If you’re lucky enough to be in Explore the Wild when our wolves begin to howl, you’re in for a treat. You’re heart will quicken. An element of wonderment, perhaps a tinge of fear, will stir in you. Adrenaline will pump through your veins, fight or flight. It’s a wild sound, an emotional sound. It’s a sound of the wilderness.
When wolves howl, they’re communicating with one another. That communication may be an attempt to locate or socialize with members of their own pack, or warn off other wolves who may have entered into their territory. Our wolves are not necessarily communicating with one another when they howl, but with some perceived unknown wolf or pack of wolves in the distance, letting them know that this is our turf.
Here at the Museum, it’s the sirens of ambulances or fire trucks that are the catalyst for the howling. We are, after all, located on 84 acres of semi-wildness surrounded by suburbia with all of its concomitant noises. And, there’s a hospital several hundred yards to the north so there’s no shortage of emergency vehicular traffic.
By the way, howling at our wolves will do nothing to elicit a response from them. They’re in their enclosure all day, every day, with visitor upon visitor staring over the fence at them. They’ve heard it all before. Whether or not they internalize visitor noise is a matter of debate, but it will do no good to howl at them. They will ignore you.
With the breeding season fast approaching, the best strategy for visitors is to approach the enclosure quietly and watch for any courtship or mating behavior. Besides being here for you to see and enjoy, the red wolves are at the Museum of Life and Science as part of the federal government’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) with the hope that they’ll produce more red wolves. So far, the wolves appear to be compatible. The coming weeks will show just how compatible they are.