Friday, June 6, 2008

The Wolf Knows

There is one unasked question: Why do wolves do so well in Yellowstone, with numbers maintained by the wolves themselves, and why in the surrounding states do the wolves multiply uncontrolled and present a great threat to ranches and ungulates?

There is one fact that the State Fish & Game does not want you to know about the introduction of wolves into our state. But before I can adequately explain to you what this is, I need to cover other topics and then tie them all together. So please be patient in your reading.
First, you need a way of proving for yourself the context and facts of what I am explaining to you. Try to find someone who has been stung by a hornet. In our area the more common hornet is called the “bald-faced hornet,” which is really a type of wasp. The poison this hornet gives the body when it stings, in fact all of the wasp family,  is an extraordinary chemical soup and can be deadly—even if you are not usually allergic to bee venom. When you find someone who has been stung by the hornet, ask them what would happen for the next year if they wandered outside between April and November. What, you ask, would happen? Any hornet within a mile would immediately stop what they are doing and make—please excuse the pun—a beeline to that person. The next thing that happens is not an immediate sting, but what is called a “Head Butt.” If looking in the right direction they can see the bee coming at them in a straight line and then impact the forehead, and then bounce off unharmed and circle around for another hit—deciding in the process if you needed stung again to leave there territory. It is called “auto-response to a chemical tag.”
This note from”Another feature unique to the wasp and hornet is that the venom contains a pheromone which alarms all other wasps in the area and invites them to join the attack on the victim. That pheromone may remain with the victim for years in their breath and sweat.”
The upshot of it all is that whatever you eat, whatever is injected into you, or whatever is absorbed by the skin is thereafter, for some length of time, in your sweat and in your breath. More importantly, this is true of all mammals. Try eating a lot of garlic. Then two days later see if anyone can smell it on you. They will, of course find it in your sweat and breath long after you have stopped eating the garlic.
By the way, on that garlic, how close do you have to be to a garlic to smell it? For this purpose, lets pick an arbitrary distance since everyones' nose is a bit different. I tested for myself with the garlic on the kitchen table, and three feet was about it.
So I could smell an unbruised garlic at three feet. Had I bruised or squished it, the distance would have been more like from here to the neighbors house. Did you know that depending on the breed of dog, a dogs nose is considered to be from ten to one hundred times more sensitive than the average human? So if my sniffer finds a garlic at three feet, a pug will find it at 30 feet and a bloodhound will spot it at nearly 1000 feet away to each smell it at about the same level. There seems to be two reasons for this greater sensitivity. One is the way a dog moves the air. The same volume of air will be move back and forth through the olfactory lobes of the dogs nose—the in and out sniff.
If I ate that clove of garlic the average dog would be able to smell it in my breath and sweat from maybe 50 feet away, every day for a long time. Poor dog likely would stay clear of me. If I got a tetanus shot, the average dog would know from 50 feet away.
The other reason would be the special convolutions of the internal nasal passages that allows a dog to smell so well. That is why a dog is a good companion if you have cancer or epilepsy. The dog will sense changes in the body long before the human senses can notice changes. The changes are broadcast in the human sweat and breath.
Did you know that wolves can smell at about 1000 times better than a human? That same garlic that I can smell a three feet, a wolf can smell at 3000 feet or better. If I get a tetanus shot, a wolf who smelled me the day before at 1000 feet and then smelled me again after the shot would know the difference. The wolf would likely consider that I am sick because I do not smell “right.” How we smell in day-to-day life with a normal diet and no shots or medications is normal to the wolf. A genetic memory in the wolf confirms how we should smell. If we have had shots or medications, then we would smell wrong or sick. It is a natural reaction for the wolf to weed out the sick. If the chemical tag in the breath or sweat indicates that a mammal is sick, it then becomes a target for food to keep that mammals population clean. Read about wolves and understand that behavior for yourself. The wolf knows because of the wolf nose.
Sheep, cattle and other domestic animals are given shots, medicated food, and medicated salts. So often I have seen salt blocks out in the free range land. These are not the white mineralized salt blocks, but more usually the pink medicated salt blocks. Most horse owners know that if the only salt block available to the horse is the medicated type, the horse can get sick and even die. The reason is that they overdose on medication while trying to get enough salt. Very often the blocks are used by all the ungulates; therefore, all the ungulates in the area of a medicated salt block are medicated and they then all appear to the wolf as sick. Give your cattle shots and they smell wrong and therefore are sick. Give your sheep medicated feed and they smell wrong and therefore are sick.
All the problems with the wolf population are caused by the human managers of the domesticated herds and this medication spills over into the wild ungulate population via salt blocks and similar devices and the wolves do what they are designed to do. The wolves clean out the sick animals. When sheep are vaccinated for clostridial diseases, these medications cross the placental barrier and are expressed in the newborn. The newborn are therefore considered sick by the wolf nose.
Ranchers are angry about the wolves killing their animals. The ranchers do it to themselves through lack of knowledge about the medications being given. The hunters are mad about the wolves taking down the elk and deer herds, but they do not blame the ranchers for making the cattle medications available to the wild ungulates.
The wolf nose knows. Through mismanagement of medications we are giving entire herds of ungulates to the wolves for dinner. There would be far fewer domestic attacks if all medications including salt blocks were kept at the barn under control and at least a day, if not two days after medication should go by before the domestics are allowed to run free. Don't blame the wolf for being right, blame the ranchers for being wrong.