Mild temperatures have returned and seem to be settling into the northwoods of Minnesota. Although we still have about a half of foot of snow on the ground, the warm weather will diminish that in time.
Next week on April 15 and 16, the Timber Wolf Alliance is hosting the Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference 2009 in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University will be giving the keynote address. His talk will be very timely with all the news about his study of wolves on Isle Royale with their genetic defects from decades of inbreeding. Iâll be going to the conference and will report back with all the latest news on the status of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region.
Natural History Of Wolves
Many times while working at the Ambassadorâs Desk at the International Wolf Center, I am asked if the wolves are whatâs called a âTimber Wolfâ. The answer is both yes and no. All of our wolves are a subspecies of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus), namely the Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), the Great Plains wolf (Canis lupus nubilus), and the Northwestern wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis). I explain that a wolf you would find in the wild in Northern Minnesota is actually the Great Plains wolf. There is a subspecies that was found in the New England states and is still in the wild in Eastern Canada called the Eastern Timber Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon). When Europeans first came to American, the Eastern Timber Wolf was the first wolf they encountered and classified. AS the Europeans made their westward move, the name âTimber Wolfâ came to denote a generic name for the wolves in North America, much like the name brand Klennex is used like a generic name for any brand facial tissue. Another factor to consider is that most settlers made no distinction between the wolf and the coyote. Coyotes will inhabit more open and brushy habitats and as a result was commonly called âbrush Wolfâ while the wolves which lived in the more densely forested habitats were called âtimber wolfâ.
Historically, the Eastern Timber wolfâs range did reach into the Western Great Lake region. They were actually the widest ranging subspecies in North America at the time. Up until the mid 1980âs, the wolf in Minnesota was still classified as the Eastern Timber wolf, but in reality that particular subspecies had been eliminated in the United States and the wolf from the Great Plains had filled the vacant niche left behind. So if you are reading any old research material concerning the wolves in the Great Lakes region, you will find them referred to as âTimber Wolvesâ.
So yes, you may refer to these wolves at the International Wolf Center as âTimber wolvesâ, as used in the common name for any North American wolf, but they are not of the subspecies properly called the Eastern Timber wolf. And no, I donât believe a certain basketball team in Minnesota will be changing their name anytime soon to the Great Plains Wolves.
Personal notes and observation at the IWC
With the mild weather comes as decrease of hormonal aggression that Maya was exhibiting toward Aidan. Because of the earlier stalking and dominance displays, Aidan is still wary of Maya, but they can also be seen sleeping next to each other, showing a social bond. Denali is going to be one large wolf, he towers over Maya and only seems dwarfed by big, old Grizzer. Grizzer continues to seek out both pups for social play and dare I sayâ¦mischief. Shadow has retained his dominate status with very little effort this winter and we appear to be going into Spring with a very socially cohesive pack.
Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassadorâs desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWCâs wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org
This weekâs photo shows Denali at almost 1-year of age. He still has much more red tint to his coat than his brother Aidan.
âHelping to Raise Wolf Awarenessâ