Shadow play…..

(Originally posted 18/2/16 at Studying Seals: Elana’s Wolf Behaviour Research)

The last few days have been incredible – I didn’t think it was possible for me to love wolves more than I already did, but I was wrong – I do love these fascinating creatures more and I am enchanted by their every behaviour. As it is mating season, males tend to howl more than usual, initialising howls from other wolves and as a result each morning I am greeted with the haunting sound of wolves howling in unison…..collecting data while listening to these wolves is beyond bliss – and it makes me extremely happy!!


Torak, howling is heart out…..and causing every other wolf to howl in response! (Photo credit: ER Hobkirk)


So happy!!!

However, not everything is so serene here – aggro does ensue amongst these guys, and the Arctic wolves are more than happy to demonstrate this – well, Massak and Sikko are happy to demonstrate this on their subordinate brother, Pukak – yes, my boy Pukak is the brunt of many kerfuffle among the Arctics – regularly he is kept in line by Massak, the alpha male, but Pukak does a fine job of defending himself against his siblings by using facial expressions to ward his aggressors off!! These facial expressions look aggressive and when watching the whole sequence of agonistic events play out in front of you, you would be forgiven for thinking one wolf is about to sustain serious injury! But, the actual result? No wolf is harmed and harmony is restored – these expressions are essential for effective communication, they are functional to prevent injury, not to cause it…….


Pukak (centre), getting the brunt of it from his sister, Sikko (left) and his brother Massak (right). (Photo credit: ER Hobkirk)


Pukak stands his ground – look a that face! (Photo credit: ER Hobkirk)


He decides to make a break for it!! (Photo credit: ER Hobkirk)


Pukak (right) breaks free, but is still in defense mode as he runs past his brother, tongue flicking! (Photo credit: ER Hobkirk)

Once harmony is restored and the day draws to an end the wolves (and myself) succumb to fatigue – and a yawning wolf is quite an easy facial expression to spot! With jaws wide apart, lips retracted back, teeth showing and tongue curled – yep, its way past Nuka’s bed time – but that didn’t stop him letting out one more howl as the sun set behind the hill……shadow play……


Nuka yawning – wolves have very big mouths!! (Photo credit: ER Hobkirk)


Nuka’s silhouette as he howls at sunset…….his shadow play……. (Photo credit: ER Hobkirk)





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