PR makeover for the leader and his pack
Vanishing Ice: Wolves at the Door 6.30pm, Animal Planet
IF ever an animal needs a PR consultant, it’s the poor old wolf. He gave Little Red Riding Hood a terrible time, Jesus described him as wicked and B- grade horror films have morphed him into a werewolf. Perhaps all that howling at the full moon freaked out our ancient ancestors. Whatever the root cause, the big bad wolf has been a potent symbol of villainy for more than 2000 years. Farmers, too, present him as a bad guy, a marauding killer who picks off livestock at will.
Now for the reality check. But, before you read on, look at the warm and fuzzy photo. Cute, eh? If it doesn’t reduce you to a puddle or if you were unmoved by Two Socks, the lone wolf in Kevin Costner’s 1990 opus Dances With Wolves , perhaps you should move straight on to the next review.
If you’re still with me, here are the facts. Wolves are among the most intelligent animals on the planet, mate for life, form close family units, dote on their young and love to play. Wild dogs and coyotes are much more of a threat to farm animals, as wolves feed mainly on small animals such as rabbits and racoons, with berries and insects for dessert. To be sure, when a wolf gets together with his mates, he’ll do what any pack animal does, which is bad news if you’re a deer or an elk.
The howling? Well, that turns out to be a bit of sing- song for other members of the pack, especially the females. Give a wolf a rocky outcrop and he’ll howl like Stanley Kowalski for Stella.
If you still aren’t convinced, watch tonight’s documentary, which contains some of the most remarkable footage taken of wolves playing, courting and caring for their young. So much so that it snared an Emmy award for filmmakers Jim and Jamie Dutcher, who spent six years living among wolves in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. ‘‘ Our goal,’’ the urbane Jim Dutcher declares, ‘‘ was to listen to the wolves . . . not as scientists but as social partners.’’
The Sawtooth wolves may live in the wild, but because the Dutchers have bottle- fed and cared for them since they were puppies, they are remarkably affectionate and trusting around humans, allowing the cameras to get up close and personal.
When they are fully grown it is fitting that the Dutchers move Kamutz — the alpha or head wolf — and his family back to ancestral Native American lands, where they are warmly welcomed. The Native Americans respected the wolf as a magnificent hunter and carer of its young.
Intelligent, social animals: Wolves don’t deserve their bad press