Notes for Pages 230-239.
< 220-229 | Notes Index | 240 – 249 >
233. “Awoo!” is kind of a cop-out for describing a wolf howl, so here’s my shot at it. It’s a very odd, modulated sound that generally scales up quickly and then slowly descants downwards. We are programmed to find it unsettling, because that right there is the sound of competition for resources.
Howling serves many social purposes in a pack, plenty of which remain mysterious to humans. But certainly one purpose of the howl is to say “I’m here – are you here?” and another is to say “Hey! We’re all here!” which I think we can agree is what 85% of human communication sums up to, anyway.
234. “No room to establish yourself.” Most wolves follow a sort of diaspora model for repopulation. If a young male survives to maturity, he’ll often set out from his birth pack to begin his own family. Ideally he’ll find a young, unrelated female (wolves, like apes, prefer not to mate with close relatives) and she’ll split off from her own birth pack to join him. Together they try to locate a territory that offers enough prey to support themselves and a yearly litter.
There are modern wolf packs represented in the media as having many members, often including a host of non-breeding or less-dominant adult males and females (sometimes referred to as “beta” wolves). This happens mostly in protected or isolated territories where game is so plentiful that the wolves can support a large group. Many wolfpacks in less forgiving areas are composed of little more than a mating couple and any not-yet-mature offspring they’ve produced.
Despite the cliche of the “lone wolf” being a self-sufficient bad-ass, single wolves don’t face good odds of survival over the longterm. It’s difficult and dangerous to bring down large prey animals without help, and running around all day for a bunny’s worth of calories while also dodging larger predators and hostile foreign packs is a losing game. So when a young male strikes out on his own, he’s taking a calculated risk; the clock is running.
236. Showing your throat or belly is a typical sign of submission.
Seeing Ariana this close to a wolf is a nice reminder of just how BIG wolves can be. The modern record for wolf-size was apparently a male caught in the Ukraine who clocked in near 200 pounds. But individuals and populations can vary greatly.
A fun fact about this particular wolf: researchers at Stanford recently determined that black fur doesn’t naturally occur in the wolf genome; it’s a mutation unique to domestic dogs, so the presence of black fur in the wolf population is the result of occasional interbreeding. It doesn’t seem to confer any hunting or social benefits to individual black wolves, but there’s some evidence that the mutation has some side benefits for the immune system.
Further along in the story you can decide whether or not it’s ironic that this particular wolf has some domestic ancestry.
237. These names are a mix of Czech and German names, and they’re all male.