We’ve had several hiking dogs, but two of my favorites were Chino, a wolf-husky mix we brought back from Alaska in 1990, and Roscoe, a nondescript gene pool who looked like a million other mutts you’ve seen, and whose ancestry is anyone’s guess. Our oldest son, Dan, another animal lover, became a veterinarian and later a veterinary cardiologist, partly because of his experiences with Chino. He also does some pro-bono care, which led to our adopting Roscoe as a pup around 2005.
Both of these canids did a fair amount of High Peaks hiking with us. Chino hiked his last peak, Dix, in 2002, and died in 2004, a year before Roscoe came on the scene, and continued the hiking tradition. The other common thread between them? Porcupines!
Most Adirondack dog owners have porcupine stories. We were fortunate in that our stories were all local, not out on the trail, deep in the High Peaks, miles from the car, and any assistance.
When Chino was ten, he was so badly quilled on our property, the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, that he resembled those grainy old photographs of the heavily bearded Tolstoy. Thereafter, when Chino would accompany me on morning jogs along the Wolf Walk Trail, if we encountered a porcupine ambling across the forest floor from one tree trunk to another, Chino would get excited, start to charge, and then he’d stop in his tracks, and look back at me, as if to say, “oh yeah, I remember how this ends!” He was never quilled again.
Roscoe, on the other hand, has been quilled about ten times. Somebody call Guiness. One vet, who has an interest in canine psychology, explained that Roscoe had an inner rage against his prickly neighbors, and really couldn’t help himself. Mmm…. Anyone who knew Roscoe would suggest that the words “Roscoe” and “rage” don’t belong in the same sentence.
While most rural dogs suffer one or two painful lessons in porcupine avoidance, it struck me that here were two canids, Chino and Roscoe, each with a friendly and unassuming personality, both facing porcupines in the exact same environment, with such different results. Of course, two samples does not a study make, but the fact that Chino was part wolf, encouraged me to wonder again, why do wolves appear to be smarter than dogs, and what does “smarter” in this context mean?
Socialized wolves can be just as affectionate as dogs, but while they may treat you like a trusted member of the pack, they are more rooted in their own interests and activities, less dependent on you, and less likely to automatically accompany you, when you walk from one place to another. They’re also generally less responsive to our cues. Dogs have been shown to be more responsive to human signs and signals than even chimps or bonobos, our nearest relatives on earth.
Where wolves excel is in learning from each other, and in working things out. There was an interesting experiment at an Austrian Wolf Science Center, in which a number of dogs and socialized wolves were led into an enclosure with their handlers, one team at a time. The enclosure contained a small wooden crate, with a treat inside, sort of a canine rubik’s cube. Each wolf and dog observed a pre-trained dog locate the latch, open the box and retrieve the treat. Individual dogs and wolves were then given the opportunity to try to retrieve the treat in similar fashion.
None of the dogs could repeat what they had seen done by the trained dog. They would eventually give up, and look back at the master, the food provider, the companion who is always there to ultimately solve any problems they encounter. Dogs, it appeared, were better at learning from their human companions, than from other dogs. All the wolves retrieved the treat on the first try, and none of them ever looked back at their handlers. Why would you be any better at this than I am?
How Did Dogs Happen?
If dogs are indeed “man’s best friend”, how did that happen? From an evolutionary perspective, where do dogs come from? Are modern dogs the result of domestication of wolves by people? Is it that simple?
Genetics often provides definitive answers to individual questions, solid evidential milestones, which demand explanation from other sciences working with sketchier, less cohesive clues. Mitochondrial DNA studies by Robert K. Wayne of UCLA indicated that those wolves which eventually led to dogs began veering away from their wild brethren over 135,000 years ago. At the same time, paleontologists point to the oldest dog remains found to date, which are only about 15,000 years old (Russia) or 30,000 years old (Belgium), depending on which site’s findings you agree with. They’re “dogs” in the sense that they are arguably not wolves.
About the only thing canid experts agree on today, is that domestic dogs, regardless of breed, are genetically wolves. That’s where the fun starts. How, when and where some wolves began adapting their behavior, on their way to becoming “dogs”, the first domesticated animal, is still a matter of considerable dispute. And how long did it take for the gradual change in physical attributes to become evident?
Over the past twenty years, the speculation has drifted towards the idea that some wolves domesticated themselves after humans began trading their hunter-gatherer life style for settlement life, making human settlements along rivers and animal migration routes from about 40,000 to 10,000 years ago, and started husbandry and agriculture about 10,000 years ago.
As Raymond Coppinger suggested in “Dogs”, some wolves found they could make an easier living hanging around the village scrap heap, and some of these, perhaps omega wolves or lone wolves, those who had more difficult lives making a living out in the wild, developed shorter flight distances from approaching humans, and these were the animals who began breeding around the outskirts of the villages, and depended directly on the waste generated by the village, as well as the deer, rodents and other scavengers drawn by agriculture and husbandry. While these wolves were hardly pets, they did serve as warning systems for scavenging predators, as well as approaching humans, so an uneasy alliance was born. However, with the newer Mitochondrial evidence, it’s time for some serious speculating about the pre-settlement relationships with wolves.
The Pleistocene Stage
The partnership of man and dog was playing out during the last 100,000 years of the two million year Pleistocene, during which astronomical climate factors like the Milankovic cycles, working with individual climate events like the aftermath of the Mount Toba eruption, caused plummeting global temperatures, and the surging and retreating of ice sheets.
Swollen by evaporating and precipitating ocean waters, glaciers spread out from higher elevations and north facing ravines and valleys, across northern latitudes, while ocean levels dropped, as much as 350 feet during the glacial maximum. Much of the northern landscape was rendered uninhabitable for vegetation, wildlife and earlier peoples such as Neanderthals in Europe and Homo Erectus across Asia, sometimes driving them south into conflicts with our ancestors, who were just coming on the scene. The receding ocean waters exposed land bridges like Berengia between Siberia and Alaska, allowing, where ice-free valleys and coasts remained, the gradual migration, of plant and animal species back and forth between continents.
These periods would be followed by periods of warming called interglacials, during which the melting glaciers would not only cause rising seas, which closed off continental bridges, but opened up more of the northern areas to a resurgence of life, where the Mammoth Steppe ranged from Spain to Siberia. The tundra-like Steppe was a relatively treeless biome, characterized by grasslands, low shrubs, mosses and lichens, and the mammoths and wooly rhinos that thrived there, along with herding ungulates like horse, reindeer, bison and the ancestor of today’s domestic cattle, aurochs.
Mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA place our ancestors in East Africa around 160,000 years ago. Further evidence suggests that a group of about 150 people, the ancestors of the modern human race, homo sapiens, migrated out of Africa through the Gates of Grief across the mouth of the Red Sea, about 90,000 years ago, and over the next 15,000 years or so, gradually expanded along the sea coasts of India and southeast Asia. While this certainly was not the first exodus out of Africa, it was the only one that has endured. The Mount Toba eruption on Sumatra around 75,000 years ago, buried much of the Indian sub-continent under 15 feet of ash, causing a nuclear winter and instant mini ice age, which reduced the early human population to about 10,000.
While the glaciers began to recede in Europe and Asia over the next 50,000 years, ancestral expansion along the coasts of Southeast Asia and Japan, as well as inland towards southern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia, brought nomadic peoples closer to Beringia. North America remained under an enormous mile thick sheet extending as far south as the Great Lakes and the Adirondacks, but a corridor from Alaska down to the US and Canadian border area, allowed the first ancestors of Native Americans to cross the Bering Land Bridge into Alaska, and down across to the areas of the Great Lakes.
The glacial maximum of about 15 – 20 thousand years ago, sealed up Alaska again, until the last interglacial, which we are essentially still living in, opened up North America, and allowed the ancestors of Native Americans to spread up into central and eastern Canada, and down through Central and South America.
Paleoclimatologists like Curt Stager of Paul Smiths, refer to our period as the Anthropocene, as mankind is the first keystone species on earth, whose activities are directly affecting climate. The natural forces which drive climate change include solar cycles, earthquakes, volcanoes and plate tectonic mega-disasters like the Deccan Plates, the occasional and sometimes devastating asteroid impact, the tilt and wandering of the earth’s axis, eccentricity of earth’s orbit, not to mention plant and animal respiration. We’re adding anthropogenically elevated CO2 and methane levels, resulting in rising sea levels and ocean acidification, to mention just two dangerous aspects, leading us into uncharted futures, starting with the possible interruption of the next ice age, which may sound appealing after this last winter, but may also carry with it other, less desirable features.
Canidae, the family of wolves, coyote, wild dogs, foxes and jackals, evolved in North America starting about 10 million years ago, when a gradual shifting of terrain from forest to grasslands, and the abundance of food thus provided, enabled the development of larger grazers and browsers, such as camels, horses, and reindeer. Their predators, over time, became larger, as only the larger canids could successfully hunt them, and therefore live to breed, and pass along the genes for larger canids.
The ancestors of wolves, not to mention many other large mammals, crossed one of the many iterations of the Bering Land Bridge into Asia and Europe and back multiple times. The ancestral wolves kept increasing in size, honing the hunting skills that turned them into the first mammalian pastoralists, that is, predators who survived by following the great herds of reindeer, horses and bison, which traversed the mammoth steppe, and using cooperative hunting tactics within the pack, to pick off and remove the very young, the very old, the sick and lame, in short, the animals who were not fast enough or strong enough to defend themselves from attacks by wolves.
Since wolves, in the interests of self-preservation, avoid attacking the strongest and fittest, their culling activities tend to strengthen the herds by removing the animals which shouldn’t be breeding anyway. When you think about it, wolves were apparently “herding” free ranging ungulates long before we existed.
Able to retreat to the warmth of our homes, with our food and water on demand, we may experience nature as this beautiful and balanced creation, but if you’re an animal trying to make a living out there, it’s not a democracy, and fairness isn’t a factor.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, predators have arguably the most dangerous job in the animal kingdom, as there’s nothing more dangerous than attacking other animals, particularly, as in the case of wolves, when those intended prey animals are often anywhere from two to twenty times the wolf’s size. This is why, for example, wolf packs in North America, will test, on average about twenty moose, for each one they deem sufficiently vulnerable to risk an all-out attack. It also explains why moose between the ages of two and ten, who remain healthy, have little to fear from wolf attack, and have much greater problems than the fact that many of them live among wolves. Contrary to opinions nourished by movies and popular media, most predators would much rather locate a food source which is already dead, and therefore not defensively dangerous to the attacking predator who wishes to harvest its protein.
Wolves lead short and dangerous lives. They can be killed by other wolves, or by choosing the wrong bison or moose as prey. They can be shot or trapped, legally and illegally by people, or poisoned, and then there’s always starvation, which tends to be the number one killer of most wildlife. The average life span of a wolf is about 5 years in the wild. In Yellowstone, the competition is so severe that only one out of five wolves reaches their second birthday. Raised in captivity, fed regularly, like your dog, wolves live ten to fifteen years.
Into a World Fraught with Peril
As our African ancestors came out of the trees and onto the spreading savannahs, they were shifting from a largely frugivorous diet to the omnivorous diets of hunter-gatherers. A cooling climate favored wild grasses and tundra vegetation over fruit bearing trees and plants, and expanding glaciers in the north, and the dry, cold winds they enable, caused deserts in the south. The first failed exit of homo sapiens from Africa was to the Levant about 125,000 years ago, through a green and vibrant area that became the Sahara Desert. It is possible that those early people ran into bands of Neanderthals retreating south because of encroaching glaciers. Whether it was the desertification of the area, or the Neanderthal competition, or elements of both, our first foray out of Africa was literally a dead end.
We needed the protein you get from meat, and that meant scavenging and hunting. Homo erectus had begun cooking meat 250,000 years before, and the group’s campfires also provided warmth and protection against some of the most dangerous predators that ever lived.
At the top of the food chain were six types of saber toothed cats, half of them larger than today’s largest cat, the endangered Amur tiger. There were short-faced bears twice the size of grizzlies, and unlike today’s omnivorous black and brown bears, these bears, judging from their dentition, were strict carnivores. They were not pigeon-toed like todays bears, and were so fast they could run down fleeing prey. There was a larger ancestral wolf called the dire wolf, the most common mammalian fossil unearthed at the famous LaBrea tar pits, and now a media star in the “Game of Thrones”. There were cave lions, cave hyenas, and the huge vegan cave bear. It was not a safe time to wander away from the camp fire.
That weapon of mass destruction called the bow and arrow was still 40 to 50,000 years in the future, and while our ancestors had developed crude spears and later slings, which helped harvest small mammals and ungulates, these weapons were probably useless in the face of such predators. Imagine growing up in an environment, knowing that if you met one of these predators away from the camp fire, and they were hungry, your life ended. And if you had forayed out by yourself, your family members would never find out what had become of you.
Eating meat off the bone, and dropping the remains ten feet from where you planned to sleep that night, was not a very sound tactic, because the very predators we feared were principally attracted by the smell of meat. When you fire up the grill in Yellowstone, every grizzly within 4 miles down wind of your camp site, knows what you’re cooking, and fortunately for you, would prefer not to meet you. So when the short faced bear showed up, lured by the wonderful smells around our ancestors’ camp fire, he found himself in two frames of mind: on the one hand, he was afraid of the fire, but on the other, he was overwhelmed by the desire to harvest the source of those delectable odors.
Our ancestors probably learned from painful experience that a much better plan, was to set up a bone pile, a scrap heap, maybe 100 yards from the main camp fire, and out in the open, to act as a filter, drawing whatever scavenging-minded predators were in the area. Since our still-evolving frugivore teeth were not very efficient at stripping meat off bones, we left a scavenger’s treasure trove of good food at the bone pile. This would act as a rather valuable census, and answer basic questions like, is it safe to gather some firewood, not to mention make deliveries to the bone pile. It was also an excellent olfactory way to hang a “Free Lunch!” sign, to keep drawing the predators after the group had moved on.
With the bone pile in place, the bears and big cats would probably be drawn to the scrap heap, where they might encounter either lone wolves, or a pack of wolves, who proceeded to defend their food source. Predators engage in a tremendous amount of bluffing and threatening. The strategy is to persuade your competitor to leave the food source. Actual physical contact is a last resort, because if you have to resort to fighting, that’s when you get hurt. From time to time, visitors to the Wildlife Refuge will witness our wolves in toothsome and growly dispute. We sometimes have to point out that there is no blood, and what they’re witnessing is the equivalence of a shoving match over a deer leg, or a favorite spot to stretch out, a dispute that dissipates as quickly as it began, but can sound rather aggressive.
The point is, since there were more wolves than bears or cats, and since the wolves, just as today, were probably afraid of us, the hairless ape who screams, and hurls rocks and spears, our ancestors began to look at the wolves, as an early warning system. The wolves, in turn, saw us as a possible provider of food, and an adversary who was safe to be around, as long as you didn’t approach too closely.
It is also likely that our ancestral hunters would occasionally come across abandoned or orphaned wolf pups from time to time. Wolf pups are not only quite adorable, but quite manageable, if they’re imprinted on people at less than a month old. Wolves may have become not only the first pets and beasts of burden, but also an animal who could warm the sleeping furs, as well as a form of property, which could be exchanged in trade, and, in times of severe hunger, something that could be eaten.
Hunter-Gatherers on the Mammoth Steppe
Our nomadic ancestors probably discovered that following the bison, horse and reindeer herds on the Mammoth Steppe, offered the best opportunities for obtaining meat, so they began mimicking the pastoral wolves, picking off the very weak, old, lame, young and, better still, dead ungulates. They also discovered that they could combine rock throwing, screaming, mobbing, and just generally intimidating behavior, as a means of driving wolves and even occasionally larger predators off their kills.
However, consider how dangerous hunting was in those days. Picture modern horses, which appear in the fossil record about 5 million years ago, or roughly 25 times as far back as we go. Large animals, ranging from 700 to 1,200 pounds. Domesticating and riding horses only started about 4,000 years ago, so for well over ninety-five percent of our history with horses, we were trying to hunt and kill them for meat, using crude spears and much later arrows. If you’ve ever wondered why hunters are so revered in prehistory, it’s because they had suicidal jobs.
Our ancestors probably preferred strategic hunting, trying to stampede horses or bison off a cliff, or into a canyon, perhaps using torches and movable physical barriers to trap them inside. The former method might provide more meat for us, than we could drag away, so we’d end up feeding the other predators and scavengers. The latter would allow us to hurl large stones and spears from a safer distance above the panicked animals. Either way, it’s hard to imagine the wolves hearing, seeing or smelling the carnage, and not racing to take advantage.
Similarly, as wolves began to realize that our ancestors were quite clever at setting up ambushes and providing meat, it’s easy to imagine them following us when we appeared with weapons, or depending on circumstance, even us following them, since they were much better at locating the herds than we were. If wolves approached the same horses we were stalking, and they observed us wounding an animal already under pressure from the wolves, it would make sense that the opportunistic wolves would immediately attack the injured animal, with the result that the terribly hazardous activity of hunting started to become somewhat safer for our ancestors. Our wounded prey, who may have wanted to flee, or even attack us, would have to contend with harassing wolves.
Slowly, over thousands of years of such behavior, an uneasy alliance of convenience was born. The wolves began to realize that our ability to figure out how to use the terrain to kill many of the large ungulates in one place, meant they might eat more consistently, and have a better shot at survival, than if they continued to patrol and defend their territories. Many of the wolves took up more or less permanent residence at the bone pile, and routinely followed our hunters on their daytime hunts. Even today, hunters accompanied by dogs consistently bring home more game than hunters who don’t.
Bolder wolves might position themselves at a safe distance away from the camp fire at night, their eyes reflecting the fire light, and their vigilance, their interest in protecting themselves and other pack members, made them perfect inadvertent watch dogs for our ancestors. While wolves bark infrequently, and not in annoying clusters the way dogs do, when they bark, it’s generally to alert other wolves, or to get the attention of another predator, as when they may try to drive a bear off a carcass. Wolves, like bears, also emit a low “wuff” sound, generally when they’re surprised at discovering a person or other animal too close to them.
The point is that our ancestors would come to understand these signals after long exposure to them, and the further they were from the safety of the fire, the more critical such information would be. In addition, aside from story-telling, and working on weapons and honing flint, there wasn’t a whole lot to do around the camp fire at night. Bored family members might amuse themselves by occasionally tossing meat fragments and bones to the wolves, further cementing the uneasy bond between them.
Going out on a limb!
The key to the divergence between wolves and the ancestors of dogs may have to do with breeding pools. In other words, wolves who hung around nomadic ancestral clans, tended more and more to breed amongst their own, and less and less with wild wolves. Did this eventually turn them into a different species? No, because one of the ways of differentiating species, is determining whether they can breed. Some canids can interbreed, and wolves and dogs are the same species. Wolves are canis lupus, while dogs are canis lupus familiaris. We have had two wolf hybrids, Chino being the first. If you’ve met Cree at the Wildlife Refuge, he is three quarters wolf, and one quarter malamute, while Zeebie is a full Great Plains Wolf.
Wolves can also interbreed with coyotes. While gray wolves tend to kill western coyotes, as they represent competition for food, experiments by renowned wolf scholar L. David Mech and the Minnesota Science Center, demonstrated that gray wolves can produce offspring with western coyotes. Furthermore, Eastern wolves, such as those found in Algonquin Park, are already part coyote, going back long before the arrival of man, and they do interbreed with western coyotes passing above the great lakes, producing the Eastern coyote, or coywolf, which we have in the Adirondacks.
There is, of course, no direct evidence that wolves participated even indirectly in hunting with ancestral humans, but there are two findings and one recent theory that need reconciling. The first fact is the Mitochondrial evidence mentioned earlier, the fact that the DNA of the wolves which probably became the ancestors of dogs, began to veer away from wolf DNA about 135,000 years ago. This suggests that homo sapiens who only came out of Africa 90,000 years ago, were not alone in working with wolves, but that Neanderthals and Homo erectus had probably independently, in a number of locations, fell into similar relationships with wolves.
There are different studies which place the origin of the dog in the mid-east, in China, in Europe and Russia. Isn’t it likely that this indicates that dogs did not simply emerge in one area, but rather that the similarity between human and wolf family structures, and the fact that our nomadic ancestors were primarily meat eaters, and Neanderthals even more so, made the union of wolf and man likely to occur in multiple places?
The second fact, the oldest “dog” bones, is a bit shakier, in the sense that collecting, identifying and dating bones depends first on finding them. It’s entirely possible that we’ll find “dog bones” that go back 50,000 years, etc. There was a wolf which was intentionally buried in Siberia with a human, and in a posture that indicated this was an important animal. The wolf was likely the man’s hunting companion.
The theory in question has to do with the apparent correlation between mass extinction of large mammals and the arrival of hunter-gatherers in their area. In particular, when scientists construct the timeline of man’s arrival in the New World, across the Bering Land Bridge, there is a troubling correlation with the arrival of man, and the disappearance of large mammals. One school of thought says that we hunted them to extinction, while over-harvesting seeds, fruits and berries in one area, and then, having exhausted the local ecosystem, moved on. Large predators like big cats and bears, would go extinct because we eliminated their prey.
In all fairness, there is a second theory which says that the disappearance of wild flowers, and other critical vegetation, due to the climate change of that period, was the culprit, eliminating the large mammals, whose predators followed suit. Perhaps it was a combination of both factors.
Still, I struggle with the first theory, mainly because it seems so improbable. I’m sure our ancestors were great hunters. When hunting is not a hobby, but your only means of support, you become proficient, or you starve. Still, eliminating large mammals like mammoths, mastodons and wooly rhinos, with spears, slings and arrows? It’s hard to believe that we’d take on such obviously dangerous animals, unless we had help. Similarly, how much success would we have hunting herd animals without help? It’s not like we’d reliably find cliffs and canyons whenever we wanted to stampede animals to their deaths. Quite often, we’d have to use only our paltry weapons and our wits. Harassing wolves, running through herds, and isolating vulnerable reindeer would have been a huge help.
One possible clue that we were indeed the culprits is Wrangel Island above Beringia, which was sea-locked after the glacial retreat, and was not invaded by early man. Mammoths lasted on Wrangel Island at least six thousand years after they had disappeared in Alaska.
Why do Dogs and Wolves Look so Different?
So, why do dogs, which cover a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes, look very different from wolves? In 1959, Russian scientist Dmitri Belyayev, began a famous experiment at a silver fox farm, where the poor animals were raised for furs. Belyayev began isolating foxes who showed less fear and aggression with people, and began breeding them to each other. Over many years and many generations, Belyayev’s foxes had basically developed into small dogs, complete with floppy ears and curly tails.
One of the obvious problems of working with wolves, are that these are animals that can hurt you. Wolves have a crushing power of 1,500 lbs per square inch in their jaws, about twice that of a German shepherd, because only the most successful jaws got to hunt and eat, and only those wolves survived to hunt again. Only special breeds, like pit bulls, can match wolves in bite strength.
Here’s where “unnatural selection” comes in. Our ancestors noticed that wolves are like people, some are taller, larger, smaller, have longer or shorter legs, not to mention different abilities. A wolf pack is not only a family, but a team, with different wolves specializing in different activities, and having differing skill sets. Our ancestors picked up on this, and began to selectively breed, where possible, different wolves to get different looks. If you want a wolf which looks less threatening, you mate two wolves who have shorter snouts, a more pushed-in face, smaller teeth, and more rounded skulls, etc.
Over the last two hundred years, there was an explosion of special breeding. Up until then, wolves, and later, dogs, had been work animals, shepherds, watch dogs, hunting companions, etc. There’s a great scene in the old Disney version of “White Fang”, in which the Ethan Hawk character is upbraided by the Tlingit chief for trying to pet White Fang. “We make stones fly, build fires. We are their Gods. He is a worker, not a pet.” Victorians discovered that dogs could be lap dogs, or even a substitute for children. The AKC lists over 400 dogs, but three fourths of them are less than two hundred years old.
To sum up, it is possible that man’s long history with dogs, is largely a history with wolves, the first domesticated animal.
Great sources for more information: Mark Derr: “How the Dog Became the Dog”; Temple Grandin, “Animals in Translation”; Alexandra Horowitz, “The Inside of a Dog”; Nicholas Wade, “Before the Dawn”; Wolfgang Schleider and Michael Shalter, “Co-Evolution of Humans and Canids” (PDF on line); “Dogs Decoded” on Nova; and about a dozen books on Wolves and Trophic Cascades, at our web site, http://www.adirondackwildlife.org/Wolf_Frolic_April_2010.html.
Awesome, Steve. I’m thrilled that you starting writing for the Almanack. Deb and I are always intrigued by your wealth of knowledge when we get into discussions at the center!
Right back at ya, Kevin. For those who’ve read about Kevin’s hiking and scrambling feats on the High Peaks slides, you may not know that Kevin and Deb are also rehabbers who work with Wendy, and excellent nature photographers, whose photographs of wildlife, not to mention the critters at the Wildlife Refuge, grace many of the education pages at http://www.AdirondackWildlife.org.
It seems the wild kin are smarter (better at problem solving) than the pet ones because the wild ones have to think for themselves. I think that shows itself across just about every animal that humans domesticated.
Someone asked us to id the photos: Top one is Steve on Hough summit with Roscoe.Middle one is Chino dozing in the sunshine, along West Branch of the Ausable at the Refuge, with Spring thaw in progress around him, about ten years ago, while the bottom is Zeebie, a full Great Plains wolf, also at the Refuge, about two years ago. This one by Jesse Gigandet,taken while on the “Wolf Walk”.
I messed up the order: Zeebie is in the middle.
A truly fantastic read! Thanks for including the additional reading at the end.