I am half way through the non-fiction book “A Wolf Called Romeo” by Nick Jans. It is the story of an enormous black wolf that lived on the outskirts of Juneau, Alaska and became recognizable from his playful engagement with local dogs. While wolves are usually independent and elusive, this one was frequently seen and heard as he made friends with local labs, huskies and other canines of all sorts. Occasionally he would even steal their tennis balls or Frisbees he was so anxious to find playmates. It is a fascinating story of the interactions between humans, domestic animals and a very unique wild wolf.
Veterinarian Jack Tuttle also finds wolves and their intelligent behavior intriguing. He is the author of “It’s a Secret So Pass It On,” and you can find his blog here. Now, without further ado, here is his blog about wolf behavior:
I discuss survival instincts in the book “It’s a Secret, So Pass It On: a Toolbox For Life.” Survival of self and species are the prime motivators of behavior for all living creatures, including humans. “Survival of the fittest” does not necessarily refer to the strongest or most dominant. It represents those who are most adaptable to changes in their environment.
This can be a difficult concept for some to understand, so perhaps an example of survival fitness can help clarify matters. And there is no finer representation than the life of “Black Wolf,” a male wolf born in the year 2000 within Yellowstone Park. He was given a tracking collar and the designation 302M. He was followed extensively throughout his life, giving researchers a chance to learn about an amazing animal that marched to the beat of his own drummer.
When a litter of pups is born, whether wild or domesticated, a pecking order quickly forms where the most dominant individuals (usually males) force submission upon the rest. Most of these dominant males must eventually spend time apart from their pack, building strength and learning lessons that might someday allow them to take over pack leadership. They plan for the day they can challenge the lead or alpha male for the right to mate with his pack of females.
Black Wolf didn’t follow this mold. He allowed litter mates to dominate him, but he never seemed to lose self-confidence in the process. This suggests he had dominant traits but was in no hurry to demonstrate them. He enjoyed a relatively equal mixture of dominant and submissive aspects, allowing him the flexibility to lose battles with his litter mates while still knowing he could rise up and assume a leadership position if desired or needed. His adaptability to changes in his environment was enhanced as a result.
He eventually struck out on his own, and he was able to maneuver his way through the territories of other wolf packs without being seen as a threat. Instead of working with a pack to take down large prey like elk, he settled for mice and other small animals plus carcasses left by other predators. He had the confidence to live alone a long time.
He was driven to mate, just like other male wolves, and was even nicknamed “Casanova” for his mating prowess. But his method of attracting females was unique, to say the least. At one point the alpha male of a nearby pack tried to run him out of his territory, but Black Wolf found a solution that favored him.
It may have been pure luck, but Black Wolf was able to extricate himself from a possible confrontation with the alpha male by using a road for cover. A number of wolves are killed on roads by vehicles traveling through the park, so most learn to stay away from roads. But it was a road that provided the safety Black Wolf needed, so he began using it as a base of operations. He could escape back to the road whenever his survival was threatened, and he was aware enough to avoid people and their vehicles when nearby.
Since daughters within a pack of wolves will not mate with their father, the dominant pack near Black Wolf’s territory included a number of females needing mating partners. Black Wolf was able to attract several of them to him and fathered their children. Again, he was not the alpha male of a large pack, just a smart loner who figured out his own method for reproducing his genes.
At one point, he and a younger brother began their own small pack, but Black Wolf allowed his brother to lead. Black Wolf didn’t take over leadership of his pack until he was 6.5 years old, late by most measures. He fathered more offspring and lived a total of 9.5 years. He was extremely old by wolf standards.
He was patient but persistent. He knew when to be dominant and when to submit. He was willing to play second fiddle but still had the ability to take over leadership when his pack needed him. Even in his elder years, he was the one to go for an elk’s throat in the dominant fashion expected of pack leaders during hunts.
In other words, Black Wolf used a combination of direct and indirect traits to maximize his self-survival, but his clever tactics also allowed him to spread his genes far and wide. Black Wolf was better at survival because he was the rare third kind of wolf.
There are a few “third way” animals in every species. As I describe in the book, the third way is a balance between two extremes and gives its bearer choices. If one direction or behavior is contraindicated, the opposite one might work better. This perspective allows a degree of conscious awareness that provides survival advantages over those at the extremes.
Researchers have Black Wolf’s DNA and are studying it to determine how he was able to survive with his unique combination of traits. But the DNA molecule is highly complex, with thousands of gene markers. So researchers may be unable to see the forest for the trees, as they say. I recommend measuring the energy polarities of an animal or person. Those with a balance between opposite charges have the best chance for survival.
If we were to describe Black Wolf in human terms, we might say he was an older soul who could fly higher and see farther than most. He was a master at both self-survival and species survival. Frankly, I don’t know many humans for whom we can make the same statement. We can learn much by following Black Wolf’s lead.
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