Amazing creatures of the wild: The Gray Wolf
The Gray Wolf (Canis lupus; also spelled Grey Wolf, see spelling differences; also known as Timber Wolf or Wolf) is a mammal in the order Carnivora. The Gray Wolf shares a common ancestry with the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris), as evidenced by DNA sequencing and genetic drift studies. Gray wolves were once abundant and distributed over much of North America, Eurasia, and the Middle East. Today, for a variety of human-related reasons, including widespread habitat destruction and excessive hunting, wolves inhabit only a very limited portion of their former range. Though listed as a species of least concern for extinction worldwide, for some regions including the Continental United States, the species is listed as endangered or threatened.
The Gray Wolf, being a keystone predator, is an important part of the ecosystems to which it typically belongs. The wide range of habitats where wolves thrive reflects their adaptability as a species, and includes temperate forests, mountains, tundra, taiga, and grasslands. In much of the world, with the exception of Northern regions, they are listed as endangered. They continue to be hunted in many areas of the world for their perceived threat to livestock, as well as for sport.
This facial expression is defensive and gives warning to other wolves to be cautious.
This facial expression shows fear.
This wolf's submissive posture, wagging tail and horizontal ears show a friendly greeting.Wolves can visually communicate with an impressive variety of expressions and moods ranging from subtle signals, such as a slight shift in weight, to more obvious ones, such as rolling on their backs to indicate complete submission.
Dominance – A dominant wolf stands stiff legged and tall. The ears are ***** and forward, and the hackles bristle slightly. Often the tail is held vertically and curled toward the back. This display asserts the wolf's rank to others in the pack. A dominant wolf may stare penetratingly at a submissive one, pin it to the ground, "ride up" on its shoulders, or even stand on its hind legs.
Submission (active) – During active submission, the entire body is lowered, and the lips and ears are drawn back. Sometimes active submission is accompanied by muzzle licking, or the rapid thrusting out of the tongue and lowering of the hindquarters. The tail is placed down, or halfway or fully between the legs, and the muzzle often points up to the more dominant animal. The back may be partially arched as the submissive wolf humbles itself to its superior; a more arched back and more tucked tail indicate a greater level of submission.
Submission (passive) – Passive submission is more intense than active submission. The wolf rolls on its back and exposes its vulnerable throat and underside. The paws are drawn into the body. This is often accompanied by whimpering.
Anger – An angry wolf's ears are *****, and its fur bristles. The lips may curl up or pull back, and the incisors are displayed. The wolf may also arch its back, lash out, or snarl.
Fear – A frightened wolf tries to make its body look small and therefore less conspicuous. The ears flatten against the head, and the tail may be tucked between the legs, as with a submissive wolf. There may also be whimpering or barks of fear, and the wolf may arch its back.
Defensive – A defensive wolf flattens its ears against its head.
Aggression – An aggressive wolf snarls and its fur bristles. The wolf may crouch, ready to attack if necessary.
Suspicion – Pulling back of the ears shows a wolf is suspicious. The wolf also narrows its eyes. The tail of a wolf that senses danger points straight out, parallel to the ground.
Relaxedness – A relaxed wolf's tail points straight down, and the wolf may rest sphinx-like or on its side. The wolf may also wag its tail. The further down the tail droops, the more relaxed the wolf is.
Tension – An aroused wolf's tail points straight out, and the wolf may crouch as if ready to spring.
Happiness – As dogs do, a wolf may wag its tail if in a joyful mood. The tongue may loll out of the mouth.
Hunting – A wolf that is hunting is tensed, and therefore the tail is horizontal and straight.
Playfulness – A playful wolf holds its tail high and wags it. The wolf may frolic and dance around, or bow by placing the front of its body down to the ground, while holding the rear high, sometimes wagged. This resembles the playful behavior of domestic dogs.
Howling helps pack members keep in touch, allowing them to communicate effectively in thickly forested areas or over great distances. Howling also helps to call pack members to a specific location. Howling can also serve as a declaration of territory, as shown in a dominant wolf's tendency to respond to a human imitation of a "rival" wolf in an area the wolf considers its own. This behavior is stimulated when a pack has something to protect, such as a fresh kill. As a rule of thumb, large packs will more readily draw attention to themselves than will smaller packs. Adjacent packs may respond to each others' howls, which can mean trouble for the smaller of the two. Wolves therefore tend to howl with great care.
Howling adult wolf on glacial erratic at Little America Flats.Wolves will also howl for communal reasons. Some scientists speculate that such group sessions strengthen the wolves' social bonds and camaraderie— similar to community singing among humans. During such choral sessions, wolves will howl at different tones and varying pitches, making it difficult to estimate the number of wolves involved. This confusion of numbers makes a listening rival pack wary of what action to take. For example, confrontation could be disastrous if the rival pack gravely underestimates the howling pack's numbers. A wolf's howl may be heard from up to ten miles away, depending on weather conditions.
Observations of wolf packs suggest that howling occurs most often during the twilight hours, preceding the adults' departure to the hunt and following their return. Studies also show that wolves howl more frequently during the breeding season and subsequent rearing process. The pups themselves begin howling soon after emerging from their dens and can be provoked into howling sessions easily over the following two months. Such indiscriminate howling usually is intended for communication, and does not harm the wolf so early in its life. Howling becomes less indiscriminate as wolves learn to distinguish howling pack members from rival wolves.
The Arabian and Indian subspecies are unusual, as they are not known to howl.
Wolves scent-roll to bring scents back to the pack.Wolves, like other canines, use scent marking to lay claim to anything — from territory to fresh kills. Alpha wolves use scent mark the most often; males do so more than females. The most widely used scent marker is urine. Male and female alpha wolves urine-mark objects with a raised-leg stance (all other pack members squat) to enforce rank and territory. They also use marks to identify food caches and to claim kills on behalf of the pack. Defecation markers are used for the same purposes as urine marks, and serve as a more visual warning, as well. Defecation markers are particularly useful for navigation, keeping the pack from traversing the same terrain too often and also allowing each wolf to be aware of the whereabouts of its pack members. Above all, though, scent marking is used to inform other wolves and packs that a certain territory is occupied, and that they should therefore tread cautiously.
Wolves have scent glands all over their bodies, including at the base of the tail, between toes, and in the eyes, genitalia, and skin. Pheromones secreted by these glands identify each individual wolf. A dominant wolf will "rub" its body against subordinate wolves to mark such wolves as being members of a particular pack. Wolves may also "paw" dirt to release pheromones instead of urine marking.
Wolves' heavy reliance on odoriferous signals testifies greatly to their olfactory capabilities. Wolves can detect virtually any scent, including marks, from great distances, and can distinguish among them as well or better than humans can distinguish other humans visually.
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Wolves function as social predators and hunt in packs organized according to strict, rank-oriented social hierarchies. It is thought that this comparatively high level of social organization had much to do with hunting success. Emerging theories also suggest, however, that the pack has less to do with hunting and more to do with reproductive success.
The pack is led by the two individuals that sit atop the social hierarchy: the alpha male and the alpha female. The alpha pair has the greatest amount of social freedom compared to the rest of the pack. Although they are not "leaders" in the human sense of the term, they help to resolve any disputes within the pack, have the greatest amount of control over resources, such as food, and most importantly, hold the pack together. Possessing strong instincts for fellowship, the rest of the pack usually follows.
While most alpha pairs are monogamous, there are exceptions. An alpha animal may preferentially mate with a lower-ranking animal, especially if the other alpha is closely related (a brother or sister, for example). The death of one alpha does not affect the status of the other alpha, who will quickly take another mate.
Usually, only the alpha pair is able to successfully rear a litter of pups. Other wolves in a pack may breed, but will usually lack the resources required to raise the pups to maturity.[specify] All the wolves in the pack assist in raising wolf pups. Some mature individuals, usually females, may choose to stay in the original pack so as to reinforce it and help rear more pups. However, most will disperse.
The size of the pack may change over time and is controlled by several factors, including habitat, personalities of individual wolves within a pack, and food supply. Packs can contain from 2 to 20 wolves, though an average pack consists of about 8. New packs are formed when a wolf leaves its birth pack, finds a mate, and claims a territory. Lone wolves searching for other individuals can travel very long distances seeking out suitable territories. Dispersing individuals must avoid the territories of other wolves because intruders on occupied territories are chased away or killed. It is taboo for one wolf to travel into another wolf's territory unless invited. Most dogs, except perhaps large, specially bred attack dogs, do not stand much of a chance against a pack of wolves protecting its territory from an intrusion.
Wolves acting unusually within the pack, such as epileptic pups or thrashing adults crippled by a trap or a gunshot are usually killed by their own pack members.
More to come in some time!
A wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park, with the alphas leading and the omega in the rear.The hierarchy, led by the alpha male and female, affects all activity in the pack to some extent. In most larger packs there are two separate hierarchies in addition to an overbearing one: the first consists of the males, led by the alpha male, and the other consists of the females, led by the alpha female. In this situation, the alpha male was originally assumed to be the "top" alpha, but biologists have since concluded that alpha females can and do take control over entire packs. The male and female hierarchies are interdependent, and are maintained constantly by aggressive and elaborate displays of dominance and submission.
After the alpha pair, there may also, especially in larger packs, be a beta wolf or wolves, a "second-in-command" to the alphas. Betas typically assume a more prominent role in assisting with the upbringing of the alpha pair's litter, often serving as surrogate mothers or fathers while the alpha pair is away. Beta wolves are the most likely to challenge their superiors for the role of the alpha, though some betas seem content with being second, and will sometimes even let lower ranking wolves leapfrog them for the position of alpha should circumstances necessitate such a happening, such as the death of the alpha. More ambitious beta wolves, however, will only wait so long before contending for alpha position unless they choose to disperse and create their own pack instead
Loss of rank can happen gradually or suddenly. An older wolf may simply choose to give way when a motivated challenger presents itself, yielding its position without bloodshed. On the other hand, the challenged individual may choose to fight back, with varying degrees of intensity. While the majority of wolf aggression is not injurious and is ritualized, a high-stakes fight can easily result in injury for either or both parties. Deaths do occur, as the average alpha male wolf may kill two to four wolves in his lifetime. The loser of such a confrontation is frequently chased away from the pack or, rarely, may be killed as other aggressive wolves contribute to the insurgency. These confrontations are more common during the mating season.
Rank order within a pack is established and maintained through a series of ritualized fights and posturing best described as "ritual bluffing". Wolves prefer psychological warfare to physical confrontations, meaning that high-ranking status is based more on personality or attitude than on size or physical strength. Rank, who holds it, and how it is enforced varies widely between packs and between individual animals. In large packs full of easygoing wolves, or in a group of juvenile wolves, rank order may shift almost constantly, or even be circular (for instance, animal A dominates animal B, who dominates animal C, who dominates animal A).
In a more typical pack, only one wolf will assume the role of the omega: the lowest-ranking member of a pack. Omegas receive the most aggression from the rest of the pack, and may be subjected to truculence at any time— anything from constant dominance from other pack members to inimical, physical harassment. Although this arrangement may seem objectionable, the nature of pack dynamics demands that one wolf be at the bottom of the ranking order, and such individuals are perhaps better suited for constant displays of active and passive submission than they are for living alone. For wolves, camaraderie— no matter what the form— is preferable to solitude, and, indeed, submissive wolves tend to choose low rank over potential starvation. Despite the aggression they are subject to and being last to eat, omega wolves have also been observed to often be the most playful wolves in the group, often enticing all of the members of a pack into engaging in chasing games and other forms of play.
One theory about the domestication of the dog is that it occurred when certain wolves of a suitable temperament joined bands of human hunter-gatherers due to their organizational similarities with wolf packs
The Cougar (Puma concolor), also Puma, Mountain Lion, or Panther, is a mammal of the Felidae family, native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere other than humans, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. An adaptable, generalist species, the Cougar is found in every major New World habitat type. It is the second heaviest cat in the New World, after the Jaguar, and the fourth heaviest in the world, after the Tiger, Lion, and Jaguar, although it is most closely related to smaller felines.
A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the Cougar pursues a wide variety of prey. Its primary food is ungulates such as deer, particularly in the northern part of its range, but it hunts species as small as insects and rodents. It prefers habitats with dense underbrush for stalking, but it can live in open areas.
The Cougar is territorial and persists at low population densities. Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey. While it is a large predator, it is not always the dominant species in its range, as when it competes for prey with animals such as the Gray Wolf. It is a reclusive cat and usually avoids people. Attacks on humans remain rare, despite a recent increase in frequency.
Due to persecution as a dangerous pest animal following the European colonization of the Americas, and continuing human development of Cougar habitat, populations have dropped in many parts of its historical range. In particular, the Cougar was extirpated in eastern North America, except an isolated sub-population in Florida; the animal may be recolonizing parts of its former eastern territory. With its vast range, the Cougar has dozens of names and various references in the mythology of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and in contemporary culture.
Social structure and home range
Like almost all cats, the Cougar is a solitary animal. Only mothers and kittens live in groups, with adults meeting only to mate. It is secretive and crepuscular, being most active around dawn and dusk.
Estimates of territory sizes vary greatly. Canadian Geographic reports large male territories of 150 to 1000 square kilometers (58 to 386 sq mi) with female ranges half the size.  Other research suggests a much smaller lower limit of 25 km˛ (10 sq mi) but an even greater upper limit of 1300 km˛ (500 sq mi) for males.  In the United States, very large ranges have been reported in Texas and the Black Hills of the northern Great Plains, in excess of 775 km˛ (300 sq mi). Male ranges may include or overlap with those of females but, at least where studied, not with those of other males, which serves to reduce conflict between cougars. Ranges of females may overlap slightly with each other. Scrape marks, urine, and feces are used to mark territory and attract mates. Males may scrape together a small pile of leaves and grasses and then urinate on it as a way of marking territory.
Home range sizes and overall Cougar abundance depend on terrain, vegetation, and prey abundance.One female adjacent to the San Andreas mountains, for instance, was found with a large range of 215 km˛ (83 sq mi), necessitated by poor prey abundance. Research has shown Cougar abundances from 0.5 animals to as much as 7 (in one study in South America) per 100 km˛ (38 sq mi).
Because males disperse further than females and compete more directly for mates and territory, they are most likely to be involved in conflict. Where a sub-adult fails to leave his maternal range, for example, he may be killed by his father.When males encounter each-another, they hiss and spit, and may engage in violent conflict if neither backs down.Hunting or relocation of the Cougar may increase aggressive encounters by disrupting territories and bringing young, transient animals into conflict with established individuals.
Wolves hunting a bison
wolf-cougar show down
The jaguar (Panthera onca) is a New World mammal of the Felidae family and one of four "big cats" in the Panthera genus, along with the tiger, the lion and the leopard of the Old World. The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and on average the largest and most powerful feline in the Western Hemisphere. The jaguar's present range extends from Mexico (with occasional sightings in the southwestern United States) across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina.
This spotted cat most closely resembles the leopard physically, although it is of sturdier build and its behavioural and habitat characteristics are closer to those of the tiger. While dense jungle is its preferred habitat, the jaguar will range across a variety of forested and open terrain. It is strongly associated with the presence of water and is notable, along with the tiger, as a feline that enjoys swimming. The jaguar is a largely solitary, stalk-and-ambush predator, and is opportunistic in prey selection. It is also an apex and keystone predator, playing an important role in stabilizing ecosystems and regulating the populations of prey species. The jaguar has developed an exceptionally powerful bite, even relative to the other big cats. This allows it to pierce the shells of armoured reptiles and to employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly through the skull of prey between the ears to deliver a fatal blow to the brain