Does England still have wolves? Well yes, if you count the football team Wolverhampton Wanderers. But in this post, we are looking at wild wolves, who used to roam free across England until the 17th century (so did brown bears). But today do we have any wild wolves left?
Some wolves that ‘roam free’ in Bristol’s Bear Wood (but this project is owned by Bristol Zoo, which charity Born Free has issues with: some animal enclosures are too small, with animals exhibiting ‘bored behaviour’. So how ‘free’ these animals are, is not certain. But we don’t have wild wolves, like in other parts of Europe and North America. But we can still help wolves.
What are Wolves?
It’s often said that most dogs are descended from grey wolves. In fact, they aren’t. They are evolutionary cousins, which means they are very similar, but with similar ancestors (rather than being directly related). What else do you know about wolves? That they howl at the moon? They hunt in packs? Yes, all that but much more.
Although wolves disappeared from our wilds hundreds of years ago, they are seen widely in other countries. Although experts say there is no good reason geologically why wolves could not live here in the wild, some parties would likely start wanting to hunt them. They actually have the ability to turn grassland into forests, as they keep deer moving (who then can’t overgraze tree seedlings). There is also the concern at wolves attacking some domestic dogs if they feel threatened (there have been cases where they get along very well with feral dogs, after all, they likely understand each other pretty well). And of course, wolves would attack lambs, and we have millions grazing in fields in England.
Wolves live around the same age as dogs, and live in a pack, where all the animals take care of the pups. Like some dogs, they howl to communicate (rather than bark) and will roam up to 12 miles each day. They are very powerful and tend to eat large sick or injured animals (like deer and moose, leaving the healthy ones to continue breeding) and tend to hunt together (they don’t eat the bones, these are usually eaten by vultures). Just like dogs, they have pack leaders and will defend their territory, when under attack.
How We Can Help Wolves
- Wolves are wild animals who need a lot of space to roam, and there are cases of wolves in the UK, who have been shot dead after trying to escape from zoos. Freedom for Animals reports that out of several animals culled in UK zoos, this included a whole pack of wolves (their social structure broke down) and two cubs and a female adult (due to selective culling). If you want to help endangered wolves, give to a small charity instead: Born Free (helps Ethiopian wolves), Wolf Watch (rescues captive wolves in Europe), Wolves and Humans (helps wolves to survive in the wild, and using funds to help farmers protect sheep with fencing) and UK Wolf Conservation Trust (keeping wolves in the wild, where they belong).
- If you see any wolf (or other zoo animal) that looks distressed or unwell, report it to the police and your local tour operator. You can send a Red Flag Report to Born Free, who will try to help. Contact Freedom For Animals with any concerns.
- If you run a fashion shop, put a free sticker in your window to show that you are a Fur Free Retailer. Some ‘fake fur’ has been found to be real fur in DNA tests (and wolves are one of the animals used in the fur trade). If you have an old fur coat in the attic, take it to your local wildlife shelter who will cut it up and use it as surrogate mum blankets for orphaned baby wildlife.
- Help charities in British Columbia (Canada) who campaign against an annual cull of wolves. Just like here with badgers, wrong science has led to these beautiful animals being killed, due to thinking it would lead to a recovery of caribou numbers (it didn’t). Wolves have been scapegoated and are shot from helicopters (who are left to die in the snow).
- If you are going on holiday abroad to watch wildlife, then do so responsibly. Responsible Travel run (very expensive) wildlife-watching tours, but they do have strict criteria about what they won’t sell, so it’s fairly safe that on these holidays, you won’t inadvertently be contributing to anything you would rather not. Or volunteer at a wolf sanctuary.
Wonderful Books about Wolves
- Bringing Back the Wolves is the story of 1926, when there were no grey wolves left in USA’s Yellowstone Park. As a result, the landscape was in distress. So in 1995, the government brought wolves back and a remarkable restoration took place. Accompanied by beautiful nature art by Kim Smith and educational back-matter, this is a lovely book.
- A Wolf Called Wander is the story of Swift, a wolf who lives with his pack in the mountains of the USA, until one day his home and family are lost. Alone and starving, he makes a choice to stay on the borders of his old hunting grounds, or strike out to find a new place to call home. The journey is long and lonely, and he must take every chance. Will he find the courage to survive? Inspired by a true story, this book is about family, courage and survival. With beautiful illustrations from artist Mónica Armiño and an extra factual section about wolves and their environment.
Wild Wolves Howling
This is quite hypnotic (one viewer said she almost joined in, without thinking!) Half way through, they inexplicably stop, but then start again. This is quite powerful, so best to watch after all your furry friends have gone to sleep, lest they wonder what’s going on!