One of the most misunderstood animals is the wolf. Wolves were so hated and feared in the American West that a lucrative bounty was placed on them back in the 1800s. In just the year 1884, 5450 wolves were slaughtered in Montana. Most of the world’s wolf species are endangered due to ruthless hunting and poisoning practices.
The real tragedy is that our fears about wolves are not based on reality. Since the 1970s, biologists studying wolves have discovered that our most common beliefs about wolves are completely wrong.
Wolves Do Not Hunt People
People fear wolves because they are thought to actively pursue and eat people, especially children. These fears are seen in old folk tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Peter and the Wolf. The fears may have sprung up from watching wolves eat freshly buried corpses. Wolves are scavengers as well as hunters, but they do not hunt people.
Wolves avoid people whenever possible. There has never been a fully authenticated case of a wolf killing a person within the entire continent of North America, although wolves are suspected of killing one person in 2005 and another in 2010. In contrast, humans in 2005 murdered over 16,000 humans just in the country of America. Of all documented cases of wolf attacks on people in North America, the wolf was kept as an exotic pet instead of being left alone in the wild.
Wolves Will Not Decimate Livestock
Any wolf reintroduction program faces heavy opposition from farmers and ranchers. They claim the wolves will eat all of their stock. One 2012 German study published in Mammalian Biology looked at wolf feeding habits. They found that, given the choice, wolves prefer eating wild animals like deer, elk, moose, rabbits, boar and mice rather than cattle or other livestock.
The study also showed that wolves and wolf packs were effectively deterred by guard dogs, electric fences and the presence of humans. Eating livestock seems to be the last possible resort for wild wolves. Wolves may kill dogs that wander into the wolf’s territory as they would kill attack any stray wolf in their territory. Keeping dogs inside or supervised eliminates that threat.
Wolves Will Not Wipe Out Other Natural Predators
Another common misconception about wolves is that they will kill all other predators in their territories. This is false. Wolves do not hunt and kill other predators like bears, cougars, lynx or birds of prey. Large predators like bears are strong enough to kill wolves.
Another fear is that wolves will eat all of the natural prey of other predator species, which will die off from starvation. Predators often eat other species than wolves. Bears, for example, are omnivores that predominately consume a fruits, insects, fish and roots. Eagles fish or scavenge carcasses and do not actively hunt large animals like white-tailed deer.