as I read more I am impressed that the animal behavior or natural history of the story does look to be plausible and consistent with my own experience. Some of the popular misconceptions about wolves are introduced in the narrative as common knowledge that goes uncontested until later when it’s disproven

I wonder about things such as wolves attacking people, however, so far as I have read in the book the only one bitten by a wolf is the Han Chinese who is raising a wolf pup on a chain. But it’s possible that Mongolian wolves act differently in this way. Joszef Toth studied wolves in Mongolia during the Soviet era; should ask him.

Or it could be like the typical wolf stories John Burroughs describes: a man says he was chased by wolves that got closer and closer to him as he made his way home on a  mountain path one dark and windy night. Finally he climbs a tree to escape safely out of reach. Someone asks, did you see the wolves? No, he says, damn good thing I didn’t or I would not be here to tell you about it.

One late summer walking back through the woods from my camp on the Brule river after an enjoyable afternoon barbecue with my sister, the sun was setting. My sister complained about  me walking too fast and  that she might get lost. Not wanting to walk so slowly, I would go ahead then wait for her to catch up. She complained louder and constantly. I finally said, be quiet or you will upset the wolves. (I knew they were around.) On cue the  next time she started to complain the wolves began howling nearby. That shut her up!

Wolves like to bite things to explore and test them. Wolves in a pen would happily rip the leather Levi’s tags off a visitor’s jeans. I suspect it was wolves that tore into some cans of pork and beans left at my tent camp, The Brule River Roadhouse. Black bears would do that too but probably would finish the job by completely ripping the cans open.

Probably theMongolian wolves learned to attack humans from those in Russia that ate BaronMunchausen’s horse!!! I remember that story from childhood and always thought if I would have a  kennel name it should be  Baron Munchausen’s Horse, with an image of a huge slobbering wolf in harness (the wolf ate the rest of the pack and then the horse pulling the sled) ahead of the monocled and bug-eyed plump Baron wearing a German-style helmet with a spike on top.

In North America it appears that wolves are more afraid of people and typically will not defend the pups in the den from being captured by humans. One of the first scientific observers, Murie, describes a huge battle between wolves protecting their den and  a grizzly but then crawls into the den himself. Dogs and polar bears would be another interesting topic.

In the years gone by, in Ft McMurray and in Pine Point I remember that occasionally wolves would come to the outskirts of  town to kill and eat sled dogs that were not fenced in adequately. Although the wolf pelts were not very valuable at the time (especially compared to lynx) Danny McQueen did some trapping of wolves to remind them that they were not welcome around  Pine Point and to reinforce their fear of metal and other human objects.

A dingo male once grabbed my arm at a wild animal park in Australia when he thought his mate was being too friendly with me. I instinctively stepped back and raised the arm with the dingo hanging on until he was completely off the ground.


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