Pat Tucker, a wildlife biologist, and Bruce Weide,
a writer and storyteller, co-direct Wild Sentry. Wild Sentry is
a non-profit environmental education organization blending science
and the humanities to produce educational programs and materials
that provide a better understanding of the world around us. In
one of Wild Sentry’s most popular programs, Pat and Bruce work
with a wolf named Koani to present information about the gray
wolf to schools and community groups. Wild Sentry took responsibility
for Koani in 1991, when she was three months old. Koani’s was
born in captivity to be part of a television documentary for which
Pat and Bruce were consultants. More information on what it’s
been like to have the responsibility of Koani’s care can be obtained
at the Wild Sentry web site and in the book, "There's
a Wolf in the Classroom!" and "Tales
of Two Canines: The Adventures of a Wolf and a Dog" by Pat and Bruce.
Note: Throughout this booklet, the term "hybrid" refers to a genetically
high-percentage wolf hybrid, which display primary wolf appearance
DEDICATION: This brochure is dedicated to Koani, a gray wolf spending her
life in captivity as an ambassador for her wild kin. While we
know she has won hearts and minds in her role as a traveling teacher,
not a day goes by that we aren't made painfully aware of the inadequacies
of us and our dog as surrogate pack mates, and of the limitations
captivity places on Koani's behavior. We often regret that this
life has not found her racing through flower-sprinkled meadows,
engaging in rough-and-tumble play with her pups, and leaping through
frosty air to grab the snorting nose of a moose. Since it has
not, we can only hope that this brochure will result in fewer
wolves and hybrids being born in captivity, where they are necessarily
consigned to lead impoverished lives when compared to their wild
The information presented here is based on our personal experience
with an ambassador wolf, hundreds of stories from hybrid owners
and breeders, our review of available scientific literature, and
discussions with employees of organizations that keep captive
wolves for educational or research purposes. Our interest in writing
this brochure is to provide people with a biological understanding
of how and why wolves and hybrids behave as they do in captivity.
We hope that such understanding will lead to fewer animals being
irresponsibly bred and acquired, and inspire safer and more humane
handling of existing wolves and hybrids. If you are interested
in more in-depth information on this subject, we highly recommend
that you consult the references at the end of this brochure. The
evolution of dogs and wolves and their resultant behavior is a
fascinating subject well worth exploring. Further reading will
not only lead you to a deeper understanding of the issues raised
in this brochure, but also increase your appreciation and enjoyment
of that unique and wonderful animal with which so many of us are
privileged to share our homes and lives: the dog.
We are indebted to Scott Kravitz, who initiated this project and
wrote a first draft. The project grew considerably beyond that
beginning. As they say, "the journey of a thousand miles begins
with the first step." Thanks, Scott, for taking that first
step. We greatly appreciate the following for reviewing and commenting
on this brochure. However, our acknowledgement does not imply
their endorsement. All opinions and errors found in the brochure
are the responsibility of the authors.
Monty Sloan, Jill Moore and Pat Goodman: Wolf Park
Janice Hood: The International Wolf Center
Graham Neale: Wildlife Biologist
Lori Schmidt: Biologist
Megan Parker: Wolf Education and Research Center
Edward Weaver & Anne Cavanough: hybrid caretakers
Bonnie Tucker: public educator, wolf specialist
Carol Alette: National Wildlife Federation
The wolf is the ancestor of all dog breeds that exist today. Wolves
and dogs are very similar genetically, but the seemingly insignificant
differences in their genetic structure create hormonal changes
that result in vastly different behaviors.
Sometime between 20,000 and 100,000 years ago, a few wolves began
scavenging around human encampments. Since that first association,
humans have exerted great selective pressure (some consciously,
some not) for canines that are less skittish, territorial, predatory
and aggressive than wolves. Research has determined that the hormonal
systems of canines with these traits (i.e. dogs) are different
from those of wild canids. Those hormonal differences cause profound
differences in behavior; they result in an animal that never really
behaves like a mature canine. In a nutshell, a dog is a wolf in
arrested development; they act very much like adolescent wolves
their whole lives. An adolescent wolf is playful, adaptable, and
able to form bonds with other species, takes directions readily,
and is far less territorial and predatory than an adult wolf-all
traits that make dogs such delightful companions. As an adolescent
wolf's hormonal system reaches maturity (between 18 months and
three years), it begins to exhibit all those normal adult behaviors
that make wolves so difficult to deal with in captivity (see question
So, while many taxonomists recognize the dog as a subspecies of
the wolf and the genetics of the two are quite similar, it is
a misconception that these facts prove the wolf and the dog are
the same animal. When hybrid breeders and enthusiasts argue that
wolves and dogs are essentially the same because they share so
much common genetic material, stop to consider this: ninety-eight
and four-tenths percent (98.4%) of the genetic material in humans
and chimpanzees is identical, yet our behaviors are radically
different. Certainly no one would promote crossbreeding humans
and chimpanzees as a way to create an animal that is "the best
of both worlds."
In common usage, a hybrid is the offspring of a cross between
a wolf and a dog, a wolf and a hybrid, a dog and a hybrid, or
two hybrids. Hybrids are also known as wolf dogs. Hybrids are
generally defined in one of four ways. The most common way is
verbal; a person simply says their animal is a hybrid. It may
have a wolf ancestor, or it may not (see question #5). The second
way is by appearance and behavior. If the canine displays primary
wolf behaviors and appearance, it may be defined as a hybrid or
wolf (see questions #4 and #6). A third way is by ancestry; in
other words, any canine that has a wolf ancestor (no matter how
many generations ago) is a hybrid. Hybrids defined this way may
actually be all or mostly dog or all or mostly wolf (see question
#3). Finally, a hybrid may be defined by its genetic makeup. While
genetics are the only way to determine how much wolf and dog is
in a hybrid (see question #3), at this time our genetic tests
are not sophisticated enough to make this determination. Throughout
this brochure, the term "hybrid" refers to a genetically high-percentage
wolf hybrid, which will necessarily display primary wolf appearance and behaviors (see questions #3, #4 and #6).
You can't. Ancestry and genetics are not the same thing. While
you can easily determine the ancestry of an animal (provided you
know the parents' ancestry), it's impossible to determine the
genetic makeup of offspring that result from breeding hybrids.
Pups receive half of their genes from each parent, so when a pure
wolf breeds with a pure dog, each pup is genetically 50% wolf
and 50% dog. At this point, ancestrally speaking, they're also
Now let's say that one of those pups grows up and mates with another
50/50 hybrid. In terms of ancestry, the resultant pups will be
50% wolf and 50% dog. However, the genetics of those second-generation
hybrids aren't easily determined. Pups receive half of their genetic
composition from each parent, but whether they receive the dog
half, the wolf half, or a combination is indeterminable. Each
parent passes on thousands of genes. While a pup's genetic makeup
is unlikely to be to be one extreme or the other, it may fall
anywhere between 100% dog and 100% wolf. For this reason, it's
grossly inaccurate for anyone to claim that their animal, in a
genetic sense, is 63.5% wolf. Here's the bottom line: Any time
you breed a hybrid to another canine, you're playing genetic roulette.
No test exists that can reveal the genetic makeup of a hybrid
puppy. And remember, it's genetics, not ancestry that determines
adult personality and behavior.
Wolves have narrower chests, proportionally larger feet and teeth,
and longer legs than dogs. Their eyes are more almond-shaped than
dogs', and the inside their ears are well furred and never flop.
Wolves' tails, while they may be held down or up, never have a
curl to them. Dogs usually have some curve to their tails. In
contrast to dogs which breed twice a year and can produce pups
at any time, wolves breed only once a season. Wolf pups are always
born in the spring or early summer. It is important to remember
that there are no physical features that conclusively separate
a wolf from a hybrid from a dog.
Genetically high-percentage hybrids may be physically and behaviorally
indistinguishable from a wolf. The smaller the percentage of wolf
genetics in a hybrid, the more dog-like its appearance and behavior
Unfortunately, a market exists for wolves and for hybrids that
are predominantly wolf. Such pups may sell for hundreds of dollars.
These animals are often sold to naive people by breeders who greatly
exaggerate the percentage of wolf in the pup. Sometimes breeders
do this knowingly to increase the price, and sometimes they are
simply ignorant of the difference between genetics and ancestry.
Either way, the pups' new owners may be unaware that their animals
are dogs or mostly dogs, and therefore hold them out to friends
and family as wolves or genetically high-percentage wolf hybrids.
Naturally, these canines are the "hybrids" one most often meets
on the beach, in town, playing with children, etc. Because of
the characteristics outlined in question #6, true wolves and high-percentage
hybrids are not commonly seen in public.
A well-behaved wolf is not a well-behaved dog. The wolf behaviors
discussed below have enabled wolves to survive as wild animals
for millions of years. Unfortunately, these healthy, normal, natural
drives are extremely difficult to deal with in captivity, and
"proper" training doesn't eliminate them. While dogs often exhibit
these behaviors to some degree, they've been greatly altered by
generations of selective breeding (see question #1). In
wolves and hybrids, these wild characteristics are strongly expressed-it
is unrealistic and inhumane for people to expect such animals
to suppress them.
Dominance: As puppies, wolves and hybrids readily accept domination by their
human owners. This makes sense because under natural circumstances
a wolf pup's survival depends on its willingness to submit to
elder pack members. However, by the end of their second year they
have matured sexually; it is at this time that they often challenge
their owners for the dominant role. In the wild, wolves have a
strong incentive to become dominant because usually only the strongest
female and male members of the pack-the alphas-breed. Subordinate
pack members may attack a dominant wolf that displays signs of
weakness. In interactions with its human "alpha," a captive wolf
or hybrid may interpret clues as subtle as fatigue, frustration,
or a twisted ankle as weakness and initiate a dominance battle
that is potentially lethal. Dominance battles also occur between
wolves, hybrids, and their canine companions, be they dogs, wolves
or hybrids. In the wild a subordinate wolf may choose to leave,
but obviously this avoidance behavior isn't an option within the
confines of an enclosure. Therefore, it is not unusual for captive
wolves and hybrids to seriously injure or kill pen mates. Additionally,
the proper social manners of a wolf or hybrid can harm a child.
When two wolves greet, they lick faces, bite muzzles, and straddle
one another to communicate dominance. Such "greetings" from an
animal that weighs 100 pounds or more can easily frighten and
potentially endanger a child.
behavior: In North America there have been only two verified
accounts of healthy, wild wolves killing a human. Unfortunately, captive wolves and hybrids are far more dangerous. A child
running, screaming, stumbling or crying may trigger a predatory
response (even in an animal that has always been "great with kids"), resulting in serious injury or death of the child. Once this predator-prey
response has been stimulated, the animal may never again view
children as anything but prey. Other animals also arouse wolves'
and hybrids' predatory instincts. Cats, small dogs, chickens,
sheep and other domesticated animals are not safe in the presence
of a hybrid or captive wolf. While we all know many dogs who exhibit
this behavior, it is to a lesser and much more controllable degree.
Territoriality: Wild wolf packs maintain territories and drive off or kill trespassing
wolves. This behavior ensures that packs do not compete for prey
within a territory. In captivity, mature wolves and hybrids display
territorial behavior by being extremely aggressive with strange
dogs. Any meeting is potentially lethal to the dog.
marking, "destructiveness," possessiveness, excessive shyness,
pacing, digging, howling: Several other wolf characteristics,
while not necessarily dangerous, constitute behaviors undesirable
to humans. Scent marking (urination and defecation) may occur
anywhere the wolf or hybrid wishes to establish territorial boundaries,
which may include the living room sofa. Chewing behavior is another
common complaint of hybrid owners, as jaws powerful enough to
crush the femur bone of an adult bison quickly dissect any interesting
object. An owner rapidly learns that once a wolf or hybrid has
taken possession of a favorite shoe, no amount of discipline will
help recover it, and an attempt may in fact lead to a serious
bite. To a wolf, possession is 100% of the law; YOU DON'T TAKE
THINGS AWAY FROM A WOLF OR HYBRID unless you're prepared for
a fight. Additionally, wolves and hybrids are often quite suspicious
and uncomfortable around objects they weren't exposed to as puppies
(again, a powerful survival adaptation in the wild). Things that
most dogs take in stride, such as umbrellas, people wearing backpacks,
overhead ceiling fans, or who-knows-what can panic wolves and
hybrids. Extremely shy animals may panic simply at the approach
of a stranger. Frightened wolves and hybrids have been known to
scale fences that had contained them adequately for years. Panic
can cause destruction of property, injury to the animal or loss
of control of the animal with resulting injury to someone else.
Finally, wolves and hybrids are active and curious. If not given
plenty of exercise and mental stimulation (several hours daily-especially
during their most active times, dawn and dusk), they can be depended
upon to continually pace, move prodigious quantities of earth
and howl incessantly.
Of course, environmental conditioning can modify any animal's
innate behavior. A properly raised and socialized animal living
in an interesting environment will be easier to handle than one
that spends its days at the end of a chain. However, just as it
is ludicrous to think that a cow raised like a tiger would grow
up to act like a tiger, it is ludicrous (and more dangerous) to
think compassion, tender love and empathetic nurturing can subvert
wolfish behaviors that have evolved over millions of years. Hybrid
owners may successfully raise and enjoy one hybrid, only to find
that the next hybrid they acquire acts like a wolf, despite the
similarities in how the two animals were raised. The difference
lies in the genetics of the two animals: The first was primarily
dog, the second primarily wolf.
Not really. Wolves and hybrids are much more cat-like than dog-like
in their response to training. While they're perfectly capable
of learning commands, they cannot be counted on to obey them in
frightening or dangerous situations or when they've decided they're
bored with the game. These are the times, of course, when it is
most important to be able to rely on obedience. This trait is
attributable to fact that they are expressing "adult" canine behavior
as opposed to the more "juvenile" canine behavior of dogs (see
question #1). From an evolutionary perspective it is very important
for young wolves to obey older pack members. However, as they
reach adulthood it is important for them to assert independence.
We've all heard stories about wolves and hybrids that were wonderful
pets. Provided the stories are true, one must recognize that,
despite breeders' claims to the contrary, the vast majority of
these animals possessed little in the way of wolf genetics and
may, in fact, have been full dog (see questions #3 & #5). To reiterate, any time one or more of the parents is a hybrid, there is
no way to determine the genetic makeup of their offspring. Many, many animals promoted as 80% wolf are actually dogs or genetically
low-percentage wolf hybrids. In addition, one must understand
that wolves and hybrids display tremendous variations in behavior.
You'll find aberrant behavior in wolves and hybrids, just as you'll
find it in people. Countless stories recount how a wolf rescued
a child from drowning, or rode in the back of pickup trucks, or
slept in bed with the owner without so much as wrinkling a sheet
(let alone ripping the bed to shreds). Supposing such stories
are true, this behavior is aberrant; it's not normal and not to
be expected. It's interesting to ask the owners what became of
their "wonderful pet." The story often ends in tragedy: "It killed
the neighbor dog" or "ran away" or "attacked a child and had to
be put to sleep... but until then it was a really great
pet." If the animal is still alive, inquire as to its age (see
question #10). Here's another question to ask the hybrid owner
and yourself for that matter, "How do you define good pet?"
Perhaps. Time will tell. Wolves and hybrids often don't begin
to exhibit mature behavior until they are two or three years old.
Therefore, problems associated with maturity such as aggressiveness,
extreme shyness or predatory behavior are often not seen until
the animal becomes an adult (see question #1). It's impossible
to predict how your friend's hybrid will act in the future based
on its behavior at one year of age. If it's really a genetically
high-percentage wolf hybrid, odds are its behavior will undergo
a radical transformation. A preliminary study in Washington state
revealed that the average age of privately owned hybrids was much
lower than the average age of dogs; this indicates that people
don't hold on to hybrids as long as they do dogs. The reason for
this, based on anecdotal evidence, is that as hybrids mature,
people find them increasingly difficult to handle. The end result
is that they are euthanized or, in an act of extreme cowardice,
Yes. While it is true that dogs can and do exhibit many wolf behaviors,
in general their behavior is genetically altered so that they
are much less likely to "follow through" with predatory, dominant
and territorial behavior. While many dogs stalk and chase animals,
including people, few of them follow through with an actual bite,
especially in the case of humans. This is not the result of training;
it's due to an inhibition that is genetically based. Because of
this, it is difficult or impossible to train many dogs as guard
animals (i.e. to actually bite and injure an intruder).
The statistics bear this out. The estimated 300,000 hybrids and
captive wolves in the USA killed 10 people between 1986 and 1994
(about 1.25 deaths/year/300,000 hybrids) and injured many more.
In contrast, the 50 million dogs in the USA killed an average
of 20 people/year (about 0.11 deaths/year/300,000 dogs). Put another
way, captive wolves and hybrids are 11 times more likely to fatally
maul a human than a dog is. Additionally, bear in mind that many
of those 300,000 hybrids actually have little, if any wolf in
them. If the statistics were only for wolves and genetically high-percentage
wolf hybrids, the rate of fatal attacks would be much higher.
It should be noted that dogs who are selectively bred for attack
work and/or "sport" fighting are responsible for most of the deaths
caused by dogs and are statistically as dangerous as captive wolves
and hybrids. These lineages, like hybrids, are not pets and should
not be treated as such.
No. In the wild, non-dominant pack members hang back in the face
of intruders or strange situations while the alpha animals decide
how to handle the situation. In a captive situation, with the
human as alpha (you wouldn't want nor be able to live with an
alpha wolf), a wolf or hybrid's natural tendency will be to stay
behind while its owner confronts the burglar!
No to both. While sled dogs share some physical characteristics
with wolves, such as thick fur, these characteristics have simply
been selected for because they are necessary for a dog's survival
in the Arctic. The best sled dogs work well with strange dogs
and take commands readily. Wolves and hybrids do not display these
behaviors (see question #6). Native people know this and do not
allow their valuable sled dogs to breed with wolves.
Despite the 1995 animated version of Balto's heroic journey, the
real Balto was a northern sled dog with no wolf ancestry.
No. Dogs are extremely diverse genetically. There is absolutely
no reason that dogs should have health problems due to inbreeding.
The inbreeding problems exhibited by some dog breeds (hip displasia,
deafness, proneness to eye infections, extreme nervousness) are
the result of careless and ignorant breeders and buyers who value
a "certain look" over health. These problems can be quickly eliminated
in a breed by "out" crossing it with another breed.
While wolves tend to be better able to learn through mimicry,
dogs are much quicker at learning abstract commands. Intelligence
is a difficult trait to measure. Intelligent behavior in one environment
is often stupid behavior in another. The brains of wolves have
evolved to deal with problems found in the wild, while the brains
of dogs have evolved to deal with problems found in associating
with humans. Neither animal's brain deals very well with problems
encountered outside of the environments in which they evolved.
Neutering will lower the intensity of a wolf or hybrid's attempts
to become a dominant animal and certainly should be done. However,
for the most part this difference in behavior is evident only
during the breeding season. Neutering causes little or no difference
in behavior during the rest of the year.
Yes. But it's already been done and the end result is called a
dog. When hybrids are bred back to dogs over several generations
they produce a genetically low-percentage wolf hybrid that displays
dog-like behavior and makes a fine pet. The point is, why reinvent
the wheel? You'd end up with a dog-millions of which are in need
of good homes now-and in the meantime wolves and genetically
high-percentage hybrids will have spent their lives in captivity
to produce your pet.
Selectively breeding wolves or hybrids to eliminate "bad behavior"
1. starting with a large population of wolves (to ensure a genetically
2. selecting only the "best behaved" animals to breed (what do
you do with the rest?);
3. choosing only the "best behaved" of the offspring from those
litters to breed (once again, what do you do with the rest?) and
If you were an expert in genetics and animal behavior and started
with hundreds of animals, after 30 or 40 generations you would
likely have an animal that was genetically healthy and would make
a decent pet. Et voila, you would have recreated the same animal
that humans created thousands of years ago: the dog. Again, why
subject many generations of wolves and hybrids to early euthanasia
or life in captivity to recreate an animal that already exists,
with a huge variety of appearances and behaviors to choose from?
Breeders who have had long-term experience with wolves and hybrids
almost universally caution that hybrids are not for everyone,
and that people who have them need to be prepared to deal with
them very differently than with dogs. They often refer to the
relationship not as a master-pet relationship but as a "friendship"
(meaning that hybrids can't be ignored, can't be expected to be
obedient, etc., thereby implying that somehow this makes the relationship
deeper and more meaningful). However, few of us keep our "friends"
locked in cages when we're at work or on a leash when we go for
a walk on the beach. And few of us choose "friends" who destroy
our car upholstery or can't be left alone with our children.
It depends. No federal laws exist to regulate wolf and hybrid
ownership, as long as the animals are legally obtained (not removed
from an endangered wild population) and are not being exhibited.
However, many states, counties and cities do have regulations
governing their ownership and care.
Check with city, county and state officials to make sure the animal's
registration and facilities are in compliance with the law. If
they are not, demand that officials enforce compliance. If they
are in compliance, make sure the owner is educated about hybrids
and that neighborhood children know how to behave around hybrids
(see question #20). File a written complaint for all incidents involving the animal, no matter how minor. If enough
minor complaints are lodged, officials may be able to take action
before a serious incident occurs. If a serious incident does occur,
a written record of incidents will help ensure a serious response.
Never stick fingers, hands, possessions or food of any kind through
a fence or cage unless a qualified keeper is present and says
you may (this goes for any kind of animal). Many accidents happen
when an animal grabs fingers or hands stuck through a fence.
Never approach chained canines unless their owner is present and says
Never try to interact with a canine in any way unless its owner is present
and says you may. (And even then, proceed with caution.) What
a child interprets as playing may be viewed by a canine as teasing,
threatening, intruding, etc.
Anytime a canine is around, adults should closely supervise children
who are too young to obey rules. Children and adults without proper
training should never be allowed to interact with wolves or hybrids
without close supervision by a qualified, trained handler.
If you feel a canine is threatening you-be it hybrid or dog-the
following behavior will minimize the risk of attack:
1. Do not run or make quick movements of any kind.
2. Tuck your arms close to your sides and cover your throat with
3. Talk softly, slowly and in as low and confident a voice as
4. Keep your eyes on the animal, but do not stare intently into
5. Back away slowly, being careful not to trip or fall.
Should the animal jump up on you and/or attack, protect your face
and throat with your hands, brace yourself, try to stay on your
feet and continue moving away.
The following are the minimum standards for keeping
a wolf or hybrid safely and humanely in captivity:
1. Build an enclosure surrounded by two layers of fencing: an
inner chain link fence ten feet high that extends two feet underground,
and an outer fence eight feet high with at least four feet between
the two fences. The outer fence should be posted with warning
signs, and the gate should be locked at all times.
2. Provide at least 1/2 acre for each animal, and fill it with
plenty of environmental stimulation: shelters, vegetation, platforms,
large water containers, etc.
3. Keep at least two animals per enclosure. Canines-especially
wolves and hybrids-are very social animals and need canine companionship.
For the greatest assurance of lifetime compatibility, the animals
should be of the opposite sex and introduced as young as possible,
preferably before they are six months old.
4. Provide meat, hide and bones on a regular basis. Debilitating
diarrhea may result from feeding wolves and hybrids only commercial
5. Obtain the knowledge necessary to handle wolves and hybrids.
Learn about special techniques for raising and socializing them.
Without an understanding of these techniques, you may end up with
an unmanageable animal. Wolf Park, Battle Ground, IN (765-567-2265)
regularly conducts seminars on the subject.
6. Make sure at least one other person is trained and familiar
with the animals, to provide relief-care in emergencies.
7. Retain a veterinarian experienced with wolves or willing to
do the necessary research and consultation to competently treat
8. Recognize that since no legally recognized rabies vaccine exists
for wolves and hybrids, authorities are acting within their responsibilities
if they require an animal that has bitten someone (even in play)
to be euthanized.
9. Obtain all necessary state and local permits. These can be
expensive and difficult to acquire. They may be impossible to
acquire in urban areas.
10. Never allow children or other animals to come into direct
contact with the animals, except in controlled, supervised situations,
and then only with full understanding of the possible consequences
for all involved if an injury occurs.
11. Never allow the animals to run loose.
12. Purchase adequate liability insurance.
13. Be prepared to spend a minimum of one hour per
day, every day, interacting directly with the animals.
14. Neuter the animals.
15. Plan to provide all of the above for the lifetime of these
animals-as long as 18 years.
Note that many of these steps must be taken before you acquire
the animals. Remember, these animals did not ask to be born or
ask you to acquire them. If you don't have the financial and emotional
stability to provide them with the minimum standards outlined
above, DON'T GET THEM!
Do not pass your responsibility on to an unsuspecting party. A
few organizations (the Internet is a good resource) provide care
for unwanted wolves and hybrids, but requests to place these animals
greatly outpace available openings. You may try to place your
animal in one of these facilities, but first you should visit
the facility to determine whether it will provide a reasonable
life for the animal. It is difficult for hybrids and wolves to
adapt to new surroundings and new people. It is imperative that
you are honest about what is best for your animal. Passing your
responsibility on to someone else may make you feel better, but
often the least cruel fate is to take responsibility and humanely
euthanize your animal.
No! Unless they are part of a special governmentally run program (where
they are taught wild survival skills and are kept from becoming
socialized to humans), captive wolves cannot legally or humanely
be released into the wild. They do not have the hunting skills
necessary for survival, and because they are socialized to humans
they will seek food near human habitations. "Released" hybrids
and wolves slowly starve to death and/or create problems that
may be blamed on wild wolves. A released captive wolf or hybrid
is much more likely to be killed by a wild wolf than to mate with
it. However if, due to highly unusual circumstances, a hybrid
bred with a wild wolf, the resultant hybrid offspring would compromise
the genetic soundness of wild wolves.
No. One needs to question the motives for wolf and hybrid ownership.
Many people naively believe that owning a wolf or hybrid helps
wild wolves because it keeps the genes "alive." At best, these
people accomplish absolutely nothing, as these "pets" can never
be used to establish wild wolf populations. At worst, should this
"pet" rip off a child's arm (as one did in Lolo, Montana) or kill
livestock or pets, it reinforces age-old fears of the wolf. A
wolf's social and physical environment can never be duplicated
in captivity. Clearly, individual animals don't benefit from this
arrangement. If you love wolves, there are two ways to help them:
fight for their survival in the wild and preserve their habitat.
Write letters to government officials and urge them to protect
natural habitats. Learn about wolves (the whole story, not just
what you want to hear), and share your information with others.
Support and volunteer for organizations that work politically
and educationally to preserve wild wolves; this includes some,
but not all, organizations that hold wolves in captivity-question
their objectives before you support them. In time you will find
that you don't have to possess wolves for them to become an important
part of your life.
Besides, don't you think it's tragically ironic to want to own
and control wildness? A wild pet is an oxymoron.
While there are obviously many philosophical arguments, pro and
con, the following summarizes Wild Sentry's position on wolves
Having or allowing a wolf to be born into captivity in no way
benefits the individual animal. Therefore, the only justifiable
reason to have captive wolves is to benefit wild wolves. Captivity
may be justified if the captive animal is maintained in as psychologically
and physically humane an environment as possible (see question
#21), and if the animal is part of:
1) A well-developed, professional exhibit that furthers public
understanding and tolerance for wild wolves; or
2) A peer-reviewed scientific research project that furthers human
understanding of wolf behavior and habitat requirements; or
3) A government-sanctioned breeding program for the purpose of
reestablishing wild wolf populations.
Not necessarily. Those that are housed unsafely and/or inhumanely
should be euthanized or placed in a different facility. However,
many people have acquired these animals inadvertently or without
full knowledge of what they were getting into. Despite this, they
have taken responsibility for the animals' care (at great expense
and modification of life style), their animals are neutered and
they are not being promoted as pets. In these cases we see no
reason that the animals should not be allowed to live out their
natural lives in private ownership.
whom it may concern:
So you want a wolf-dog? Please answer "yes" or "no" to the following
1. Do you have the proper facilities to contain the animal? (i.e.
so that it will NEVER, EVER leave your property unattended. It's
as easy as a puff of wind opening a not quite closed front door.)
2. Are you ready to accept the animal as it is, rather than an
extension of your own ego? There is nothing "cool" about owning
a wolf-dog. The responsibilities are too overwhelming.
3. Are you prepared to remain unruffled and unafraid while watching
the animal as it begins to "psyche out" a terrified child or wary
adult? Wolf-dogs seem to "feed" on such vibrations.
4. Can you handle a confrontation? How will you react if the animal
turns on you?
5. Can you stand the horror, humiliation and anger after the animal
has bitten the neighbor's child?
6. Can you bear the thought of it harming your own child?
7. Are you ready to comply with the "dangerous dog" acts many
counties are employing to curb dog bite problems? They include:
a. $75.00 to $1,000.00 fee PER year to keep the animal,
b. Mandatory liability insurance of at least $50,000.00,
c. A class C FELONY action against YOU if the animal bites more
d. Fines up to $5,000.00 and /or one year of imprisonment
8. Can you afford to employ a PROFESSIONAL trainer to help control
the animal and educate you on wolf and dog psychology? KENNEL
CLUB training does not count!
9. Are you ready to take these responsibilities "'till death do
you part"? Because giving or selling the animal is only passing
the problem on to someone else, their children, friends, neighbors
and county authorities. And while we're at it, will you be responsible
enough to neuter the animal rather than letting it pass on these
problems to others through its progeny?
This test is neither Pass nor Fail. You know how you did.
I didn't know any of this nine years ago when I adopted my wolf-dog.
And I have been through all of the above as well as spent over
$7,000.00 on proper containment, training and attorney fees. In
spite of it all, my wolf-dog stays with me because he has no where
else to go. But the oppressive liability of it overshadows us
daily. These questions are depressing at best. But they must be
asked...and answered truthfully.
Sincerely, Name Withheld
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in Washington state. A research project done in conjunction with
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a bad idea. Smithsonian Magazine, pp. 34-45.
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and Interactions with People. Cambridge: Univ. Press.
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Wolf Park, Battleground, IN 47920.
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animal. AWIC Newsltr. Vol. 5, No. 4: 3-8.
brochure was written by Pat Tucker & Bruce Weide
and published by Wild Sentry/Box 172/Hamilton, Montana
We’d like to make the booklet available to animal shelters, veterinarians,
pet stores, wolf organizations and individuals who want to learn
the facts about this issue or see value in passing the booklet
on to people thinking of getting a hybrid. In terms of distribution
we can only accomplish so much—and that’s where you come in. If
you work or volunteer at an animal shelter, you’ve dealt with
hybrids and know the need for educating people before they buy
a cute hybrid puppy and then bring it to you to deal with 18 months
later. Ask your veterinarian, animal shelter, and pet shop owner
if they’re interested in making the booklet available. For a single
copy send $2.00 to the address listed below. For information on
bulk rates, please email or write.
More information on what it's been like to have the responsibility
of Koani's care can be obtained at the Wild Sentry web site and/or
in the book There's a Wolf in the Classroom! by Pat and Bruce.